|“We need to continuously put efforts to debunk ideas that preach segregation, hatred and violence, and replace them with messages of peace, tolerance, and mutual understanding and respect that Islam propagates," said Ustaz Ali Bin Haji Mohamed, Co-Chairman of the Religious Rehabilitation Group. PHOTO: Matthew Wong|
Managing difficult detainees from the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist group, preparing counter narratives to refute radical ideas and grievances and managing their time as volunteers.
These are some of the challenges faced by counsellors of the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG), according to Ustaz Ali Bin Haji Mohamed, Co-Chairman of the RRG.
Since 2003, RRG volunteers have actively conducted counselling sessions with Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) detainees.
Apart from sharing perspectives with these detainees, the volunteers see these sessions as opportunities to discover more about the JI’s militant ideology.
They present teachings from the Quran and Hadith to help the detainees see the flaws of the beliefs that led to their allegiance to the JI and terrorist groups like the Al Qaeda (AQ).
Over the past 10 years, the RRG has successfully helped many detainees dispel extremist and terrorist ideologies and most detainees have since settled back with their families and found jobs.
In conjunction with its 10thanniversary, the RRG, together with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies organised the International Conference on Terrorist Rehabilitation and Community Resilience on 26 March 2013.
This conference brought together 27 distinguished local and foreign speakers who touched on new issues and developments related to terrorist rehabilitation, community resilience and terrorist ideology and propaganda.
|Brigadier General (Retired) Russell D. Howard, Director of Monterey Institute Terrorism Research and Education Program and Senior Advisor for the Singapore Home Team Academy addressed the current, mid-term and long-term international security threats in his presentation at the International Conference on Terrorist Rehabilitation and Community Resilience 2013. PHOTO: Matthew Wong|
Opening his speech with a comparison of the Al Qaeda (AQ) brand to McDonald’s, the day’s first speaker Brigadier General (Retired) Russell D. Howard, Director of Monterey Institute Terrorism Research and Education Program and Senior Advisor for the Singapore Home Team Academy, laid out the AQ’s far reaching influence in other terrorist groups like the Al Shabaab in Somalia and Boko Haram in Nigeria.
These “franchise” groups pose a danger to many countries as they are seen as avenues for new recruits to receive terrorist training.
“Three years ago, they (Boko Haram) were not a very sophisticated outfit... Now they are using sophisticated weapons, targeting multiple targets simultaneously,” BG Russell D. Howard pointed out.
Another mid-term concern he brought up was how an aging population would place heavy responsibilities on future youths and how the lack of water in many countries will be a major constraint prompting potential terrorist activity in the decades to come.
After lapping up the insights shared, the crowd of about 500 participants listened intently as various approaches to rehabilitation and reintegration of terrorists were presented by Professor Rohan Gunaratna, Head of Singapore’s International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research.
|Professor Rohan Gunaratna, Head of Singapore’s International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research urged for communities to work with governments to win the fight against terrorism. PHOTO: Matthew Wong |
Professor Rohan Gunaratna emphasised the importance of having thorough rehabilitation of ex-terrorists as they could otherwise easily revert to their old ways and be a constant threat to public safety and security.
“Those who have undergone religious counselling can still be drawn to terrorist propaganda later and drawn into the path of radicalism if they are not careful… as in the re-arrest of a Singaporean ex-detainee Abdul Basheer last year,”Ustaz Ali Mohamed pointed out in his opening address.
“This learning journey will bear knowledge, understanding and a vision of a better tomorrow especially for RRG and to the expanding field of terrorist rehabilitation and community resilience,” he added.
Gracing the conference was Guest-Of-Honour Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong who also emphasised in his speech that the threat of terrorism remains real to Singaporeans and urged for deeper communal trust, enhanced operational capabilities and greater international cooperation.