A 22-year old woman, planning to join the dreaded terrorist organisation Islamic State (IS), has become the first female to be detained in Singapore for becoming radicalised, said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). The action was taken under the Internal Security Act (ISA).
The lady has been identified as Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari who worked as infant-care assistant with the PAP Community Foundation (PCF) Sparkletots pre-school programme. She was detained in June this year.
Shedding light on the radicalisation process of the lady, MHA said, “Izzah began to be radicalised in 2013 by online propaganda related to the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). She began to believe that ISIS represented the true spirit of Islam. Her radicalisation deepened over time. This was exacerbated by a wide network of foreign online contacts which she developed. They included ISIS militants and supporters, some of whom have either been killed in Syria or arrested for terrorism-related activities.
The release said, “Izzah was intent on joining ISIS and was actively planning to make her way to Syria, with her young child, to do so. She supported ISIS's use of violence to establish and defend its self-declared ‘caliphate’, and aspired to live in it. To this end, she said that since 2015, she was looking for "a Salafi or an ISIS supporter" to marry and settle down with him and her child in Syria. She said she would support her husband if he fought for ISIS in Syria as she believed she would reap "heavenly rewards" if he died in battle. With her ’elevated status’ as a ‘martyr's widow’, she felt she could easily marry another ISIS fighter in Syria. She also said that she was prepared to undergo military training and engage in armed combat to defend ISIS if called upon by the terrorist group to do so.”
“Since 2014, Izzah actively posted and shared pro-ISIS materials online. Several of her social media platforms were taken down by administrators because of the pro-ISIS content, but she created new ones,” said MHA.
Her parents (both freelance Quranic teachers) and sister came to know of her radical postings in 2015 and her intention to join ISIS in Syria. They did not alert the authorities. They tried on their own to dissuade her but they were unsuccessful. Izzah continued down the path of radicalism.
MHA said Izzah was not planning any attack on Singapore, but was intent on joining ISIS and actively planning to make her way to Syria with her young child.
It further said that there had been no evidence Izzah tried to influence the students or to radicalise her colleagues at the PCF Sparkletots pre-school where she worked.
In a letter given to parents picking up their children from the pre-school, the MP for the area said the pre-school was working with the authorities. “We would like to assure you that at no time was there a threat to the children under her care,” the MP stated.
MHA said in the release, “In Izzah's case, her family members did not bring her to the attention of the authorities when she was younger and could have potentially been turned back from the path of radicalisation. Furthermore, after Izzah was placed under investigation, important evidence was destroyed by a family member relating to her plans to join ISIS, in order to try to minimise her acts.”
Terrorism threat, real and serious: Yaacob
Reacting on the detention of the self-radicalised Singaporean woman, Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information, said, “The incident is a grave reminder that the threat of terrorism is very real and serious.”
Writing on a Facebook post, the Minister said, “I strongly condemn the extremists who abuse Islam for their own twisted agenda. They belong to a small group. The overwhelming majority of us utterly reject their ideology and distortion of Islam.”
He added, “Let me say that together with the security agencies, our Muslim community, led by MUIS and other community groups such as the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG), are striving hard to safeguard our community against extremism, raise vigilance and provide help to those who need it.”
Imperative for family members and friends to report suspected radicalised individuals: MHA
While exhorting people to report about signs of radicalisation among the individuals, MHA said, “The authorities are working hard to keep Singapore safe but they cannot do it alone. Every person in the community can help to protect Singapore and Singaporeans from the threat of terrorism. Relatives and friends are best-placed to notice the possible signs of radicalisation. These include avid consumption of radical materials; propagating and re-posting terrorism-related images, videos and posts; expressing support for terrorist entities; and encouraging others or stating an intention to commit terrorist violence.”
It also said, “Early reporting could enable the individual who is at risk of becoming radicalised to be given proper guidance and counselling. They could be steered away from the path of radicalisation and may not need to be severely dealt with under the law. Anyone who knows or suspects that a person is radicalised should promptly call the ISD Counter-Terrorism Centre hotline 1800-2626-473 (1800-2626-ISD).”