SINGAPORE – A 22-year-old Singaporean has become the first woman to be detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for radicalism, said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari, who wanted to be a “martyr’s widow” for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), was detained earlier this month.
She was a contract infant care assistant with a PCF Sparkletots Preschool, which is run by the PAP Community Foundation, the charitable arm of the People’s Action Party.
She began to be radicalised in 2013 by online propaganda from terror group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), said the ministry in a statement on Monday (June 12).
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Her parents, both freelance Quranic teachers, and sister had known of her radicalism in 2015, but did not alert the authorities, said the ministry.
It also said that when Izzah was being investigated, “important evidence was destroyed by a family member relating to her plans to join ISIS, in order to try to minimise her acts”.
After her exposure to ISIS material, she “began to believe that ISIS represented the true spirit of Islam. Her radicalisation deepened over time. This was exacerbated by a wide network of foreign online contacts which she developed”, said the ministry.
This network included ISIS militants and supporters, some of whom had since been killed in Syria or arrested for terrorism activities.
The ministry added that Izzah intended to join ISIS in Syria, and supported its use of violence to establish and defend its self-declared “caliphate”.
She was “actively planning” to travel to Syria with her young child, said the ministry, adding that since 2015, Izzah had been looking for an ISIS supporter to marry and settle down with in Syria.
She believed that she would reap “heavenly rewards” if her husband died fighting, and her resulting status as a “martyr’s widow” would help her marry another ISIS fighter easily.
“She also said 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,” said MHA.
The ministry also pointed out that Izzah had been actively posting and sharing pro-ISIS material online since 2014. “Several of her social media platforms were taken down by administrators because of the pro-ISIS content, but she created new ones”.
She boasted to a contact in April this year that the authorities here had not detected her.
Izzah’s family had tried on their own to dissuade her from joining ISIS but were not successful, said the ministry.
In recent weeks, the ministry has been urging the public to come forward with information if they believe their friends or family have been radicalised, pointing out that early intervention could prevent a possible terror attack in future.
“In Izzah’s case, her family members did not bring her to the attention of the authorities when she was younger and could have potentially been turned back from the path of radicalisation,” said the MHA in its statement.