Self-radicalised S’porean, 16, who identified as white supremacist, given restriction order under ISA

Although he is ethnic Chinese, the 16-year-old aspired to carry out attacks overseas to further the white supremacist cause. He had no plans to carry out any attacks in Singapore.

Jean Iau

Jean Iau

The Straits Times


The 16-year-old aspired to carry out attacks overseas to further the white supremacist cause, and had no plans to carry out any attacks in Singapore. PHOTO: THE STRAITS TIMES

January 25, 2024

SINGAPORE – A Secondary 4 student who considered himself a white supremacist after being radicalised by online far-right extremist propaganda was handed a restriction order under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in November 2023.

Although he is ethnic Chinese, the 16-year-old aspired to carry out attacks overseas to further the white supremacist cause. He had no plans to carry out any attacks in Singapore.

He is the second Singaporean to be dealt with under the ISA after being radicalised by far-right extremist ideologies, said the Internal Security Department (ISD) on Jan 24. It stated that the first Singaporean, now 19, was released from detention in January after close to three years.

Under the restriction order, the youth must comply with several conditions. These include not being allowed to change his residence or travel out of Singapore, access the Internet or social media and issue public statements, without the approval of the director of ISD.

“At the point of investigation, he strongly identified as a white supremacist and pro-white sympathiser, and hoped to be recruited for violent attacks by white supremacist groups overseas to ‘fight for the whites’,” said ISD.

Explaining how he became radicalised, ISD said he had chanced upon videos by foreign far-right political commentator and white supremacist Paul Nicholas Miller and was exposed to violent extremist material online in 2022. Miller advocates for a race war and has been tied to multiple far-right extremist organisations overseas, including the Proud Boys and the Boogaloo movement.

By early 2023, the youth had developed an intense hatred of communities targeted by far-right extremists, including African Americans, Arabs, and LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) individuals.

He believed African Americans were responsible for a significant percentage of crime in the United States and deserved to “die a horrible death”, said ISD.

He also perceived illegal Arab immigrants as having committed violent attacks against white populations in Western countries, and he subscribed to the Great Replacement theory commonly referenced by far-right terrorists like Christchurch attacker Brenton Tarrant. The theory propagates the idea that indigenous white populations in Western countries are in danger of being replaced by non-white immigrants.

Such ethno-nationalist beliefs convinced the youth that non-white communities such as African Americans and Arabs should be driven away from white-majority countries, said ISD.

The youth participated in far-right online chat groups and channels, where he shared violent anti-African American videos, as doing so gave him a sense of belonging to the white supremacist community.

He considered travelling to Western countries such as France, Italy, the US and Russia to participate in attacks against the vilified communities, and also expressed interest in a far-right online chat group in carrying out a mass shooting in the US in 10 years. However, ISD said he did not take steps to actualise his attack aspirations beyond searching online for weapons, because he lacked the money and know-how to do so.

The youth had not planned to carry out attacks in Singapore as he felt these communities had not caused trouble here, said ISD.

While under the restriction order, he will have to undergo a rehabilitation programme aimed at countering the violent extremist ideologies he had absorbed online. It will help him learn that his racial supremacist views are incompatible with Singapore’s multiracial and multi-religious society, ISD said.

He will receive counselling by ISD psychologists to address his propensity for violence and the factors that make him vulnerable to radical influences. Such factors include the regulation of his emotions and identity issues, which fuelled his desire to identify as a white supremacist and be part of a like-minded, seemingly powerful group.

ISD case officers will work with his family and school to ensure he has sufficient support. He has also been assigned two mentors who will provide him with guidance and cyber-wellness skills.

ISD said it is working with partners such as the Inter-Agency Aftercare Group to explore community-based programmes that will equip him with pro-social skills.

On the 19-year-old recently released from detention, ISD said he was issued a suspension direction in January 2024. This is a ministerial direction to suspend the detention order. It can be revoked and the individual detained again if he does not comply with any of the conditions, which are similar to those of a restriction order.

The youth was 16 when he was detained in December 2020 after he made detailed plans to conduct terrorist attacks using a machete against Muslims at two mosques in Singapore.

ISD said the youth, a Protestant Christian, went through an intensive rehabilitation programme during his three-year detention and has been receptive to the efforts. He now rejects far-right extremist ideas and the use of violence.

“He no longer harbours any animosity towards Muslims, and has internalised the importance of racial and religious harmony in Singapore,” said ISD.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, an ISD spokesperson said the youth’s suspension direction will expire in December 2024, in line with when his detention order would have expired.

Restriction orders typically run for two years unless they need to be renewed.

The spokesperson said that after December 2024, the youth may be issued a restriction order. ISD will regularly assess the progress of his rehabilitation and reintegration to decide if there is a need to do so.

While he was under detention, ISD worked with the National Council of Churches of Singapore to arrange for a Christian pastor to counsel him and address his extremist mindset, which included the misguided belief that Christians were under attack by Muslims.

The youth also saw a psychologist from ISD and had three mentors – two volunteers from the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) and his former secondary school teacher. Among other things, they helped him work on his self-esteem, his permissive attitude towards violence, and the socio-psychological factors that contributed to his radicalisation.

The youth’s family also played a key role in his rehabilitation, as their weekly visits and words of encouragement motivated him to stay on track with his rehabilitation.

ISD also arranged for him to sit the GCE N-level and O-level examinations while in detention. He received weekly lessons from at least five tutors, including Ministry of Education-trained teachers who are RRG volunteers. He intends to continue studying after his release.

ISD said it will continue to work with his family, school and other rehabilitation stakeholders to ease his reintegration into society.

With two youths here radicalised by far-right extremist ideology, ISD said there is a need to remain vigilant.

“Far-right ideologies, which often espouse white supremacist, anti-Islam, xenophobic and anti-immigration beliefs, can be adapted to fit the Singaporean landscape. One example is by advocating for the superiority of specific communities, through the lens of cultural, ethno-religious or nationalist supremacy,” it noted.

ISD said such divisive rhetoric can create deep societal divides, amplify prejudices and encourage acts of violence against minorities.

It urged the public to be vigilant to signs that someone has become radicalised.

These signs include frequently surfing radical websites, posting extremist views on social media platforms, sharing extremist views with friends and relatives, making remarks that promote ill-will or hatred towards people of other races or religions, expressing intent to participate in acts of violence overseas or in Singapore, and inciting others to participate in acts of violence. Those who suspect a person has been radicalised can call the ISD Counter-Terrorism Centre hotline on 1800-2626-473 (1800-2626-ISD).

scroll to top