Issuance of Restriction Order against Self-Radicalised Singaporean Youth
1. A 16-year-old male Singaporean, a Secondary Four student at the time, was issued with a Restriction Order (RO)1 under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in November 2023. Investigations found that he was self-radicalised by online far-right extremist propaganda. Although of Chinese ethnicity, the youth identified as a white supremacist, and aspired to conduct attacks overseas in furtherance of the white supremacist cause. The youth is the second Singaporean to be dealt with under the ISA for being radicalised by far-right extremist ideologies.
2. The youth was exposed to violent extremist material online in 2022, after chancing upon videos by foreign far-right personality Paul Nicholas Miller.2 By early 2023, he had developed an intense hatred of communities typically targeted by far-right extremists, including African Americans, Arabs and LGBTQ+ individuals. Fuelled by online extremist rhetoric, he came to believe that African Americans were responsible for a significant percentage of crime in the United States (US), and deserved to “die a horrible death”. He also perceived illegal Arab immigrants as having committed violent attacks against white populations in Western countries. He subscribed to the Great Replacement Theory commonly referenced by far-right terrorists like Christchurch attacker Brenton Tarrant (Tarrant)3, which propagated the idea that the indigenous white population in Western countries were in danger of being replaced by non-white immigrants. Such ethno-nationalist beliefs convinced him that non-white communities such as African Americans and Arabs should be driven away from white-majority countries. The youth participated in several far-right online chat groups and channels, where he shared violent anti-African American videos, as doing so gave him a sense of belonging to the white supremacist community.
3. At the point of investigation, he strongly identified as a white supremacist and pro-white sympathiser, and hoped to be recruited for violent attacks by white supremacist groups overseas to “fight for the whites”.
4. The youth considered travelling to Western countries such as France, Italy, the US, and Russia, to participate in attacks, against his vilified communities. Specifically, he shared his interest to conduct a mass shooting in the US in 10 years’ time in a far-right online chat group. However, beyond online searches for weapons, he did not take steps to actualise his attack aspirations as he lacked the financial resources and know-how to do so. The youth had no plans to conduct any attacks locally, as he felt that these communities had not caused trouble in Singapore.
5. There was no indication that the youth had tried to influence his family or friends with his violent extremist views, nor were they aware of his attack ideations.
6. While on RO, the youth will be required to undergo a holistic rehabilitation programme aimed at countering the violent extremist ideologies that he had imbibed online. The rehabilitation programme will be geared towards helping the youth internalise that his racial supremacist views are incompatible with Singapore’s multi-racial and multi-religious society. He will receive psychological counselling by ISD psychologists to address his propensity to violence, and factors that render him vulnerable to radical influences. Such factors include his emotions regulation and self-identity issues, which fuelled his desire to identify as a white supremacist and be part of a like-minded, seemingly powerful group.
7. ISD case officers will engage the youth regularly to monitor his rehabilitation and work closely with his family and school to ensure that he has sufficient support. He has also been assigned two mentors4 who will provide him with additional guidance and cyber-wellness skills. In addition, ISD is working with community partners such as the Inter-Agency Aftercare Group (ACG) to explore suitable community-based programmes which will equip him with pro-social skills.
Release of Self-Radicalised Singaporean Youth from Detention
8. Separately, ISD has released a 19-year-old Singaporean from detention and issued him with a Suspension Direction (SD)5 in January 2024, as he had made good progress in his rehabilitation and is assessed to no longer pose an imminent security threat. Aged 16 at the time of his detention in December 2020, he was the first Singaporean to be dealt with under the ISA for being radicalised by far-right extremist ideologies. He had made detailed plans and preparations to conduct terrorist attacks using a machete against Muslims at two mosques in Singapore.
9. During his three years in detention, the youth, a Protestant Christian, underwent an intensive rehabilitation programme. He has been receptive to these efforts, and has since rejected far-right extremist ideas and the use of violence. He no longer harbours any animosity towards Muslims, and has internalised the importance of racial and religious harmony in Singapore.
10. To address his extremist mindset, which included the misguided belief that Christians were under attack by Muslims, ISD worked with the National Council of Churches of Singapore to arrange for a Christian pastor to counsel the youth. Through the sessions, the pastor taught him to embrace virtues of non-violence and temperance, and to appreciate inter-faith harmony. He also learnt to exercise tolerance and moderation when practising his faith in Singapore. He was regularly engaged by an ISD psychologist to address his permissive attitude towards violence, and the socio-psychological factors that contributed to his radicalisation. These included his self-esteem issues and strong desire for social validation, which led him to idolise Tarrant as a “hero” and to want to emulate the latter.
11. He was assigned three mentors – two volunteers from the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) and his former secondary school teacher – who helped him improve his self-esteem and overcome the challenges that he faced when relating to others. They also guided his personal growth and development, by helping him set pro-social goals and aspirations that he could work towards. The youth’s family also played a key role in his rehabilitation, as their weekly visits and words of encouragement motivated him to stay on track with his rehabilitation.
12. At the time of his detention, the youth was a secondary school student. ISD made arrangements for him to continue his education and sit for the GCE ‘N’ (Academic) Level and GCE ‘O’ Level examinations while in detention. He received weekly lessons from at least five tutors, including MOE-trained teachers who are RRG volunteers, in the lead-up to his examinations. He did well for his examinations and intends to further his studies in an Institute of Higher Learning after his release. ISD will continue to work with his family, school, and other rehabilitation stakeholders to ease his reintegration into society.
Source: Ministry of Home Affairs