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NEWS UPDATES 19 July 2010

Censorship not the answer for radical web sites

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BLOCKING radical websites would be a futile exercise as the architecture and reach of the Internet make it practically impossible to interdict all such sites, said Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng in Parliament on Monday, according to The Straits Times.

Responding to questions from MPs on what the Government is doing to counter the continuing threat of jihadist radicalisation, Mr Wong, who is also the Home Affairs minister said there are several thousand radical sites and the number is growing.

'If we bring down one website, it can easily resurface under another name or in another jurisdiction. To be effective, we would not only have to block terrorist websites, but also popular social networking platforms like YouTube and Facebook, which would clearly not be practicable,' he explained. 'The same Internet that empowers ordinary individuals unfortunately also serves radicals.'

Mr. Wong said education is critical to inoculate the society against jihadist ideology. Terrorists are increasingly exploiting the Internet as an effective means to propagate their radical ideology, promote their cause and recruit potential operatives. To extend their reach, their messages have been posted online in different languages, including English. The Internal Security Department (ISD), for example, has for many years held briefings and talks to schools and community groups, to share its concerns about radicalisation. The Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) also gives public talks, forums, media interviews and written articles to alert the general Muslim public to the falsehoods of jihadist ideology. Several other Muslim leaders and organisations have also initiated and organised community counter-ideology programmes.

'The common goal of these efforts is to help Singaporeans who chance across radical teachings in the guise of religion to see through the falsehood and not be led astray. These community efforts are a positive development and we hope even more community organisations and leaders will step forward to do likewise,' said Mr Wong.

Mr Wong said Singaporeans themselves must play their part to help loved ones turn away from the path of radicalisation. 'They must not turn a blind eye or be unwilling to heed warning signs. Fadil and Muhammad Thahir bin Shaik Dawood had let people close to them know that they were interested in militant jihad, and these people had noticed that they were surfing radical websites,' he said, referring to the two detainees under the Internal Security Act.

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