SINGAPORE: Dealing with radical content online is always a challenge which will involve a "fight for the hearts and minds", Minister for Home Affairs and Law K Shanmugam said on Friday (Feb 9).
He was speaking to Channel NewsAsia several hours after the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said that a self-radicalised Malaysian man working in Singapore was arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) and repatriated to Malaysia.
Muhammad Nur Hanief Abdul Jalil, 33, was working as a driver with a Singapore airfreight company. He had access to the restricted Changi Airfreight Centre, which provides services to Changi Airport. While there was no indication that he had tried to radicalise others or plan any attacks in Singapore, MHA said his radicalisation made him a security threat.
Mr Shanmugam said: “Every case of radicalisation is serious; we are equally concerned when a kindergarten assistant is radicalised with access to very young children. Parents are very concerned. We take this very seriously, we have been aware of these risks in different sectors for some time. We have taken, will continue to take steps that are doable, that are within our power to take.”
Last year, Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari, a 22-year-old contract infant-care assistant with the PAP Community Foundation (PCF) Sparkletots pre-school programme, was detained for radicalism under the Internal Security Act (ISA).
When asked about the availability of online content that espouses radicalisation, Mr Shanmugam said such content is “always a challenge” and that we have to be “realistic about the extent to which we can deal with it”.
Mr Shanmugam said that “the real antidote” is to get our young people to "go to our mosques and also look at the content the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) and our Muslim leaders put out".
On the issue of accessing radical content online, Mr Shanmugam added that it was a “fight for the hearts and minds”, saying that “we have to go in and fight and point out what is wrong with some of these teachings - and what is necessary for us to survive as a multi-racial, multi-religious country with racial, social harmony.”
Editor’s Note: In an earlier version of the story, we misquoted Mr Shanmugam as saying the authorities need to look at the content put out by MUIS and other Muslim leaders, and point out what is wrong when necessary. This has since been corrected.
Mr Shanmugam had in fact said it is the teachings in mosques, as well as content put out by local Muslim leaders and MUIS, that is the real antidote to the spread of radical content online. And he added that we have to point out – and fight - what is wrong about the teachings found in radical content online.
We are sorry for the error.