Published: 12 June 2017
Singaporean Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari (Izzah), a 22-year-old contract infant care assistant with PCF Sparkletots, was detained in June 2017, under the Internal Security Act (ISA). She is the first female to be detained in Singapore for radicalism.
2. Izzah began to be radicalised in 2013 by online propaganda related to the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). She began to believe that ISIS represented the true spirit of Islam. Her radicalisation deepened over time. This was exacerbated by a wide network of foreign online contacts which she developed. They included ISIS militants and supporters, some of whom have either been killed in Syria or arrested for terrorism-related activities.
3. Izzah was intent on joining ISIS and was actively planning to make her way to Syria, with her young child, to do so. She supported ISIS's use of violence to establish and defend its self-declared "caliphate", and aspired to live in it. To this end, she said that since 2015, she was looking for "a Salafi or an ISIS supporter" to marry and settle down with him and her child in Syria. She said she would support her husband if he fought for ISIS in Syria as she believed she would reap "heavenly rewards" if he died in battle. With her "elevated status" as a "martyr's widow", she felt she could easily marry another ISIS fighter in Syria. She also said that she was prepared to undergo military training and engage in armed combat to defend ISIS if called upon by the terrorist group to do so.
4. Since 2014, Izzah actively posted and shared pro-ISIS materials online. Several of her social media platforms were taken down by administrators because of the pro-ISIS content, but she created new ones. Her parents (both freelance Quranic teachers) and sister came to know of her radical postings in 2015 and her intention to join ISIS in Syria. They did not alert the authorities. They tried on their own to dissuade her but they were unsuccessful. Izzah continued down the path of radicalism. In Apr 2017, she boasted to a contact that the Singapore authorities had not detected her.
Imperative for Family Members and Friends to Report Suspected Radicalised Individuals
5. The heightened terrorism threat worldwide and in Singapore makes it imperative for family members and friends to raise to the authorities anyone they suspect of being radicalised or planning terror activities. Singapore can be made safer if family members and friends do this. The time between radicalisation and committing violence can be very short in some cases. Recent terror attacks around the world have shown how terrorists can use easily available objects like vehicles and knives to commit violence. Such an act would drive a wedge between Muslims and non-Muslims and divide our communities, which is precisely what the terrorist groups want.
6. In Izzah's case, her family members did not bring her to the attention of the authorities when she was younger and could have potentially been turned back from the path of radicalisation. Furthermore, after Izzah was placed under investigation, important evidence was destroyed by a family member relating to her plans to join ISIS, in order to try to minimise her acts.
7. The authorities are working hard to keep Singapore safe but they cannot do it alone. Every person in the community can help to protect Singapore and Singaporeans from the threat of terrorism. Relatives and friends are best-placed to notice the possible signs of radicalisation. These include avid consumption of radical materials; propagating and re-posting terrorism-related images, videos and posts; expressing support for terrorist entities; and encouraging others or stating an intention to commit terrorist violence. This list is not exhaustive.
8. Early reporting could enable the individual who is at risk of becoming radicalised to be given proper guidance and counselling. They could be steered away from the path of radicalisation and may not need to be severely dealt with under the law. Anyone who knows or suspects that a person is radicalised should promptly call the ISD Counter-Terrorism Centre hotline 1800-2626-473 (1800-2626-ISD).