Aiseyman! Is the arrest of Zulfikar Shariff a sign of failure of our civil society to curb dangerous extremist ideology?


I know Zulfikar from the early years of when we both were volunteers in a Muslim organisation. I had many interactions with him and has no doubt that he holds extreme views. While he coddles to opposition political figures in the name of ‘human rights’, he violates those principles by agreeing with, for example, punishments such as death for heresy or apostasy in the name of "syariah law". Hence, his support for ISIS is not surprising and consistent with his views.

Since he believes that strict "syariah laws" can only be uphold by a legitimate Islamic ruler, and since he regards the caliphate declared by ISIS as a legitimate polity, hence, the punishments inflicted by ISIS must be legitimate. But more than that, he had obliquely supported the lynching of Ahmadis in Indonesia a few years ago when everyone else were condemning the barbaric murders in Cikeusik.

The defence that his views on ISIS had evolved and that he does not support ISIS now, is doubtful. He has not clearly denounced ISIS or publicly renounced his earlier support for ISIS. At least, not that I'm aware of.

Regardless of one's position on the ISA, let's not have the illusion that Zulfikar is harmless and that his detention is due to his anti-government stand and nothing to do with his dangerous and extremist religious views.

In fact, civil society must take a serious look into why people like him are able to expand their influence and followership with no checks within the wider civil society. Is it because he operates within the Malay/Muslim community and hence, "it's a Malay/Muslim problem" that only the Malay/Muslim community can sort it out? Is it because his anti-government position is useful to the opposition cause to win Malay votes and his extremist views are hence overlooked? Perhaps, the fact that the state has to finally intervene and isolate him may be a signal of the failure of certain segments of the civil society.

Introspection is needed more before we start crying foul over his detention. If you have not been voicing out against his extremist views, I don't see how you can convince wider society that the blunt legal instrument like the ISA is no longer needed. This is not about support for the ISA but about how civil society can be more introspective on some of its neglect and blindspots that do not help in the long term cause of building a more just and democratic society.

Mohamed Imran Mohamed Taib
Singapore Muslims for Secular Democracy