Singapore cites net militia threat

March 6, 2007
Singapore Democrats

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Reuters
05 Mar 07

A breed of “self-radicalised individuals” who absorbed militant ideas through the internet have emerged as a new security threat to the city-state, Singapore’s interior minister said.

Minister for Home Affairs Wong Kan Seng said the government had investigated “a few” Singaporeans who have been influenced by radical Islamic ideas they read from the internet, local media quoted him as saying in parliament.

There are about 6,000 websites in cyberspace promoting militant ideologies, a situation that is breeding a group of “self-radicalised individuals” who can pose a danger to their societies Wong, one of two deputy prime ministers, said.

“The Internal Security Department has investigated a few Singaporeans who had become attracted to terrorist and radical ideas purveyed in the mass media, particularly the internet,” he said.

One of them was a young Muslim who came to believe that it was permissible to wage a “holy war” in the name of religion regardless of the origin of the fatwa, or Islamic decree, the Straits Times quoted the minister as saying.

The young man even grew to admire Osama bin Laden, leader of the Al-Qaeda militancy blamed for the September 2001 attacks on the United States.

Another Singaporean was investigated after he developed an interest in radical ideology while studying overseas.

When he returned to Singapore, he was in contact with other like-minded persons on the internet, “eventually even communicating with foreign individuals involved in terrorist recruitment and financing,” Wong said.

The report did not say what the investigations concluded.

With the help of local religious leaders, the government is also going online to counter these ideas on the internet, the minister said.

“Taking the counter-ideology effort online is a significant direction since it is impractical to try to shut down all terrorist websites,” he said.

As part of Singapore’s ideological battle, Wong cited Muhammad Haniff Hassan, a research analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies here who has created an internet blog to refute extremist ideology and also published a book.