In a Straits Times report dated Wednesday (27 September), it is reported that Megat Shahdan Abdul Samad, the Singaporean fighter who anchored a recent propaganda video by terror group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been fighting on its front lines since he entered Syria three years ago.
Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on Tuesday that the man suffered an injury in combat, and was deployed to areas in Iraq and Syria, confirming that he is the third Singaporean known to have joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
MHA stated that in Shahdan's case, it is compounded by the fact that he is also actively propagating ISIS' violent ideology and rallying others to engage in combat in support of ISIS.
"This is of particular concern as we have seen a spike in the number of self-radicalisation cases following the rise of ISIS and proliferation of its propaganda materials," the Ministry added.
MHA released a statemnt on the matter as a respond from media queries as Shahdan's video urfaced online at the weekend under the assumed name "Abu Uqayl from Singapore", calling on viewers to join ISIS fighters in East Asia or travel to the Middle East to fight.
On Sunday, the Ministry released a story about Shahdan.
The Ministry stated that the man grew up in Singapore, and dropped out of school at a young age. He was a secret society member with a string of drug and criminal convictions. Between 1997 and 2009, he was in and out of jail, and was also on drug supervision regimes.
"He did not hold down any stable work and took up odd jobs. He did not show any obvious signs of being religiously inclined. Nor did he show any radical tendencies," MHA added.
According to the Ministry, Shahdan left Singapore sometime in early 2014 for the Middle East, took up different jobs in tourism and renovation, and tried unsuccessfully to start a business.
MHA said that family members who visited him there noticed that he had become more observant of his religious obligations at the mean time.
In September that year, Shahdan made his way to Syria to join ISIS.
The Ministry said that Shahdan has expressed the hope that his family would migrate to ISIS' self-declared caliphate, as in his view, it is a sin to live in an infidel country. He has also said that he would intercede for 70 of his relatives should he achieve martyrdom, and exhorted his family members to support ISIS.
However, MHA noted that Shahdan's case, as with other recent cases of radicalised Singaporeans who had to be dealt with under the Internal Security Act, illustrates the important role that family, friends or any individual who may be close to a potentially radicalised individual can play in reporting such individuals as early as possible.
Many netizens commented on the matter, saying that if the family or people around him had prevented things like this earlier, then this whole thing would not happen.
Diana Dee wrote, "You know whats funny. School drop out, no qualifications, in and out of jail. However, he managed to find a job in Middle East.
How the heck he can find a job overseas???
You need qualifications.
And frankly he do not have that Malay Singaporean look. More like Indonesian.
Some even say he do not even sound local.
But, wtf, this guy trying to cause hate here"
Syed Qayyum Sr wrote, "An observant Muslim would not be easily influenced by extremism and he does not realise that ISIS kill more Muslims than anyone else."
Reginald Ashton wrote, "So ST is saying if one goes through our complete education system, finishes with a Nitec, Diploma, Degree, etc. does not join or participate in gang or criminal activity, etc he/she wont be radicalised?"
Steven Cheong Fuyuan wrote, "Dropped out of school at young age. In and out of the jail since early 20s. Did not hold stable job. Went oversea to work.
Did anyone give him a helping hand back then? Sounds like a guy that gave up hope and went oversea hoping that's the restart button."
Nor Lastrina Hamid wrote,
"I'm not sure what's the point of highlighting his past in the description? I mean, there are thousands of people with such a description and some have managed to turn over a new leaf/ did not become an ISIS fighter?
How about this:
"None of them (his family members) is known to have responded to his overtures."
"But MHA noted that Shahdan's case, as with other recent cases involving radicalised Singaporeans who had to be dealt with under the Internal Security Act, illustrates the important role that family, friends, or any individual who may be close to a potentially radicalised individual, can play in reporting such individuals as early as possible."
I think as a local mainstream media you may want to consider highlighting this? The problems of family members or friends who don't speak up when they see a person turning radical or having any sort of problems for that matter?"
Adrian Haan wrote, "He has the typical profile of those who get radicalized easily. Do not hate him. He had a rough life. Education is the way to go so that we will not lose anymore young promising lives to terrorist groups "
Peter Tan wrote, "It often is a sad case that such people usually come from broken homes,families,without care and love from parents cos either they were separated, divorced, single parent, in jail or drug addicts and the children are the ones suffering so more likely they fall into bad company believing in doing something wrong to gain recognition for revenge which they never received from close ones."
Quhimi Vasmin wrote, "If he fail in Singapore, why no one help him in 1st place. he cannot get job due to prison depress last resort overseas?"
Sridewi Shroff wrote, "Hmmm.. It is quite tough in Singapore when no education, no job, and ex offender. So all such people are easily attracted to radicalism. That's how these ISIS market their fight.
Know your basic religion well and you will not easily sway to it."
Norri Roses wrote, "He already lost his soul n dignity here in Singapore. Worst part is he did not even bother to turn over a new leaf but dig himself a super deep hole to hell willingly."
Many also questioned mainstream medias for featuring him almost everyday and that this kind of news do more harm than good.
Calvin Tham wrote, "We know he is of bad character. But do we need 3 days worth of negative reporting on him? No other issues at hand to report?"
Cynefrid Pua wrote, "Is ST doing promotion for him? How come I see his face and article of him in my Facebook news feed almost every other day? I start to think he’s important with so much article featuring him in MSM."
Sukhdev Singh Gill wrote,
"Our newspaper's report on these misled Singaporean have caused more damage then good.
Was there a need to bring to the fore his past? Whoever the reporter and the editor may be - both has failed miserably. The former for writing such nitty gritty details and the latter for not correcting it.
We have the Yellow Ribbon Programme in place. The mission is to bring wayward people back to society as useful citizens. Everyone must be given a chance. Singapore is no different in pursuing such aim to reform former wrongdoers.
Do remember that we have many ex drug offenders and petty criminals in our midst. What message are we sending to these unfortunate people? As parents we go all out to reform our wayward kids. We don't write them off as "Condemned Cases". Surely they [people with records] would feel hurt and may become worse or even more deadly.
Those behind the Movement To Reform Ex Offenders [Prisons Service and MHA] must bring the ST to the task. Such reporting is unhelpful. It creates divisions among society. Haven't we grown older the last 50 years?"
Gwen Chua wrote:
"ST please don't keep on publicizing this terrorist's story. You may think you're just reporting facts but the real fact is that there are many impressionable youths without direction in life, failing in school, in bad company, who will see this and somehow be inspired. You made it seem like this guy's life turned around. These youths aren't able to discern wisely. They'll see that he got a job, he got recruited into an organization who took care of him, he finally has meaning in life. Somehow even documentaries showing ISIS tend to portray these people as almost cool - shooting guns, women at their disposal. Reality is it's a cruel, ruthless, filthy place and organization. This has to be shown more. Don't glamorize them."