Not necessarily treason

I refer to the 14 Nov 2014 Straits Times letter “Joining ISIS is an act of treason” by Mr Matthew Ong Koon Lock.

ISIS is a globally condemned organization whose public beheading of captives goes beyond the moral tolerance of almost any culture or religion today. Most people would readily agree to condemning ISIS and arresting all who fight for ISIS.

However, in our eagerness to condemn ISIS, we must be careful not to jump to the conclusion that going to a foreign land to partake in an armed struggle in support of an ideology is necessarily an act of treason. The Christian crusades are the best examples of people from various nationalities going to war in a foreign land in support of an ideology that did not constitute treason. Even King Richard of England and Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa joined in the crusades. Their peoples supported their respective king’s and emperor’s decision to join the crusade; they did not see their respective king or emperor as being treasonous.

There are many other examples of individuals going to a foreign land to partake in an armed struggle that does not constitute treason:

In Medieval Europe, serving as mercenary soldiers for a foreign power was a common job occupation that didn’t constitute treason. Historically, the Swiss guards have been one of the most respected, not treasonous of mercenary soldiers serving a multitude of European courts. The Swiss guards continue to protect the Vatican City today.

In both World Wars, American volunteers who served on the Allied side before America officially joined the war weren’t considered treasonous.

Many Gurkhas served as soldiers for the British army and fought in many British campaigns without being considered treasonous back home. Gurkhas continue to serve Singapore today.

Singaporean pioneers who served as Nanyang Volunteers for China during the Second World War weren’t considered treasonous too.

The above examples show that going to a foreign land to partake in an armed struggle cannot in and of itself constitute treason.

Our oath of allegiance to our country should not preclude our allegiance to our religion or culture. As long as our allegiance to our religion or culture is not in conflict with our allegiance to our country, we cannot be said to have committed treason.

Straits Times, Joining ISIS is an act of treason, 14 Nov 2014

SEVERAL governments have been trying to prevent their citizens from leaving the country to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

When a citizen decides to go to a foreign land to take part in an armed struggle in support of an ideology, this should be considered an act of treason.

As a Singapore citizen, I took an oath of allegiance to my country. If I went on to serve ISIS, would I not be breaking that oath? The appropriate penalty would be to strip me of my citizenship, and the onus would be on me to show why this should not be done.

Such a penalty will show potential ISIS volunteers that there are repercussions to their actions.

Upon returning to Singapore, these individuals should be arrested immediately for treason.

As for those claiming to go to Iraq or Syria as aid volunteers, why not require all such aid agencies to register with the local government and provide a letter indicating the named individual as a registered volunteer?

This means the Government has a responsibility to conduct due diligence on any aid agency to ensure its credibility. This includes meeting officials from the organisation, reviewing their published and audited financial statements, and working with them for a specified period before recognising them as a legitimate group.

There is also a need to check their registration and incorporation, and to do follow-up reviews to ensure donations are spent appropriately.

Matthew Ong Koon Lock

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One Response to “Not necessarily treason”

  1. Illegitimi non carborundum Says:

    Treason is selling out your country, or helping the enemy in time of war. An example is acting as a translator for the Kempetai during the Jap occupation.

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