Singapore—In the light of the news that three Indonesian domestic helpers were issued detention orders under the Internal Security Act due to suspicion that they had financed terrorist activities, experts are saying that the reason they were radicalised is hardly about religion, but centers around loneliness and a lack of belonging.
Speaking to the Straits Times (ST) Dr Noor Huda Ismail, a visiting fellow at the Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), said that the women were unwittingly led into paths they had no intention of going into.
Dr Noor Huda, who has worked with radicalised individuals to help rehabilitate them, said, “It starts out normal, but then they go down a rabbit hole. They go in a completely different direction from where they started.”
On Monday, September 23, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) announced that three Indonesian women – Anindia Afiyantari, 33; Retno Hernayani, 36; and Turmini, 31, had been detained on the suspicion that they had financed terrorist activities.
A fourth woman, the MHA said, who was “aware of others’ radicalisation” but not radicalised herself, had been deported to Indonesia after undergoing arrest and investigation.
The women had watched content concerning the Islamic State (IS) and listened to radical Indonesian preachers online, and had become radicalized in 2018.
The MHA said, “Singapore faces a persistent terrorism threat, fuelled by the virulent propaganda of terrorist groups like ISIS. The fact that all three individuals in the present case were radicalised in 2018, at a time when ISIS’s physical territory was already significantly diminished, highlights the enduring appeal of ISIS’s violent ideology.
The government takes a serious view of any form of support for terrorism in Singapore – whether by Singaporeans or foreigners. The public should exercise caution against viewing radical material online, including sermons by extremist preachers.”
Dr Noor Huda pointed out that many groups end up attracting individuals to join them using the bait and switch method, at first seeming to embrace only mainstream Islamic teachings, and welcoming recruits to their groups, only to gradually introduce more radical teachings later on, which the domestic workers may have a hard time differentiating.
According to the statement from the MHA, “Over time,” the women “developed a network of pro-militant foreign online contacts, including ‘online boyfriends’, who share their pro-ISIS ideology. All three also became strong supporters of the Indonesia-based ISIS-affiliated terrorist group, Jemaah Anshorut Daulah (JAD).”
ST quotes ustaz and member of the Religious Rehabilitation Group Dr Leyaket Ali Mohamed Omar as saying that the big hook for some of the helpers is that they believe they have found love through the radical groups. “It is a long journey. They make friends first, then they expose their agenda. These are all traps.”
The MHA statement added that “the community plays a critical role in the fight against terrorism. Family members, friends, colleagues and employers are best placed to notice possible signs of radicalisation. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
a) the avid consumption of radical materials;
b) propagating and re-posting terrorism-related images, videos and posts on social media;
c) expressing support for terrorist entities and/or causes;
d) drastic changes in appearance, and/or behaviour (e.g. in dressing, living habits, becoming withdrawn from others etc.);
e) espousing an “us versus them” thinking, e.g. displaying hatred or intolerance towards people with other views and/or beliefs; and
f) stating the intention to commit terrorist violence.
The time between radicalisation and the commission of violence can be very short. Timely reporting allows the authorities to investigate and intervene to stem the radicalisation, before an individual harms or kills someone. In addition, such reporting can save these individuals. Once individuals commit an act of violence, they are liable to face far more severe penalties, including capital punishment where applicable. Anyone who knows or suspects that a person has been radicalised, or is engaging in terrorism-related activities, should promptly call the Internal Security Department Counter-Terrorism Centre hotline 1800-2626-473 (1800-2626-ISD).” / TISG