Singapore still finding right approach to rehabilitate self-radicalised individuals: Shanmugam

Singapore still finding right approach to rehabilitate self-radicalised individuals: Shanmugam

Singapore has had more success rehabilitating Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) detainees than self-radicalised individuals, Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said.

shanmugam rrg
Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam speaking at a retreat of the Religious Rehabilitation Group.

SINGAPORE: Singapore is still working to develop the right approach to rehabilitate self-radicalised individuals, who have complex psychological and social issues, said Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Tuesday (Mar 13).

Singapore has had less success rehabilitating self-radicalised individuals than Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) detainees, said Mr Shanmugam at a retreat of the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG).

To date, only 25 per cent of self-radicalised individuals detained since 2007 have been released, with the remaining still in detention.

This compares with an 88 per cent rehabilitation success rate for JI detainees, he said.

“Our success with self-radicalised persons is not as good as our success with the original JI detainees. For some reason, for the self-radicalised, the rehabilitation is still in progress,” Mr Shanmugam said, adding that there are more “complex psychological and social issues for this group”.

Additionally, since "the phenomenon" of self-radicalisation was noticed in 2007, the problem has gotten worse, with the emergence of the Islamic State in 2014, Mr Shanmugam said at the event held at Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa.

“We are all still trying to develop the right tools to deal with them and help them understand where they have gone wrong,” he said. 

“But we will not give up, we will continue to work to find the right approach for the self-radicalised people.”


Mr Shanmugam said that one trend that is “worrying” is that many self-radicalised individuals caught are getting younger.

Since 2015, five radicalised teenagers aged between 17 and 19 have been picked up, he said.

These are lives wasted.

“We have to rehabilitate them quickly and get them back, to give them the opportunities,” he added.

He said younger self-radicalised individuals tend to rely heavily on the Internet and social media for information, including religious teachings.

"That is where the extremists, the terrorist groups operate and infect others with their propaganda," Mr Shanmugam said.

“Generally, we find that these young people have weak religious foundations and they fall prey easily. They do not understand the religion so they see something and they get attracted to it,” he said.

The task for everybody is to try to get these youths to go to mosques, listen to the preachers and understand what Islam is about, he added.

In line with that, he said that he is happy that RRG is launching an awareness programme for youths. Called the RRG Awareness Programme for Youth, it is targeted at those aged between 16 and 25, and aims to engage, educate and provide Muslim youth with a better understanding of Islam.

“By going online, by keeping the content attractive, by keeping the content current, RRG will be able to sustain the interest of Internet followers and get new people to come in so that those young people searching for religious knowledge online, will find this to be the legitimate source instead of being attracted to ISIS and other sites,” he said. 


Mr Shanmugam also said that the Government needs to encourage greater integration to prevent radicalisation.

“Somebody doesn’t wake up one morning ... and say, 'Today I am going to go and kill people'. There is a process. It used to be longer, now sometimes it is shorter. Sometimes it is a matter of a month, a few weeks, sometimes even less than that,” he said.

There are certain conditions that contribute to the problem, including exclusivism.

If they are pushed towards a “more exclusivist approach, a more segregationist approach, a more divisive approach”, that sets the stage, the framework and the foundation for them to become more and more radicalised later on, Mr Shanmugam said.

Therefore, encouraging greater integration is “one of the key tasks for the Government”, he said.

“We must be good Muslims, good Hindus, good Christians, good Buddhists. We must be free to practise our religion. But we must also interact with each other, as citizens of our country, as human beings,” he said.