by Suhaile Md and Sharanya Pillai
MUSLIM sectarianism has reached Singapore.
AETOS Auxiliary Police Officer Muhammad Khairul bin Mohamed wanted to fly to Syria to “fight against the Shi’ites” there by “joining the Free Syrian Army (FSA)”, said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) earlier today (Jun 20). The 24 year-old was issued with an Order of Detention (OD) under the Internal Security Act (ISA). Khairul’s colleague Mohamad Rizal bin Wahid was issued with a Restriction Order (RO) for “supporting” his “intentions” added MHA. Rizal is 36 years-old.
Khairul’s duties in Traffic Enforcement Division did not require him to be armed. Rizal, however, was an armed officer who conducted general security duties. “Rizal did not share Khairul’s desire to participate in armed violence”, said MHA. Both were deployed at Woodlands checkpoint.
An OD allows the G to detain Khairul without an open court trial for up to two years. The order can be “extended for a further period or periods not exceeding two years at a time”, as stipulated by the ISA. Under the RO, Rizal will not be allowed to change his residence and employment, or travel abroad without the prior approval of the Director of the Internal Security Division. He will also have to undergo compulsory religious counselling.
It is not clear what Rizal’s job status is currently.* Khairul and Rizal were fired from AETOS on Jun 1.
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Khairul’s radicalisation began online in 2012. He wanted to know more about the conflict in Syria after reading about it on mainstream media.
Said MHA: “He developed the view that the conflict in Syria was a sectarian struggle between Sunni Islam and Shi’ite Islam, and being a Sunni Muslim, he wanted to fight against the Shi’ites in Syria.”
Khairul saw the Syrian conflict as a “holy war” and he was prepared to die fighting in a bid to “receive divine rewards”, added MHA. So he planned to join the FSA, a group that aims to overthrow the “Syrian government led by President Bashar Al-Assad, who is backed by the minority Shi’ite Alawite sect”. In 2014, he “tried to reach out” to a foreign militant and “two other individuals whom he believed to be FSA supporters”, to figure out how to reach Syria.
Rizal had known about Khairul’s intentions since 2015 when Khairul confided in him. But Rizal did not report his colleague to AETOS management and instead “suggested to Khairul various ways to get to Syria and to die there as a ‘martyr’.”
“As an Auxiliary Police Officer, [Rizal] should have been aware of the prevailing terrorism threat and his failure to dissuade Khairul and report him to his superior officer was a serious lapse of judgment,” MHA said.
But Rizal was not the only one who knew of Khairul’s intentions. “Several relatives and friends knew of his intention to fight in Syria, but none of them came forward.” It’s not clear if MHA will take any actions against them. Neither is it clear if his family knew about his radicalisation.
MHA added that it takes seriously “anyone who supports, promotes, undertakes or makes preparations to undertake armed violence” regardless of where the violence takes place and especially if the individual is a public servant or a uniformed officer. This extends to anyone who “supports or abets another person’s radicalisation or intention to undertake violence”.
Over 457,000 Muslims reside here according to the G’s 2010 population census, the vast majority of whom are Sunni. Globally, up to 13 per cent of Muslims are Shi’ite. There are no firm numbers in Singapore, but a 2009 Pew report estimated less than 1 per cent of Muslims here are Shi’ites. According to a 1988 fatwa (ruling) issued by the Islamic Religious council of Singapore (Muis), Shi’ites are Muslims. The fatwa remains valid to this day.
It’s not clear what Khairul’s thoughts are on the minority Shi’ite community in Singapore. But a TMG investigation in May revealed that Shi’ite-Sunni relations in Singapore could be better. Read more here.
To report concerns about someone who seems to be radicalised, call the Counter-Terrorism Centre hotline at 1800-2626-473 (1800-2626-ISD).
Other ISA arrests since 2016:
On Jun 12, 2017, MHA revealed that it had arrested the first radicalised woman in Singapore. Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari (Izzah) was planning to take her 4 year-old daughter with her to war-torn Syria and marry an ISIS fighter.
On August 19, 2016, MHA said that four self radicalised individuals were arrested for their intention to move to Syria and fight there.
On July 29, 2016, MHA said that Zulfikar Shariff was arrested and detained for joining the hardline Hizbut Tahrir organisation in Australia, among other things like showing support for extremists online.
On May 3, 2016, MHA announced the arrest of eight other Bangladeshis who were planning to overthrow the government in Bangladesh.
On March 16, 2016, four more people were arrested under the ISA. Three of them took part in the sectarian conflict in Yemen, although one of them only did “sentry duties” and “did not fire” said MHA. The fourth was arrested for intending to join Kurdish militia to fight against ISIS in the Middle East.
On January 20, 2016, MHA said that 27 Bangladeshis were arrested in late 2015 for recruitment attempts as well as possessing materials that taught how to kill.
*The MHA update that Khairul and Rizal had lost their jobs on Jun 1 was received after publication.
Featured image by Sean Chong.
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