Singapore Bans a Book Influencing the Radicalization of a Man

Singapore banned a book leading a 20-year-old man to be radicalized and plan a terrorist attack. He was part of the Singaporean military.

On June 24, the Ministry of Communications and Information of Singapore said it banned a book because it promoted “armed jihad” containing “extremist views that promote enmity among different religious communities“. Authorities discovered the book as they investigated on a planned attack against a Synagogue from a radicalized Singaporean.

A 20-year-old man was arrested under the Internal Security Ac in February 2021 because he had planned to attack a Synagogue in Singapore with a knife. As he feared he couldn’t attain martyrdom – i.e. be arrested and not die fighting – he had also made plans to travel to Gaza. The man was a full-time national serviceman in the Singapore Armed Forces.

He was in fact radicalized over resentment he developed about the Palestine-Israel conflict. His hatred started when he watched online videos of bombing from Israel in 2014. He started supporting Hamas in 2015 after reading a book that he had bought overseas about the actions of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. The book was edited in 2015 by a Malaysian publisher.

the Maghain Aboth Synagogue in Waterloo Street
The Maghain Aboth Synagogue in Waterloo Street, where the man wanted to conduct a terrorist attack | Gaurav Vaidya, 2010

A book “encouraging armed jihad”

The government of Singapore therefore decided to ban the publication under the Undesirable Publications Act. This censorship tool, enforced since 1967, can restrict any content including pornography, horror, cruelty, hate speech, offences against racial and religious harmony, or drug consumption that is “injurious to the public good“.

The freedom of speech is extremely limited in Singapore. The country is ranked 160 in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders.

The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, which advises the President about the Singaporean Muslim Identity says the book “carries problematic ideas by encouraging armed jihad“. “The promotion of extremist religious views and ideologies that promote violence, enmity and distrust are not the values of Islam or the Singapore Muslim Community” the council stated. Appointed by the President of Singapore, the Council members had also approved the decision to ban nine books from an Islam preacher in 2017.

From June 25, it is an offence to import, publish, sell or offer to sell, supply or offer to supply, exhibit, distribute or reproduce any extract of the book. All those who already have the book need to hand it over to the police.

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