[ Channel News Asia ] SINGAPORE – Zulfikar Mohamad Shariff, 44, was arrested and detained in July for spreading radical ideology and contributing to the radicalisation of other Singaporeans, the Ministry of Home Affairs says.
SINGAPORE: A Singaporean man who openly supported the Islamic State militant group and contributed to the radicalisation of other Singaporeans has been arrested and detained under the Internal Security Act.
Zulfikar Mohamad Shariff, 44, was issued with an Order of Detention in July for two years, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on Friday (Jul 29).
According to MHA, he became radicalised as early as 2001 after reading jihadi-related material. He was supportive of terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and the Jemaah Islamiyah, and advocated Muslims taking up arms in Afghanistan after the Sep 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US.
After moving to Australia with his family in 2002, Zulfikar joined the hardline Hizbut Tahrir organisation. According to his Facebook page, he is a PhD student at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. He was also influenced by the teachings of radical ideologues like Anwar al-Awlaki, and established and maintained contact with radical preachers in Australia and overseas, like Musa Cerantonio and Anjem Choudary, MHA said.
Prior to his arrest, he made “numerous Facebook postings glorifying and promoting ISIS and their violent actions, while exploiting religion to legitimise the terrorist activities of ISIS”, the ministry said. This included a photograph of Zulfikar with his children mimicking a pose commonly adopted by jihadi fighters, while standing in front of a black flag that is commonly used by jihadi terrorist groups.
“He considered his propagation of radical material as a form of jihad, by way of creating awareness of ISIS and promoting armed jihad,” MHA said.
SPREADING RADICAL IDEOLOGY
In his online postings, Zulfikar called for Muslims to take up arms and wage war in places like the Middle East, Palestinian territories, Myanmar and the Philippines. To motivate Muslims to engage in armed jihad, Zulfikar proposed the creation of a support system for the families of the fighters.
In a Facebook post in August 2014, Zulfikar wrote that ISIS’ threat to banish or kill Christians in Iraq was permissible. His rationale was that their refusal to pay the jizyah – a tax imposed on non-Muslims in an Islamic caliphate – was a “declaration of hostility and non-acceptance” of the authority of the Islamic state.
The same month, he posted on Facebook again to defend ISIS’ acts of beheading. Zulfikar claimed in the post that decapitation was permitted in Islam and that the act was practised and approved during the time of Prophet Muhammad and his companions.
According to MHA, Zulfikar admitted that he wanted his online followers to reject the Western secular democratic system and instead establish an Islamic caliphate in its place, governed by Syariah law.
“He believes that violence should be used to achieve this goal if necessary,” the ministry said, adding that Zulfikar had actively looked into holding training programmes aimed at radicalising young Singaporeans.
While residing in Australia, he set up an online group called Al-Makhazin and other Facebook platforms for Muslims to counter the Western media. He also admitted that a Facebook page called Al-Makhazin Singapore was used by him as a platform to “agitate on Muslim issues in Singapore and attack some Singaporean Muslims who did not share his views”, MHA said.
“His real agenda was in fact to provoke Muslims in Singapore into pushing for the replacement of the democratic system with an Islamic state in Singapore. He said that he hid his ulterior motive from the Singaporean Al-Makhazin Singapore members,” the ministry added.
Amid the threat of terrorism that Singapore faces, Zulfikar’s promotion of violence and Islamic State poses a security threat, MHA said.
“At times he has tried to hide his real motivations, by putting out moderate sounding views. But in reality, he believes in the use of violence to overthrow the democratic system of government and the imposition of an Islamic caliphate. He continues to support ISIS and wants Singaporeans to do the same,” it said.
“The Government takes a very serious view of efforts to undermine Singapore’s constitutional democracy, and will take firm and decisive action against any person who engages in such activities.”
EXTREMIST, VIOLENT BELIEFS HAVE NO PLACE IN SINGAPORE: PM LEE
In a Facebook post on Friday evening, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said it was fortunate that security agencies caught Zulfikar “before he could do more harm”.
“Such extremist, violent beliefs have no place in our multi-racial and multi-religious country. The government will be alert to spot such individuals, but we need everyone’s help to uphold and protect our harmonious way of life,” said Mr Lee. “Together, we can stay united and strong.”
GOVT WILL TAKE FIRM ACTION AGAINST ANYONE WHO TRIES TO DIVIDE SINGAPOREANS: DPM TEO
Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean said on Friday that the Singapore Government will take “firm action against anyone who agitates to divide us or create conflict in Singapore by making use of religious extremism”.
“The social fabric we have built up over the decades is precious. Each of us has to play our part to safeguard the peace, harmony and stability that we treasure,” he said in a post on Facebook.
Channel News Asia – CNA/cy