SINGAPORE: Singapore has detained its first female citizen for radicalism under the Internal Security Act (ISA), said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Monday (Jun 12).
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 in June this year.
Her radicalisation started in 2013 through online propaganda related to the Islamic State terrorist group, said MHA.
“She began to believe that ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) represented the true spirit of Islam. Her radicalisation deepened over time,” a press release read. “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.”
Since 2014, Izzah actively posted and shared pro-ISIS material online. Several of her social media platforms were removed by administrators because of such content, but she created new ones.
MHA said Izzahwas 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, to do so.
“She supported ISIS’s use of violence to establish and defend its self-declared ‘caliphate’, and aspired to live in it,” said the ministry. “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 (then) easily marry another ISIS fighter in Syria.”
Izzah also said 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, MHA added.
"The Government takes a stern view against anyone who supports, promotes, undertakes or makes preparations to undertake armed violence, regardless of how they rationalise such violence ideologically, or where the violence takes place," the ministry said.
Her sister and parents - who are both freelance Quranic teachers - came to know of her radical postings in 2015 and her intention to join ISIS in Syria. They did not alert the authorities and tried on their own to dissuade her, but were unsuccessful.
Izzah continued down the path of radicalism, said MHA, and in April this year, “boasted” to a contact that the Singapore authorities had not detected her.
In its press release, the MHA reiterated that importance of family members and friends to let the authorities know of anyone they suspect is being radicalised or planning terror attacks.
NO EVIDENCE SHE TRIED TO INFLUENCE CHILDREN: AUTHORITIES
MHA also said in comments on Monday night 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.
The principal of the pre-school said more than 60 parents have been informed of the matter either by phone or through the distributed advisories.
The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) which oversees pre-schools, said in a statement that its representatives had visited the centre and that the children were assessed to be safe and well-cared for.
ECDA said Izzah had been under supervision in providing routine care to infants aged between two and 18 months at the centre. Her duties included helping to feed infants, changing diapers and conducting playtime. Izzah was also always supervised by trained staff in the course of her work, ECDA said.
PCF CEO Victor Bay said in a statement on Tuesday that it has been offering children here quality childcare and pre-school education for a long time, and this is possible because of its "caring and dedicated teachers".
"I hope we will not let the actions of this individual affect our perceptions and divide our society," Mr Bay added. "Our PCF teachers and care staff remain fully committed to their work. Our priority is the children in our centres."
MHA added that Izzah's was the first case of radicalisation involving someone in the pre-school sector in Singapore.
"There are many excellent infant/childcare workers – many of them are Muslim – who have meticulously cared for the children in their charge," said MHA. "We should not let Izzah’s case take anything away from the good work by our Muslim staff in the pre-school sector."