Today, it’s revealed that a 38-year-old teacher with the Ministry of Education was arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) back in October 2022 for terrorism offences.
Mohamed Khairul Riduan bin Mohamed Sarip is the second person to be detained under the ISA for wanting to carry out armed violence.
Here’s what happened.
Everything About the MOE Teacher Who’s Arrested for Terrorism Offences
Khairul had wanted to travel to Gaza, Palestine, to join HAMAS, a Palestinian Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist, militant, and its military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (AQB), in armed combat against the Israel Defence Forces (IDF).
Lest you’re unaware, the Israeli–Palestinian conflict is one of the longest conflicts that has taken place. It started in 1948, and as of now, it is still ongoing.
To put it simply, it’s about the land that both sides want to control, with both sides claiming areas that they believe are theirs. Israel is a Jewish state, while Palestine comprises an Arab population.
Khairul’s interest in the Israel-Palestine conflict began in 2007 after he viewed Facebook videos on purported Israeli acts of aggression against Palestinians, including women and children.
He developed a strong desire to defend and support the Muslims in Gaza out of deep sympathy for them.
After more online research, he believed that the Israelis, particularly the IDF, were oppressing the Palestinians.
He was so convinced that since 2012, he wanted to head to Gaza after seeing a poster on Facebook titled Panggilan Jihad! (Call to Jihad!), which called for volunteers for a humanitarian mission to Gaza.
He did not do so due to travel restrictions: in 2014, Israel closed the borders to Gaza due to an escalation in the conflict. In 2021, he was restricted by the COVID-19 border closures.
His Plan: To Use the Skills He Learned in NS
He had wanted to travel to Gaza under the guise of providing humanitarian aid, and was ready to do anything, including armed combat, kidnapping, and even executing Prisoners of War, for HAMAS.
In fact, he was confident of applying the weapons-handling skills and fieldcraft he learned during his National Service to engage in armed combat, and to provide medical aid to HAMAS and AQB soldiers using the basic first-aid skills he had acquired.
It’s not revealed what he did in NS, but it was mentioned that he served his NS from 2004 to 2006, and has since ROD-ed in 2021.
He also thought of becoming a spokesperson and international recruiter for HAMAS.
What the ISD Investigations Show
According to the ISD, Khairul had acted alone, and had no intention to carry out any attacks in Singapore.
However, he holds segregationist and hard-line religious beliefs, and had attempted without success to influence his family members and children to hold such views.
As he poses an imminent threat, he has been issued an Order of Detention under the Internal Security Act with effect from 30 Nov 2022.
Home Affairs Minister Shanmugam’s Response
Mr Shanmugam, in response to the news, said that Singaporeans who want to support any cause, including the Israel-Palestine conflict, should partner legitimate organisations to do so.
He also addressed the elephant in the room: are the background checks for Government workers sufficient?
He said it’s “fairly thorough”, adding, “If he had any of these tendencies at that point in time, and we had known, obviously he would not have been employed and the checks are designed to uncover these sort of things. But if people keep things in their mind and hide it, sometimes it may not be possible.”
He also revealed that prior to being a MOE teacher, he worked in the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA).
MOE has also responded, saying that Khairul has not been teaching any classes since October 2022, and that they take his case “very seriously”.
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