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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 September 2018

Countering radicalism at the forefront for UAE and Singapore

The UAE and Singapore are working on countering radicalism by learning each other's methods of tackling the issue.

As the threat of violent extremism grows regionally and globally, Emirati and Singaporean experts will study each country’s methods of countering terrorism.

According to the country’s ambassador to the UAE, Samuel Tan, the issue of radicalism is extremely important for Singapore as it faces the same challenges as the UAE.

“We share experiences in the issue of counter-radicalisation — we recognise in Singapore that it’s not just a security solution. We need to understand and counter the kind of ideology that is out there and we’ve learnt it the hard way because we ourselves discovered an al Qaeda link in Singapore after 9/11”.

Singapore is part of the coalition fighting Isil in Syria and Iraq, having also deployed its assets for support. “Given the connectivity and issues of terrorism and the fact that we have a fairly sizeable portion of Singaporeans living in the UAE, the stability of the region is very important to Singapore and south-east Asia in general,” he said.

Experts say Singapore’s interest and expertise in counter-radicalisation has deepened since it was forced to deal with more cases, particularly during the last two to three years.

Last year, six suspected militants were arrested on suspicion of planning to launch a rocket attack from an island near the country.

The country was targeted by terrorist groups in the past year, namely Isil plotting to carry out two attacks and a number of Singaporeans who were radicalised by the group.

Last month, the country's Ministry of Home Affairs issued a Terrorism Threat Assessment Report stating that the threat by radicalised individuals was its greatest concern.

“Singapore is a multi-cultural city with a vibrant mix of cultures and religions, and its leadership realises that even a very small number of radicalised people can threaten security interests as well as peaceful coexistence between its many communities,” said Sabahat Khan, senior analyst at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai.

“The UAE has been at the forefront of various efforts to counter radicalisation and intolerance both nationally and internationally. From Hedayah to the Sawab Centre, and Dubai’s pioneering Charter of Tolerance — there is much that the UAE can share with Singapore”.

After the discovery of a Jemaah Islamyia cell that was operating in Singapore in December 2001, the Singaporean Government adopted a more active stance in pursuing deradicalisation programmes for its nationals.

“A key characteristic of Singapore’s current rehabilitation approach is its primary focus on the religious rehabilitation of detainees, as the re-education of detainees’ interpretation of Islam is viewed as a suitable approach to countering radicalisation,” said Rose Murad, analyst at the Abu Dhabi think tank the Delma Institute.

“The government also established the Religious Rehabilitation Group in 2003 to ensure the involvement of religious figures to communicate with the detainees and promote a more moderate understanding of Islam. The UAE is a suitable candidate to implement a similar procedure following the launch of a local campaign to promote a moderate and inclusive interpretation of Islam via the development of a new Islamic curriculum.”

Ms Murad said other countries could learn from Singapore’s approach, particularly the way in which it involves family members of detainees in counselling sessions.

“A similar family-centred approach is important in the UAE too, considering the significance of family ties in Emirati culture.

Another lesson from Singapore’s approach is the implementation of a compulsory monitoring mechanism once detainees complete the rehabilitation programme — individuals are required to continue key aspects of the programme including counselling sessions and, although the method does not guarantee the prevention of recidivism, a monitoring mechanism increases the programme’s chances of success.”

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