Singapore arrests first woman for radicalism under Internal Security Act

The 22-year-old infant-care assistant was planning to join Islamic State and was actively making her way to Syria, with her young child.

Picture for representation
Picture for representation Reuters

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on Monday that Singapore has detained its first female citizen for radicalism under the Internal Security Act (ISA). Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari, a 22-year-old contract infant-care assistant with the PCF (PAP Community Foundation) Sparkletots preschool programme, has been arrested in June 2017.

MHA said in a press release that Izzah's radicalisation started in 2013 through online propaganda related to the Islamic State terrorist group. "She began to believe that ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) represented the true spirit of Islam. Her radicalisation deepened over time," the ministry said in a statement. "This was exacerbated by a wide network of foreign online contacts which she developed. They included ISIS militants and supporters, some of whom have either been killed in Syria or arrested for terrorism-related activities."

According to reports, Izzah has been actively posting and sharing pro-ISIS material online since 2014. Although the administrators used to remove several of her social media accounts because of such content, but she used to create new ones.

MHA said Izzah was also intent on joining ISIS and was actively planning to make her way to Syria, with her young child, to do so. "She supported ISIS's use of violence to establish and defend its self-declared 'caliphate', and aspired to live in it," the statement added. "To this end, she said that since 2015, she was looking for 'a Salafi or an ISIS supporter' to marry and settle down with him and her child in Syria."

"She said she would support her husband if he fought for ISIS in Syria as she believed she would reap 'heavenly rewards' if he died in battle. With her 'elevated status' as a 'martyr's widow', she felt she could (then) easily marry another ISIS fighter in Syria," MHA added.

MHA said Izzah also admitted that she was prepared to undergo military training and engage in armed combat to defend ISIS if called upon by the terrorist group to do so. She said that her sister and parents, who are both freelance Quranic teachers, got to know of her radical postings and her intention to join ISIS in Syria in 2015.

Izzah's family members tried to dissuade her on their own, but they did not alert the authorities about this. However, they were unsuccessful in doing so. MHA said that Izzah continued down the path of radicalism.

In April, she "boasted" to a contact that the Singapore authorities had not detected her.

MHA reiterated the importance of family members and friends in its press release and advised them to let the authorities know of anyone they suspect is being radicalised or planning terror attacks.