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The Straits Times says

Making voice of majority count

Peaceful Muslims, who form the overwhelming majority, watch in horror and disbelief as extremists plot day after day to hijack their faith's good name. The misguided minority tether their violent rage to a distorted version of the religion and project it on the world stage. Some masquerade as teachers, at times unchecked, and foist their spurious currency on the vulnerable. For various sociological reasons, they are often not challenged sufficiently. If most of the peaceful do little, their silence will be their undoing - as murderous radicals aim to inflict harm on all, including Muslims.

History bears a grim lesson of majorities in other times and places who didn't speak out when the situation demanded. The majority of Germans were not Nazis, but their silence allowed a group of fanatics to gain power and plunge one of the most civilised nations on earth into a world war and the Holocaust. Ordinary Germans paid the cost ultimately. It was the same with the silent majority of Japanese and Russians. Their silence enabled imperial Japan and Stalinist Soviet Union to inflict horrendous damage on the social and moral fabric of other countries.

Unfortunately, the balance of political power has passed or is passing to terrorists and extremists in areas of West Asia, Africa and South Asia. But countries in this region, that create spaces for all religions, are well positioned to stop the perfidious march of fanaticism. In Singapore, the secular state is behind the majority of Muslims. So are citizens of goodwill, whatever their faith or philosophical outlook. Certainly, Muslim Singaporeans encounter vile misrepresentations of Islam in the unpoliced wilds of the Internet, but these slanders have no place in the official sphere and the everyday life of Singapore.

Non-Muslim Singaporeans distinguish instinctively between terrorism and Islam which, like all other religions, cannot be held responsible for the excesses of deviant followers. Muslims are an intrinsic and inalienable part of mainstream Singapore. They must keep that mainstream free of infiltration by imported ideas which argue Muslims cannot coexist with other faith communities.

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim's comments, on Hari Raya Haji on Monday, reiterated the need for peace-loving Muslims to reclaim their right to set the tone of Islamic thinking here. That tone is an inclusive and integrative one, with Muslims viewing their religious identity as a part of a seamless national whole. The idea of peaceful coexistence among faith communities is fundamental to all that Singapore stands for.

Other citizens must stand by Muslims so that the peaceful majority is never pushed to the defensive when terrorists strike in the so-called name of Islam. It is the divisive tactics of sinister radicals that must be exposed and banished.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2016, with the headline 'Making voice of majority count'. Print Edition | Subscribe