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October 23, 2014 Thursday | Last updated on 20/10/2014 10:31AM (Singapore)
 
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Home / People / In the Spotlight / Giving to the Community: The Men and Women of The Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG)  
Published: 01 May 2012 01:08PM (Singapore)
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Giving to the Community: The Men and Women of The Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG)
The Religious Rehabilitation Group is a volunteer group of Muslim clerics and scholars who have undertaken the onerous task of helping detained terrorists see the error of their ways.
 
By Joanne Yan
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean (centre), flanked by the Religious Rehabilitation Group(RRG) co-chairman Ustaz Hasbi Hassan (left) and Ustaz Ali Mohamed, attending the group's 7th Annual Retreat lunchtime event on 14 June 2011. PHOTO: National Security Coordination Secretariat

Soon after the first batch of JI members were detained by ISD, the authorities invited two religious scholars – Ustaz Ali Haji Mohamed and Ustaz Mohamad Hasbi Mohamad Hassan – to meet with the terrorists.

Ustaz Ali, 64, observed that the first detainees were all “filled with hatred and animosity".

He said, “We also quickly realised that all of them held a distorted ideology of Islam – in a way, a very simplistic paradigm.

They really believed that violence was justified if it helped them achieve their goal.”

The meetings with the first batch of detainees were useful for the two religious leaders to see for themselves how the Muslim community could help with the terror problem.

“We felt then that it was very important to have something like the RRG because we needed to change their mindsets and give them proper religious lessons so that they could see the folly of their ways,” said Ustaz Ali, who is also a council member of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura, or MUIS) and the chairman of Khadijah Mosque in Geylang.

“We realised we had a role to play in this fight against this new threat.It was not just a threat to Singapore and the world, but also a threat to Islam.These terrorists affected how Islam and Muslims were being viewed by our fellow Singaporeans, and the rest of the world.We had to do something to change things.”

Both leaders met with other senior and respected scholars and teachers to discuss how they could help and the idea of starting a voluntary group of religious counsellors for these detainees was born.

The RRG was formally started in 2003; there are now 38 counsellors who volunteer their time with the group.

They are a mix of men and women, both young and old. Many scholars in the group have gone on to pursue a Master’s degree or PhD in fields related to terrorism and Islamic studies.

A senior ISD officer in charge of rehabilitation of the detainees said that without the RRG, ISD officers on their own would not have been able to communicate effectively with the detainees.

Ustaz Mohamad Feisal Mohamad Hassan, who has been with RRG for nine years, said he has seen for himself how troubled these detainees are and the danger they pose to society.

“I have children of my own ... I don’t want them to live in fear.” Ustazah Nur Irfani Saripi, whose father is also a volunteer with RRG, said she realised most of the detainees did not get a proper education in a madrasah here, unlike her.

“I feel responsible to help them learn about Islam since they perhaps did not have the opportunity like many others to get a proper foundation in it. Allowing distorted interpretations of Islam to spread will create greater misunderstandings and affect the harmony in our society. These distorted teachings need to be firmly challenged.”

Get your copy of "Close Watch" for more behind the scenes look at what it takes to keep Singapore safe from terrorist attacks.

"Close Watch" will be available at all major bookstores and online at www.stpressbooks.com.sg.
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