SINGAPORE: The recent arrests of self-radicalised Singaporeans are a "stark reminder" that the risks to the nation's society are real and "reflect the open and porous nature of the Internet which allows terrorist ideologies to infiltrate", Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said in a Facebook post on Friday (Jul 29).
Earlier in the day, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had announced that a 44-year-old Singaporean, Zulfikar Mohamad Shariff, who openly supported the Islamic State militant group, had been arrested and detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA).
Separately, MHA also revealed that another 17-year-old male Singaporean had been issued a Restriction Order for two years while a 27-year-old Singaporean was re-detained under the ISA for two years in April after he planned to join a terrorist group like ISIS to engage in armed violence in Syria.
In the post, Mr Yaacob, who is also Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, said he was "dismayed" by the arrests, which had come in the midst of terrorist attacks around the world which had caused the loss of innocent lives.
"No country can also fully block the Internet and prevent what comes in," he said, adding that it was important for the nation and people to be resilient and cohesive.
According to Mr Yaacob, quick action by citizens to report any potential threats to the authorities is critical to combat the spread of extremism.
"We must remain vigilant as the war against terrorism is an ongoing global battle, and must not hesitate to condemn terrorist groups that employ violence in the name of Islam," he wrote. "At the same time, we must be alert to those who seemingly show support for terrorism, in whatever form."
"Ultimately, we should never give credence to the entire terrorist ideology."
Addressing the Malay and Muslim community, Mr Yaacob also urged members of the community not to feel "discouraged" by the incidents, and said they should instead "continue to stand united with other Singaporeans to foster racial harmony and keep Singapore a safe and secure home for all".
EXTREMIST IDEOLOGIES SEEK TO DESTROY OUR SOCIAL FABRIC: MUIS
In response to Zulfikar's arrest, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) said "the path to radicalisation begins with sympathising and identifying with radical ideologies".
"We must not let this take root in our society because such ideologies only seek to destroy our social fabric and harmony through their isolationist and exclusivist teachings, and the rejection of the principles of a secular state such as Singapore," said MUIS' director, Religious Policy Division, Dr Nazirudin Mohd Nasir.
He added that traditional Islamic concepts such as the "caliphate" are misappropriated by such groups.
"For Muslims in Singapore, there is no incompatibility nor contradiction between practising Islam and living in Singapore," said Dr Nazirudin.
MUIS also urged Muslims to seek answers from credible sources. "This becomes even more important when information is readily available on open sources such as the Internet and social media. Checking with peers, family and most importantly, credible teachers, are important safeguards against acquiring problematic teachings and being led astray and radicalised," Dr Nazirudin said.