More effective ways to fight radicalism needed

The recent comments by Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam that local Muslims who hold extremist views are radicalised within a much shorter period of time, even within one to two months, is very worrying for a multicultural and multiracial society like Singapore (Malay community urged to be a beacon for others; ST Online, Sept 13).

Even though the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) has been playing an important role in engaging local Muslims on the correct doctrines and teachings of the Islamic faith, ultimately every individual has an important role to play in looking out for his friends and relatives who may be on the verge of being radicalised.

Eighteen radicalised Singaporeans were arrested in the last two years, compared with 11 nabbed between 2007 and 2014.

This attests to the need to look at more effective and appropriate ways to ensure extremism does not take root here.

The latest news that a Singaporean Muslim is now fighting for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in a combat role and had encouraged his friends and relatives to follow his lead only serves to affirm the urgent need for Singapore's Muslim community to reject such extremism in a clear and vocal way (S'porean ISIS fighter was in combat, sought to recruit family; Sept 27).

Even more importantly, the local Muslim community and mosques should actively engage other races and faiths, and help them understand that Islam is about peace and living in harmony with people of other beliefs so that misconceptions, doubts and mistrust do not linger and deepen.

Singapore cannot afford to be divided along religious and racial lines if it is to continue to progress and prosper in an increasingly globalised and competitive world.

Gabriel Cheng Kian Tiong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2017, with the headline 'More effective ways to fight radicalism needed'. Print Edition | Subscribe