Zulfikar Shariff’s Arrest and The Seeds of Terror

Zulfikar Shariff and his friends posing with the ISIS flag

Zulfikar Shariff’s arrest under the Internal Security Act (ISA) came as a surprise to many, but not all.

There were many warning signs, even from a decade ago. To me, at least, it is a wonder how he got away with such things for so long. I would argue that his arrest is a testament as to why there is a need for discussion on Islamic Reform and why it is so pressing to do so.

Zulfikar Shariff and his friends posing with the ISIS flag
Zulfikar Shariff and his friends posing with the ISIS flag

Here you have Mr Zulfikar Shariff, a Muslim who is well versed in Islamic Theology and pretty eloquent. Some may even say, from his posts and personal experiences, that he is someone who can be very convincing.

In these 3 posts below, you will be able to read how he calls upon ‘moderate’ Muslims, presumably those who live amongst us in Singapore and the region, and cites hadiths, verses and events in Islamic history in an effort to convince them that ‘Jihad’ and ‘Offensive Wars’ are not only necessary but an essential and fundamental part of Islam.


He has the temerity to go as far as to ask Muslims to take up arms for causes which a significant proportion of Muslims in Singapore are sympathetic towards like the plight of the Palestinians and the Rohingya.

Conversations about the religion

The problem arises when Muslims reading the posts start pondering about the legitimacy of these verses, hadiths and stories. And when they are actually found in the Quran and/or other reputable texts, they face a dilemma. They know that these acts do not sit well with them inherently, but they are conflicted as to what to do to reconcile their beliefs and what the religion advocates.

This is how the seeds of Islamic Terror are sowed amongst seemingly peaceful and moderate Muslims. And unfortunately, if what the Ministry of Home Affairs has said is true,  2 have already been radicalised as a result of Mr Shariff’s postings.

Amongst those who may not take up arms per se, a number of them may stay silent too if and when such atrocities occur, especially against groups of people like the LGBT Community (as seen in Orlando) or the Isrealis.

When faced with verses, hadiths and anecdotes like these, it is all the more important that questioning their relevance shouldn’t be equated to apostasy or Islamaphobia.

If the Christian Church can choose to disregard verses which justify slavery, Islam can and must do the same for anachronistic and barbaric verses and practices. It is of utmost importance that we have this conversation. Any hope of a lasting reformist movement should start from the ground up. Deference to authority, be it MUIS or ISIS, would create an unhealthy cycle where once again we let others, and not our morals, steer the ship.

I would expect to see a considerable number of comments from Muslims who perceive the very act of questioning the faith as blasphemy. I would be the first to admit that this conversation isn’t one that is easy. After all, we were always taught that the Quran is the final word of god and to question it or be selective in which verses we choose to heed would seem illogical. Nevertheless, so many different sects of Islam still exist. And for us to begin and adopt a more liberal and tolerant strand of Islam, would do no one any harm. In fact, I submit that it would do a great good.

I doubt ‘all-loving gods’ would punish someone for being too peaceful, too tolerant and too reasonable.

A new defined law for terrorist threats

Also, on a related issue. I have argued against the use of indefinite detention without trial provided under the ISA before. Under the ISA, the state is granted with executive power to enforce preventive detention, prevent subversion, suppress organized violence against persons and property, and do other things incidental to the internal security of Singapore. Basically, it is a law that gives unlimited powers to the authorities in the name of national security.

Zulfikar was arrested under the Internal Security Act. As of now, it is not known if the Ministry of Home Affairs plans to eventually bring formal charges against him, as they have done recently with the radicalized Bangladeshi workers. However, such a law is open to abuse.

Ideally, a separate law to deal with terrorist threats should be introduced. Something like the UK’s Terrorism Act.

One which incorporates a limited period of preventive detention (4 weeks?) with the renewal subject to the approval of an ombudsman, after-which the accused must be brought to trial. I think it provide sufficient time to gather evidence for a trial in open court.

Original Post from Ariffin Sha’s Facebook

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