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Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh
Friday, Aug 22, 2014

Singapore

Award-winning group widens scope to fight terror

The Straits Times | Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh | Friday, Aug 22, 2014

(From left) Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the guest of honour, with Mr Saat Abdul Rahman, Berita Harian editor; Mr Bahren Shaari, Singapore Press Holdings director and Bank of Singapore managing director and marketing head of South-east Asia; Berita Harian Inspiring Young Achiever Award winner Saiyidah Aisyah Mohammed Rafa’ee; and Ustaz Hasbi Hassan and Ustaz Ali Mohamed, co-chairs of the Religious Rehabilitation Group, at the award presentation dinner last night.

SINGAPORE - From counselling Jemaah Islamiah (JI) detainees led astray by radical teachings, the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) has expanded its scope.

It now reaches out to the wider community, and engages schools and netizens to deal with new threats on the horizon.

The voluntary group of Islamic scholars and teachers, formed in 2003, is the first organisation to win the Berita Harian Achiever of the Year Award.

Ustaz Hasbi Hassan, co-chair of the RRG, said that of more than 30 JI detainees the group has seen over the past decade, about two-thirds have been successfully rehabilitated.

"You can see the change. You don't worry about their old habits any longer. And you don't worry about their families as well, that they may be angry or want to seek revenge against the people who captured their fathers or husbands," said Ustaz Hasbi in Malay yesterday.

"Now, their wives and children accept and understand what we had to do."

Since 2007, the RRG has worked with schools to raise awareness on the threat of terrorist ideology.

The group has organised an inter-junior college dialogue on extremism, and has also collaborated with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies to conduct counter-ideology talks in secondary schools.

Earlier this year, it launched a resource centre in Khadijah Mosque to showcase its work. Countries both in the region and beyond have turned to the RRG for advice on how to deal with extremism in their communities.

And the RRG's efforts have also moved online: The group now has a Facebook page where it distributes information on Islamic teachings and seeks feedback.

"Social media is an influential tool, especially for the young," said Ustaz Hasbi.

"Sometimes, they are misinformed by social media, so we have to use that same platform, use it to get the right information out."

And as news of crises in the Middle East - such as the Syrian war - spreads, some Singaporeans are drawn to playing a role in these conflicts.

The RRG members speak to people at risk to clarify the situation in Syria, "stepping on the brakes" so they do not get influenced and inflamed.

And there is a long road ahead for the group, said Ustaz Ali Mohamed, also RRG's co-chair.

"We can't stop at the moment... not in five years, nor 10 years. I think it will be a very long way to go and there are other challenges."


This article was first published on MONTH DAY, 2014.
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