Time to question ISA detention (again)

9 Jul

The Singapore government has announced the detention of a 20 year old national service man, Muhammad Fadil bin Abdul Hamid, under the Internal Security Act (ISA) since April this year for expressing an intent to ‘fighting for militant jihad in the Palestinian territories, Iraq and Afghanistan’.

According to the Home Affairs Ministry, the ‘self-radicalised’ youth had made online contacts with a suspected al-Qaida recruiter who encouraged him to fight in Afghanistan. Fadil also started looking online for information on bomb making, and posted a youtube clip ‘glorifying martyrdom and justifying suicide bombing’.

Given that the ISA allows detention without trial, it is difficult to access the veracity of the claims being made against the detainee. Furthermore, temporarily leaving aside the debate on abolishing the ISA, it is questionable if the government is justified to make the arrest. It is a far stretch to link the act, intended for ‘internal security’ purposes as a justification to detain suspected individuals with an intent to become part of an overseas  (not domestic) militia outfit.

To return to the ISA furore, former detainees have spoken out against the draconian and dehumanising legislation. Last month, Teo Soh Lung, a former ISA detainee, accused of being part of a group of Marxist conspirators, have launched her account of the ordeal in her book, ‘Beyond the Blue Gate’. At the event, the author urges the abolition of the ISA which has destroyed many lives. She likened the experience to being raped in which some former detainees are still unable to relate to close family and friends.

As former ISA detainees accused of being Marxist or Communist have come out publicly to challenge the arrests, torture and the unjust accusations leveled against them, it becomes necessary to question the wisdom and current ISA detentions that are wielded against ‘militant jihadists’.

History has a cruel way of revealing the foibles of state power in perpetuating and exaggerating the political adversaries of its time. The fear of Communism and Marxism has turned out to be an exercise in shadow boxing. The same goes for  America’s war on terror or the fight against militant religious extremism.

But if all these arguments still fail to convince, consider seriously about the nature of these detentions. A war against terror (if it exists), certainly cannot be won over by locking people up without giving them their day in court.

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