Can corporations help weed out extremism?

It was reported yesterday that two AETOS auxiliary policemen had been arrested under the Internal Security Act for Islamic radicalisation.

Muhammad Khairul bin Mohamed, a 24 yearly AETOS outrider was alleged to have went online to learn more about the Syrian conflict after first learning about it in mainstream media reports in 2012. The Ministry of Home Affairs reports that Khairul perceived the conflict was between Sunni and Shia Islam and decided he should join the Free Syrian Army (FSA) – a group of defected Syrian Armed Forces soldiers aiming to overthrow the government led by Bashar Al-Assad — to fight the Shi’ites in Syria.

Mohamad Rizal bin Wahid, is a 36 year old armed AETOS auxiliary officer stationed at the Woodlands checkpoint. Rizal was reported to have known about Khairul’s intentions to travel to Syria since 2015, but instead of reporting him to the authorities, Rizal even suggested various ways to travel to Syria to become a martyr.

Just a week before that, a 22 year-old female contract infant care assistant was also detained in June 2017 under the ISA for radicalism. Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari (Izzah) worked at PCF Sparkletots and was intent on joining the terrorist group ISIS.

Contrary to what you think, it doesn’t take a lot to self-radicalise. It also isn’t difficult to access extremist propaganda on the internet and most of it is not easily identifiable. ISIS has a media arm called “Al Ḥayat” which produces hundreds of films, ranging from beheading videos to hour-long features improbably combining elements of travelogue, historical documentary, and atrocity porn. But much of it isn’t like this – some is creatively distilled for easy consumption.

Dedicated ISIS propaganda teams traffic material across the internet each day. These teams (or one-man operations), loosely called “Daily Harvesters” create and share everything from pictures to videos to news bulletins. These summaries have the potential to radicalise others.

Daily Harvesters are incredibly dangerous because they spread a huge quantity of ISIS propaganda and is accessible to anyone. Anyone who knows how to use Facebook or Google will be able to find these material and self-radicalise.

The similar thing between the last 3 individuals arrested, was that they work somewhere. The people at the place of work can play a big role in exposing those whom have been conditioned by extremist propaganda.

It may not be possible to “filter out” individuals from the start. Radicalism is almost a religious choice and not a disease of the mind. It is also unfortunate that this choice bears great similarity to established religions and it is not easy to distinguish between the two at first sight.

There are other means of action. Human Resources and the trade unions operating in the companies can encourage whistleblowers through anonymous tipoff to the management; dropping a note at box and anonymous emails for example. They can also keep watch on the behaviour of staff for signs of radicalisation. Some of these include abrupt abandonment of friends and family, ceasing to participate in social activities, exhibition of hatred towards others who do not adhere to their beliefs, developing an obsession with martyrdom and the apocalypse.

It is not easy though. Religion, politics and even football has the ability to turn any individual into a fanatic, taking him/her out of their usual character into the realm of mania. Companies cannot, and should not turn hypersensitive. Doing so would create a different set of problems for our society.

Companies with access to dangerous equipment, weapons and biological/chemical agents could do a little bit more though. Although it may be too much (and too tedious) to peek at corporate internet data, there may be filters in place to alert administrators of sites or keywords that trigger red flags.

How about regular career and well-being counselling sessions? That would be useful, if not for reasons of self-radicalisation at least for the well-being of the worker.

The point is: the workplace is where a person spends most of us waking hours. They have resource, manpower and they can use this to care for the worker. With these safety mechanisms in place, companies may be able to prevent extremism from taking a foothold in Singapore.



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