Allegations that the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) was set up by two Islamic religious teachers (asatizahs) under the direction/ encouragement of the ISD are baseless claims RRG.
RRG has claimed that several posts in the Facebook page (FB) Fikrah Siyasah have defamed some highly respected local religious scholars in Singapore who specifically provide religious counseling to radical individuals as well as their families.
Besides tarnishing the good name of some highly respected local clerics in Singapore the Facebook page had also painted a highly inaccurate picture of RRG, said the Group.
RRG Vice Chairman, Ustaz Dr Mohamed Ali, made the statement in a RRG Facebook post on Monday night (8 March) as a firm response to criticise the three posts that were uploaded to Fikrah Siyasah’s account last week.
Giving his response to the posts, Dr Mohamed said it was his responsibility to clarify the untrue allegations, which he hoped would help those who made the misconception.
He added that, as many know, the decision to set up the RRG was in order to provide counseling to radical individuals and it was a decision that was worked out together and carefully considered by a number of local established Islamic religious scholars and teachers.
They are the late Ustaz Abu Bakar Hashim, the late Ustaz Syed Ahmad Muhammad Semait, the late Ustaz Ahmad Sonhadji Mohamad, the late Ustaz Ibrahim Md Kassim, the late Ustaz Hassan Mustakim, the late Ustazah Sharifah Badriyah, Ustaz Ali Haji Mohamed and Ustaz Mohd Hasbi Hassan.
Thus, this completely contradicts the allegations made by the individual behind the Fikrah Siyasah FB account who accused the co -chairman of RRG, Ustaz Ali himself of wanting to set up the group.
It is understood that the individual behind the account is Zulfikar Mohamad Shariff, who had previously been detained under the ISA and was guided and given counseling services while detained by the ISD.
Dr Mohamed said RRG members would not reveal the identities of individuals undergoing counseling with them out of respect for their privacy. But, from the rather detailed sharing in the notes of Fikrah Siyasah, it is clear that the individual was Zulfikar.
Explaining how RRG was formed, RRG Co-Chairman Ustaz Mohamad Hasbi Hassan, who is also President of the Singapore Association of Islamic Scholars and Teachers (Pergas) said the group was formed after the then ISD director, Mr Benny Lim, met with the musyaikhs. (established advisor) Pergas to ask if Pergas can help in dealing with the problem of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).
“The Pergas priests at that time unanimously agreed to help address the JI problem. Next, Ustaz Ali was given the role of realizing this agreement and effort.
“Then the RRG was formed with Ustaz Ali representing the masyaykh and myself at that time as the Vice President of Pergas representing Pergas,” explained Ustaz Hasbi.
He added that its formation efforts began with the compilation of the RRG framework consisting of the co-chairman, secretariat and other members as well as “the framework that needs to be followed so that the RRG is guided in its movement”.
Dr Mohamed said: “Their efforts in shouldering the responsibility to address this problem, to formulate religious counseling programs for radical individuals through the RRG, and to create a bulwark to protect the community against extremist ideologies.
According to him, the FB post not only clearly showed disrespect to all the established scholars, but it also launched a defamatory attack on Ustaz Ali’s commitment and noble intention to serve the Muslim community here.
Ustaz Ali has gone through many challenges and provided guidance through his experience to the asatizah and the Muslim community besides having held several positions, including Chairman of the Asatizah Recognition Board (ARB) and the Fatwa Committee, added Dr Mohamed.
Dr Mohamed also rejected the false allegations made by Fikrah Siyasah which stated that he considered the terrorism to be specifically triggered by Muslims.
“Many support the opposite; that I and other RRG members view terrorism as a political activity that is not exclusive to any race or religion.
“Islam is a religion of peace and RRG has always supported the idea of mercy for all Singaporeans. Anyone who promotes harmony and peace is an ambassador of Islam,” he explained.
The official RRG was established in 2003 and the group, which consists of asatizah Surelawan, came forward to offer religious guidance and counseling to members of the JI terrorist group so that they do not continue to deviate from the true teachings of the religion.
Since then, RRG has been actively offering religious counseling services to the families of JI members as well as individuals who have become radicals themselves.
Starting with 11 members, RRG now has 46 members.
Touching on the efforts made by each of its members, who are volunteers, Dr Mohamed said the unpaid RRG volunteers had sacrificed personal and family time to provide counseling services to these vulnerable individuals.
This was also acknowledged by several RRG members who spoke to the Malay newspaper Berita Harian, including Ustazah Kalthom Muhammad Isa, Ustaz Dr Leyaket Ali Mohamed Omar and Ustaz Mustazah Bahari. .
Ustazah Kalthom, who has been an RRG counselor since 2005, said she had witnessed the soul and intentions of the RRG volunteers, how concerned they were with the condition of the detainees and their families, so much so that in old age, they continued to work to help.
“There will still be a minority who misunderstand us and our efforts. Our hands are wide open to have discussions with those who do not understand about this effort … RRG will continue to persevere and serve,” he said. Ustazah Kalthom is also the vice president of Pergas.
Dr Leyaket stressed that “RRG and, local clerics, are not together, do not work for, nor are employed by the Singapore government”.
“The credibility of RRG is based on the expertise of religious leaders and its members in upholding Islam in its best form and understanding from the point of view of the context of our time and place.
“And for this reason: ISD has no knowledge of Islam, that they approach and consult with our Muslim leaders, to help them with the issues that were going on at the time,” said Dr Leyaket who is also the managing director of Attawasol Insaniy.
Meanwhile, Ustaz Mustazah said he was worried that the biased news was easy to believe among the community, adding that the criticism directed at RRG was cynical and unfair.
Dr Leyaket also called on the community who are ‘consumed’ by the slander made by Fikrah Siyasah to be mindful of their manners in the discussion.
“In my opinion, it is inappropriate for someone outside Singapore to express their opinion without getting proper information and incite our community in Singapore to hate the local ulama ‘who have done a lot’ for the community,” he said.
ZULFIKAR MOHAMAD SHARIFF: INDIVIDUAL BEHIND FB ACCOUNT FIKRAH SIYASAH
- He was arrested and detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in July 2016 for terrorism-related activities and also for radicalising at least two Singaporeans.
- Since around 2013, Zulfikar set up an online group called Al-Makhazin and used Facebook to create various Al-Makhazin platforms with the aim of challenging the Western media.
- He has also made numerous Facebook posts promoting and glorifying the ISIS terrorist group and its violent actions.
- He left Singapore and has been living in Australia with his family since 2002 after clashes here with Muslim leaders and authorities. In 2011, he applied for Australian citizenship.
- He renounced his Singapore Citizenship and ceased to be a Singapore citizen as of 26 August 2020.