SINGAPORE: Two Singaporeans – a former religious teacher and one of his students - have been issued restriction orders under the Internal Security Act (ISA), the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) announced on Wednesday (Jan 16).
Freelance religious teacher Murad Mohd Said, 46, was placed on the order on Dec 5 last year for “propagating beliefs promoting violence and views detrimental to the cohesion of Singapore's multi-racial and multi-religious society”, said MHA.
This is the first time a restriction order has been issued to a previously recognised religious teacher. Murad was accredited under the Asatizah Recognition Scheme (ARS), which recognises teachers and scholars who meet the minimum standards of qualification to teach Islamic religious knowledge.
"He (Murad) taught that it was compulsory to kill apostates, defined broadly to include non-believers, Sufis, Shi'ites and Muslims who have renounced Islam or disregarded texts and rulings from the Quran and Sunnah," MHA said in a media release.
"He also taught that Muslims were allowed to defend themselves by waging 'armed jihad' against 'infidels who persecuted them'."
Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said the orders are a clear indication that authorities will act under the ISA "whenever society is threatened".
"We've said across all religions, promote your religion but you cannot promote violence, you cannot run down another religion, you cannot run down another race," he said. "When you advocate, preach violence using your religious role, we will act."
The ministry added that Murad also encouraged his students to withdraw from Singapore’s secular society, disregard secular laws and adhere to the rulings of Syariah law instead.
ARS CERTIFICATION CANCELLED
Last May, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) cancelled Murad’s accreditation for propagating segregationist ideologies that contravened the ARS code of ethics.
However, Murad continued to propagate those views online, said MHA.
"Online, there's a potential to influence so many more, more easily through social media," Mr Shanmugam said.
When asked by reporters regarding the implications for the ARS, Mr Shanmugam said one should look at the individual rather than the certification process.
"It is entirely possible for people to espouse a certain set of religious beliefs, and then over time add to those teachings or change those teachings," he added.
Mr Shanmugam said MUIS had accredited Murad based on information they had at the time, but when it found his teachings to be inappropriate, his accreditation was revoked.
“Actually, I think MUIS ought to be commended because you have a system of certification. It works well, by and large ... they have revoked certifications of others as well ... when his teachings are inimical to society," Mr Shanmugam said.
MHA said that “Murad’s binary ‘us versus them’ worldview and violent teachings, which he propagated to his students and followers, could have led them to develop extremist views, as well as lead to inter-faith tensions".
“His statements on the primacy of Syariah law over secular laws also undermined Singapore’s secular nation-state system," it added.
Murad’s student, Razali Abas, was arrested under the ISA last September after he was found to hold radical views on the use of armed violence against the perceived enemies of Islam, MHA said.
The 56-year-old technician was issued with a restriction order a month later to “prevent him from continuing his downward spiral into extremism”, MHA added.
Razali was introduced to Murad some time in 2012 before he began attending the latter’s classes.
“The exclusivist religious teachings he imbibed from the classes rendered him susceptible to the more radical and violent influences he later encountered on social media,” MHA said.
“Over time, Razali became convinced that it was legitimate to kill those he felt were oppressors of Islam, including non-Muslims and Shi’ites.”
MHA said Razali began to seek out individuals with militant-looking profiles on Facebook, seeing them as “heroes” who were making sacrifices.
The posts on these profiles, MHA said, also reinforced his belief in armed violence and his admiration and support for militant groups such as Al-Qaeda.
INTERNAL SECURITY DEPARTMENT
When asked if Murad’s other students will be monitored, Mr Shanmugam said it was not appropriate for him to go into these issues.
"What you can be confident about is anyone who is thinking of doing violence to others would be of interest to the Internal Security Department," he added.
Mr Shanmugam said ISD did not place Murad under restriction order immediately after his accreditation was revoked because it first makes a "careful assessment of people".
"We are very careful before we take steps," he said. "Often, officers from the Internal Security Department will actually talk to you, if they feel you are going offline, and advise you.
"A better approach is to try to get you to understand the laws, the values and your responsibilities.
"(If) that doesn’t work and you continue, as in his case, to actually advocate violence and the killing of others, and you become a threat to other people’s lives, then we will act."
Mr Shanmugam said that while both individuals had not taken concrete action - like transferring money to terrorist groups - to further their causes, they had crossed "many red lines".
“It hasn’t reached that stage yet, but if you are a religious teacher and you preach violence, and you tell your students it’s okay to kill non-Muslims, that’s an absolute no-no,” he stated.
People issued with a restriction order must abide by several conditions. They cannot, for instance, travel out of Singapore or change addresses or jobs without approval. They also cannot issue public statements, address public meetings or print, distribute or contribute to any publication without approval.
In 2010, another Singaporean teacher-student pair was placed under restriction orders for similar views.
Muhammad Anwar Jailani, 44, was an unaccredited religious teacher who had distributed to his students, contacts and the general public numerous copies of CDs containing lectures which called on Muslims to undertake militant jihad against non-Muslims and other "enemies" of Islam.
Anwar’s student Muhammad Thahir Shaik Dawood, 27, also became radicalised through the teacher’s influence.
LAPSE OF RESTRICTION ORDER
Meanwhile, MHA also announced on Wednesday that the restriction order issued against Singaporean Mohd Jauhari Abdullah was allowed to lapse on Sep 14 last year.
Jauhari was a senior member of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) when he was detained in September 2002 in the second phase of the Singapore JI arrests. He was released on restriction order in September 2012, said MHA.