Preserve national security, social fabric

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam's speech on the threats posed by religiously inspired terrorism is both candid and timely ("Religion, terrorism and threats to S'pore, the region"; Wednesday).

The rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and the support it has attracted in the region, is a matter of grave concern for us, as well as our neighbours.

As the recent Jakarta attack ("ISIS behind deadly Jakarta attack"; last Friday) and the arrests of Bangladeshis in Singapore for extremism ("27 radicalised Bangladeshis held under ISA"; yesterday) demonstrate, it is no longer unthinkable that the influence of Middle Eastern terror groups could reach our shores .

More worryingly, the use of religion to score political points has exacerbated social tensions in Malaysia. Given the very close ties between our two countries, the possibility of such intolerant behaviour spilling over must be guarded against vigilantly.

It is at a time like this that our values as Singaporeans should shine through. Our political and religious leaders have constantly emphasised the importance of mutual respect, understanding and tolerance among the various ethnic and religious groups in Singapore.

With religious extremists attempting to divide our communities and stoke conflict, it is our duty as citizens to do more to enhance racial and religious harmony and strengthen the fabric of our society.

As Mr Shanmugam stressed, we must not allow our judgment to be clouded by fear and stereotyping and split our society along religious lines. While he stated that the Government would resolutely act to preserve our national security and social fabric, we can also do our part by participating in multi-faith dialogues, sharing in the joy of religious festivals and simply strengthening our personal ties with friends and family from diverse backgrounds.

As a small, densely populated, multi-religious nation, our very existence as a strong and united society is the best asset we can use to counter those who thrive on suspicion and fear.

Dhevarajan Devadas

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2016, with the headline 'Preserve national security, social fabric'. Print Edition | Subscribe