Sunday, July 25, 2021

Far-right, anti-Muslim extremism among Singapore’s worries in war against terror

Singapore authorities say the domestic terrorism threat comes primarily from self-radicalised individuals influenced by extremist materials online.

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Singapore authorities view far-right extremism as an emerging major threat in its fight against terrorism, alongside groups such as the Islamic State, according to the city-state’s latest Terrorism Threat Assessment Report.

The report noted that radical acts based on racial supremacy as well as anti-Muslim and anti-immigration sentiments had emerged as a major concern in the West.

“While Islamist terrorism remains the primary concern, we are also mindful of emergent threats such as far-right extremism,” the Internal Security Department (ISD) said in releasing the third edition of its biannual report.

This comes months after authorities nabbed a teenager planning a lone-wolf attack against Muslim worshippers at mosques in the republic, reportedly after he was inspired by the Christchurch mosque shootings of 2019.

The ISD said developments outside of Singapore including “the import of foreign grievances, hate speech and divisive rhetoric” were also threats to its internal security and communal harmony.

“The domestic terrorism threat to Singapore stems primarily from self-radicalised individuals influenced by extremist materials online. Like other countries, Singapore is vulnerable to attacks against soft targets by lone actors using easily available objects.”

It said while far-right extremism did not have traction in Southeast Asia, some hardline groups had embraced its messages of “ethno-religious chauvinism and anti-immigration nativism”.

“Such narratives could deepen societal fault-lines and even inspire individuals to mount acts of violence against members of other communities.”

The report said lone-wolf attacks by radicalised individuals could only be uncovered with cooperation from family and friends, and listed several signs “that someone around us may have become radicalised”.

They include frequently surfing radical websites, posting or sharing extremist views on social media, as well as expressing such views with friends and relatives, making remarks that promote hatred towards people of other races or religions, and expressing intent to join acts of violence overseas.

In December last year, authorities arrested a 16-year-old Singaporean under the Internal Security Act for plotting to attack Muslims with a machete at two mosques in Singapore.

The boy, a Protestant Christian of Indian ethnicity, planned to launch the attacks on the second anniversary of the Christchurch mosque attacks in New Zealand which killed over 50 worshippers.

In February this year, authorities detained a 20-year-old Singaporean Muslim man who was planning to carry out a knife attack against Jews at a synagogue.

Amirull Ali, a national serviceman in the Singapore Armed Forces, had planned to target three Jewish men at the Maghain Aboth Synagogue in Waterloo Street.

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