In December last year, this publication reported about a Singaporean who supported the setting-up of ISIS like Caliphate in the region. The Singaporean, Zulfikar Shariff, who is a PhD student in La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, was reported to be openly supporting an ISIS-inspired Caliphate to immediately replace the western-ideology imposed secular States in our region (https://theindependent.sg.sg/australias-fears-not-unfounded-singaporean-supports-set-up-of-isis-like-caliphate-in-region).
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said today (29 Jul) that it had arrested and detained Zulfikar Mohamad Shariff, 44, after it determined that he had used social media to propagate and spread his radical messages. He considered his propagation of radical material as a form of jihad, by way of creating awareness of ISIS and promoting armed jihad.
MHA’s press release on Zulfikar’s detention can be read here: http://bit.ly/2aCqjuN, and it said (in part):
“Zulfikar admitted that besides his intention to promote ISIS and armed jihad, he also wanted his online followers to reject the Western secular democratic nation-state 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. To this end, Zulfikar had actively looked into holding training programmes aimed at radicalising young Singaporeans so that they would be persuaded into joining his extremist agenda.”
Zulfikar resettled his family in Australia in 2002 after MHA started investigating a Muslim organisation, Fateha, which he headed. Commenting on why he left Singapore in 2002, Zulfikar said:
“A few weeks after the General Elections, the PAP government arrested 18 individuals under the Internal Security Act, allegedly for being members of a militant group known as Jemaah Islamiah. It seemed then, that the ‘Ho Ching Miracle’ criminal defamation report was a reflection of a plan for my arrest. I realised that if it was known that I was trying to leave Singapore, the ISD may arrest me before it happened. To mask the intention, I acted as though I intended to remain in Singapore. Only close family and Fateha members,including the families involved in the tudung case were informed. It was decided then, that I would leave for Australia. My application for an Australian visa was submitted only after I left Singapore.”
While online news sites like The Independent Singapore avoided publishing Zulfikar’s comments in his personal Facebook, as well as from his posts in his Facebook page ‘Al-Makhazin Singapore’, The Straits Times (ST) published an op-ed by him on 28 May this year – mere days before he was arrested and detained.
In the op-ed titled, ‘Duterte: Beneath tough talk, is he a potential peacemaker?‘, Zulfikar suggested that the President of Philippines, Duterte’s tough, warrior-like image was just a front and that because of his support for Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao in Philippines, he was actually a peacemaker.
Some netizens have speculated that Zulfikar could have been lulled into a false sense of security about re-entering Singapore after the Government mouthpiece, ST, published his work.
Home Affairs Minister, Mr K Shanmugam, commenting on Zulfikar’s arrest said: “We had to be quite sure about the evidence against Zulfikar, so we were looking at him over a period of time. Second, he was overseas. Recently he came into Singapore, and when we felt that we had enough evidence, and he came, we took him into custody.”
Besides Zulfikar Shariff the following decisions were made by MHA’s Internal Security Department:
- Mohamed Saiddhin bin Abdullah (Saiddhin; Singaporean; aged 33), a radicalised businessman, was issued with a Restriction Order (RO) for a period of two years in Jul 2016.
- Muhammad Fadil bin Abdul Hamid (Fadil; Singaporean; aged 27), was re-detained under the ISA for a period of two years in Apr 2016 as he intended to join a terrorist group like ISIS, to engage in armed violence in Syria.
- A 17-year-old male Singaporean, who recently graduated from a madrasah, was issued with an RO for a period of two years under the ISA in Jul 2016. Investigations showed that he had become radicalised online after viewing pro-ISIS videos, websites and social media material.
- Self-radicalised Singaporean Abdul Basheer s/o Abdul Kader (Basheer; aged 37), was released on Suspension Direction (SD) in Feb 2016.
- The RO of Singaporean Rijal Yadri bin Jumari (Rijal; aged 35), was allowed to lapse upon expiry in Mar 2016.