Be watchful of risks in religiosity: Shanmugam

Religiosity is growing worldwide and Singapore is no exception, so people here need to be watchful of the risks and external influences, said Law Minister K. Shanmugam.

He was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of an iftar, or breaking of Muslims' fast, in Yishun yesterday.

About 3,000 residents of different racial and cultural backgrounds from Nee Soon GRC gathered to celebrate Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month.

Without referring to any specific incident here, Mr Shanmugam said increasing religiosity is a "worldwide trend", and warned that a minority in any religion could "twist it (the religion) and try and use the increasing religiosity to their own narrow ends".

Singapore's history of working on racial and religious harmony for more than 50 years, and a "strict legal framework when it comes to race and religion" have put the Republic ahead of other nations, but it is not free of risks, he said. "You must never assume (cohesion) is baked and it cannot be cracked - it can be cracked by people, so you need to continuously work at it," said Mr Shanmugam, who is also an MP for Nee Soon GRC.

The fact that the world is borderless today and with the ease of communication, many ideas can spread, including those of terrorism and of "a warped sense of one religion or another". This could lead the young, in particular, to radicalism, he added.

"There are other forces, not within Singapore but from outside, which have the effect of bringing us apart and making us more secluded… so you're constantly fighting against that to create a community," he added.

The Syrian conflict, for instance, "carries a lot of risks" as people can have their minds changed there and also be trained as fighters - some of whom "have gone through Singapore", he added. Several Singaporeans are among those taking part in the armed conflict in Syria, it was revealed in Parliament last week.

"We are more open to external influences because we're a small place, highly educated, highly travelled but, at the same time, there is a sense of Singaporean identity which will also help us," he said.