Singaporean radical fighting against Syrian regime

From ‘S’pore man under probe for ‘going to fight in Syria”, 23 Mar 2014, article by Priscilla Goy, Sunday Times

Singaporean man is being investigated for allegedly going to Syria “with the intention to undertake violence” in the ongoing armed conflict there, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said yesterday. Haja Fakkurudeen Usman Ali, a 37-year-old supermarket manager, is a former Indian national who obtained his Singapore citizenship in 2008.

A member of the public informed the authorities of his alleged trip to fight against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime after he had left Singapore last November. The MHA confirmed it is investigating the allegations.

The ministry also said the authorities established that Gul Mohamed Maracachi Maraicar, a 37-year-old Indian national and former Singapore permanent resident, helped to radicalise Haja and assisted him in his plans to participate in armed violence in Syria.

Gul, who worked as a system analyst here, was investigated under the Internal Security Act. He was deported and banned from entering Singapore for his role in abetting and aiding Haja. When The Sunday Times asked when Gul was investigated or deported, an MHA spokesman said it “does not comment on operational matters”.

The initial reaction to such news is how on earth did we allow such budding extremists to become citizens and PRs in the first place, fanatics who would rather sacrifice themselves in another country than take up arms to defend ours. But ‘radicalisation’, sometimes of the ‘DIY’ kind, could happen to anyone with a passion for ‘militant jihad’, Singaporean or not.

It happened to Abdul Basheer in 2007, a bright law grad and lecturer who graduated from Raffles Institution and National Junior College and was an employee at Drew and Napier. Having succumbed to ‘MTV-style’ recruitment websites espousing extremist Islamic ideology, Abdul was seduced into joining the Taleban to fight in war-ravaged countries such as Afghanistan against infidels (He was later re-arrested in 2012 for pursuing the same agenda). Henceforth the term ‘self-radicalisation’ was born, along with related terms that threaten to glorify self-service terrorism: The ‘DIY’ terrorist, the ‘Lone Wolf’, the Jihad Rambo.

In 2010, a full time NS men followed in Abdul Basheer’s footsteps. 20 year old Muhammad Fadil was exposed to online Jihadist propaganda, and ‘deeply radicalised’ by the lectures of personalities such as Anwar al-Awlaki and Sheikh Feiz Muhammad, whose videos you can download freely off Youtube (Feiz Muhammad has been suspected to be the inspiration behind the Boston marathon bombers). I can’t tell if these clerics were directly urging youths all over the world to buy a ticket to Pakistan and take up arms in Arabic, though it seems to boil down to a matter of selective interpretation. MDA and MFA should be doing more to ban inflammatory martyr recruitment sites, rather than forcing news/opinion sites to close down over licensing requirements, or blocking sites that encourage marital affairs or medical marijuana.

To ‘radicalise’ someone is a term that has been in use locally since 1987. Third Stage, a drama group, was accused of ‘radicalising’ the public with ‘Marxist propaganda’, producing ‘satirical plays’ which put the Singapore’s political system in a bad light. And these guys were put on watch by ISD presumably because at the time the pen was deemed mightier than the sword. You didn’t need to fly to terrorist school or even know how to load a bullet, you just needed to produce provocative government-bashing drama in order to be labelled ‘leftist’ or ‘radical’, capable of subverting people into overthrowing their rulers.

Trust religion to corrupt a word that once described a good thing (a radical idea, change) into one suggesting extremist violence. It’s likely that ‘radical’ has its roots in politics, used way back in 1846 to describe the act of questioning authority by ‘despots’ and ‘rulers’. Sometime in the 80’s, radical became ‘cool’ or ‘awesome’, and for a time abbreviated to ‘rad’, as popularised by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, who subscribe to the ‘ideology’ of fighting crime, skateboarding and eating pizza. Today, you’d have to be careful about using the word in case the ISD comes knocking on your door searching your laptop for ‘radicalising’ material.

All this tight-lippedness over this mysterious Gul Mohamed Maracachi Maraicar seems shady though. There’s no information of his previous arrest or deportation as far as I could find online other than he and Haja being ‘village friends’, unlike the media spillage that surrounded Abdul Basheer and Fadil. I hope it’s not too radical to ask: Why?

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