Terror group Islamic State calls on Muslims in S'pore & Southeast Asia to join them

The threat from Islamist extremism and terrorism continues to be "high".

Hannah Martens | January 05, 2023, 12:23 PM

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Terror group Islamic State (IS), also known as Daesh, has called upon Muslims in Singapore, along with other Asian states, to come forward and join them in an audiotape released on Sep. 13, 2022.

Claimed Muslims in Singapore and Indonesia are "oppressed"

In an annual threat assessment report on counter-terrorist trends and analyses put out by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) on Jan. 3, RSIS dean Kumar Ramakrishna expressed concerns about the contents of the audiotape, which was released by the pro-IS Al Furqan media.

In it, he said the IS called on "Muslims in Singapore, along with those in other Asian states, to come forward to join it".

IS spokesperson Abu Umar al-Muhajir claimed in the audiotape that Muslims in Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and India are "especially oppressed and humiliated in this region", warning that if they do not "adhere to Islam and join the ranks of ISIS", they will "remain oppressed and humiliated".

Ramakrishnan further highlighted a suicide bombing linked to pro-IS militant group Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) in December 2022, which killed a police officer in Bandung, Indonesia, saying that "continued vigilance" is needed to safeguard societies against the evolving threat of terrorism and extremism in Southeast Asia and beyond.

Threat from terrorist groups continue to be "high"

In a separate segment, analysts Kalicharan Veera Singam and Abigail Leong drew attention to the Singapore's Internal Security Department's  (ISD) assessment that the threat from Islamist extremism and terrorism continued to be "high" in 2022.

Networks like IS, Al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah remain "resilient" as they show "tenacity and adaptability" despite operational and organisational setbacks, the analysts wrote.

However, these groups' ability to operate and recruit in Singapore or plot an attack has been limited.

That being said, cases of self-radicalisation have continued to be detected by local authorities in 2022.

Since 2015, 45 self-radicalised individuals have been dealt with under the Internal Security Act (ISA). Although figures have dropped slightly in recent years, from 17 cases in 2016 to one case each in 2021 and 2022, such cases continue to persist.

The analysts also posited that the internet continues to play a vital role in sustaining the global Jihadist movement.

In April 2022, authorities detained a 29-year-old Singaporean man under the ISA after he prepared to travel overseas to conflict zones to take up arms. Online sermons of foreign radical preachers had allegedly radicalised the man, who believed it was his religious obligation to fight alongside the Black Flag Army against the "enemies of Islam".

"The 'cyber jihad' waged on borderless virtual battlefield, is a potential 'security minefield' in a highly digitally connected society like Singapore," stated the report.

Need to stay alert to potential threats

While there is no specific or credible threat to Singapore, the analysts say there is still a need to stay alert to any potential threats.

With the easing of Covid-19 related travel restrictions and cross-border travel resuming, this could prompt a surge in terrorist movement and activities in Singapore, including around Southeast Asia, they said.

"Singapore continues to feature in the propaganda of Islamist terror groups such as IS and remain a high-value target for both terrorist organisations and self-radicalised lone actors."

Race and religion as potential weak points

The report cites race and religion issues as potential fault lines in Singapore that radicals of any creed can manipulate.

The report mentions the Australian national Andrew Gosling, who threw a bottle from his condominium towards a group of Malay Muslims gathered at a barbeque area below. His actions led to him killing an elderly Muslim man, and Gosling was sentenced to five and a half years in jail. Prosecutors described Gosling's actions as demonstrating hostility toward Muslims and being religiously aggravated.

Another incident the report brought up was the senior polytechnic lecturer who made racist remarks towards a mixed-raced couple where the male was of Indian ethnicity and the female was Chinese.

These incidents might be isolated and one-off, but the report stressed the importance of maintaining tolerance and harmony in Singapore's society.

"Singapore continues to place great importance on maintaining inter-communal harmony and social cohesion, in order to deny space for dices and extremist ideologies to take root in society."

Top photos by Pictures from History/Contributor via Getty Images