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Effectiveness Of Religious Rehabilitation

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Discuss the Religious, Psychological and Social aspects of Terrorist Rehabilitation and Identify the Limitations of this Counterterrorist approach and strategy.


Terrorism in the recent past has been associated with religion more so the Islamic faith. Most terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda, Jihad and Islamic state in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are mainly comprised of young people who have been swayed by the wrong interpretation of the Quran by religious extremists (Roberts, 2011, pp. 365-382). These groups believe that killing those that are not of the faith is allowed and is beneficial to them. Singapore as a country has suffered from terror attacks and any other country in the world. Terrorism has, therefore, become a global threat. As a country destined to development, it has opened its borders for profitable trades, but instead, the borders have become porous for recruitment of terrorists into the country and outside. The state is tasked to find a solution to the growing number of terrorists to save the moral fabric of its society and economic well-being. Achieving this; the country has come up with a way to harmonize all the religious groups in the country. Singapore is one of the countries with a vast number of religious groups and races. Religious Rehabilitation Groups (RGG's) have been initiated to help in the process of bringing back sanity in the society (El-Said, 2015).

The RGG's in conjunction with partner organizations such as Khadijah Mosque, Council for the Development of Singapore Malay/ Muslim Community (Mendes), the Singapore Malay Youth Library Association (Taman Bacaan) and Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) have initiated a program for terrorism detainees. More than 80 people have been detained about terror attack since 2003.Together with Muslim leaders spearheaded by Ustaz Ali Haji Muhammad and UstazMuhammad HasbiHassan, the RGG took counseling services to detainees. They are helped to learn that no one is born a terrorist and there is a second chance for them in the society. Regular sessions are being held in prisons by the Muslim officials to elaborate to the detainees some of the most misinterpreted Muslim concepts and contradicting doctrines in the religion. Also, the families of these prisoners have been supported financially and morally to show care and love to them. Many are willing to change from the counseling. It has been reported that almost two-thirds of the detainees have been released and are now part of the society. RRG could not have achieved this alone; several groups have joined the movement. They include; the Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Association (Perga).On the other hand, some detainees are not receptive to the counselors since they think that the RRG is being financed by the government. Some have changed, and the program is becoming fruitful.

When the detainees are released from prison, the society becomes receptive to them and is given a second chance. The integration process is not just a walk in the park, some have been rejected. The government has initiated a program to help bring back these people to the society and be acceptable to everyone. Public education is being conducted in every constituency to enlighten citizens on the benefits of such actions. Religious leaders from both ends come together to educate their people to bring a religious harmony (Farmer, J. F. (2014, pp. 198).

Reports have indicated that a significant number of those that get involved in terror activities are the youths. Avoiding this, the kids have been engaged constructively and are being educated and enlightened so that they avoid extremism. In an international conference on terrorist rehabilitation and community resilience, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf suggested that the solution to extremism calls for both the government and the non-governmental organizations to work together. Such a partnership is most effective in countering terrorism. Multiple factors draw youths to extremism that need to be looked into to combat the above problem. Such factors include; political grievances, economic constraints and lack of opportunities. Ideally, the rehabilitation process should encompass the ideological misconceptions of Islam, their physical, personal and communal needs and categorizes them as beneficiaries, not a terrorist.  The above approaches can psychologically impress on them in a way that they realize that they are not marginalized by the community. By encouraging the act of submission to God, young people can understand what it means to be Muslim is and that Islam is a religion of peace (Capell, & Sahliyeh, 2007).


There have been limitations of this counter –terrorist approach and strategy. A report by Ms. Rosleenda Mohammad Ali in the international conference on terrorist rehabilitation and community resilience revealed challenges that the psychologist counselors faced.  They had hardcore detainees who were resistant to change and are deeply entrenched to radical and violent ideologies (Gunaratna,  Jerard, & Nasir, 2013). 

Most of the detainees were rebellious and tended to see themselves as victims of perceived injustice. They only wanted revenge and could settle for nothing less. They were repulsive in that they disliked the secular environment and viewed it as sin. A few cases of revulsion are reported by the Singapore government. The detainees further believed that anyone who does not defend Muslim is an enemy and therefore gave deaf ears to the counselors. The rehabilitation process, therefore, becomes difficult due to the set minds of most of the detainees. They perceive themselves as righteous and believe that they have the ‘true' Islam (Becci, 2008).

Another factor that makes the rehabilitation process more difficult is that the detainees and most of the people that have been radicalized believe that there is a reward after life they follow the ‘true' Islam. These have misled a lot of individuals. Some have become totally resistant to rehabilitation. They say they will die for the faith. Detainees are not receptive to counseling and are holding on to the concept of tag dir (predestination) as an external source of rationalization for their present situation, and a means to absolve responsibility and control over their actions. Rehabilitation in Singapore is a work in progress, and the authorities are always on the lookout for new ways to improve the process (Ramakrishna, 2009, pp. 41-51).

Singapore has a well-established network that is working to prevent further extremism. The work needs both the government and its citizen to join hands and say no to extremism and radicalization of the youths. All religious groups have to rise to the occasion and send a message of peace and harmony in the society as Singapore is made up of different religions and races. Since 2002, more than 60 people have been detained for involvement in terrorism-related activities. Measures have been put in place to reduce the number of such detainees (Vasu, 2008, pp. 17-32.)



Becci, I. (2008). Collapse and creation: the rise and fall of religion in East German offender rehabilitation programmes.

Capell, M.B., & Sahliyeh, E. (2007). Suicide Terrorism: Is Religion the Critical Factor?. Security Journal, 20(4), 267-283.

El-Said, H. (2015). Singapore: Crisis of Identity, Shared Values And Religious Rehabilitation. In New Approaches to Countering Terrorism (pp. 138-173). Palgrave Macmillan UK.

Farmer, J. F. (2014). Inmate Rehabilitation Revisited: Using Goffman and Perrow to Explain Constraints on Transformational Technologies in Prison. Journal of Social Science Studies, 1(2), 198.

Gunaratna, R., Jerard, J., & Nasir, S. M. (Eds.). (2013). Countering Extremism: Building Social Resilience Through Community Engagement (Vol. 1). World Scientific.

Ramakrishna, K. (2009). 'Counter?Ideological’Work in Singapore: A Preliminary Assessment. Journal of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism, 4(2), 41-51.

Roberts, C. (2011). Region and identity: The many faces of Southeast Asia. Asian Politics & Policy, 3(3), 365-382.

Vasu, N. (2008). (En) countering terrorism: multiculturalism and Singapore. Asian Ethnicity, 9(1), 17-32.


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