A 22-year-old woman in Singapore has become the first female citizen in the country to be detained under the Internal Security Act for radicalism after she planned to join the Islamic State in Syria. Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari, a contract infant-care assistant with a pre-school programme, was detained in June this year, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on Monday. Her radicalisation started in 2013 through online propaganda related to the Islamic State terrorist group, the MHA said.
“She began to believe that Islamic State represented the true spirit of Islam. Her radicalisation deepened over time,” the ministry said in a statement. “This was exacerbated by a wide network of foreign online contacts which she developed. They included ISIS militants and supporters, some of whom have either been killed in Syria or arrested for terrorism-related activities,” it said.
Since 2014, Izzah actively posted and shared pro-ISIS material online. Several of her social media platforms were removed by administrators because of such content, but she created new ones. MHA said Izzah was also intent on joining ISIS and was actively planning to travel to Syria, with her young child.
“She supported ISIS’s use of violence to establish and defend its self-declared ‘caliphate’, and aspired to live in it,” the ministry said. “To this end, she said that since 2015, she was looking for ‘a Salafi or an ISIS supporter’ to marry and settle down with him and her child in Syria,” it said.
“She said she would support her husband if he fought for ISIS in Syria as she believed she would reap ‘heavenly rewards’ if he died in battle. “With her ‘elevated status’ as a ‘martyr’s widow’, she felt she could (then) easily marry another ISIS fighter in Syria. Izzah also said 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, the statement said.
Her sister and parents – who are both freelance Quranic teachers – came to know of her radical postings in 2015 and her intention to join ISIS in Syria. They did not alert the authorities and tried on their own to dissuade her, but were unsuccessful.
Izzah continued down the path of radicalism, said MHA, and in April this year, “boasted” to a contact that the Singapore authorities had not detected her. The MHA reiterated that importance of family members and friends to let the authorities know of anyone they suspect is being radicalised or planning terror attacks.