The detention of a Singaporean who spread terrorist ideology online is a reminder to not just reject such messages, but also to be careful when encountering such material online.
Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim, speaking to reporters at a National Reading Day event yesterday at the National Library Building, said that even the sharing of such information is dangerous.
Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister-in- Charge of Muslim Affairs, explained: "Our position must be when we come across something online which we think is egregious, which doesn't conform, we just delete it or just don't share it - we can just move on. Once you begin to share, you seem to be promoting it and that's not very healthy for us."
His comments came a day after it was revealed that 44-year-old Zulfikar Mohamad Shariff had been spreading radical ideology online, including support for terror group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and had radicalised at least two other citizens. He used Facebook to create platforms purportedly to counter the Western media. But the true intent of these pages was to agitate on Muslim issues in Singapore to spread his ideology.
Dr Yaacob said it is easy for people, including children, to stumble across extremist information on the Internet, which is "thriving" with such material.
REJECT RADICAL IDEOLOGY
Our position must be when we come across something online which we think is egregious, which doesn't conform, we just delete it or just don't share it - we can just move on.
DR YAACOB IBRAHIM, Communications and Information Minister and Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs.
Since it is impossible to police every website, people must be resilient and able to assess on their own the things they see, be it terrorism, pornography or other online material, he added.
"You may be reading it and then you spread the ideology because you think it's nice to read. That's where the danger starts, that's where you begin to cross a very sort of soft line where you actually may not be out there in the theatres of war... but we are basically promoting that ideology by sharing it and that's what we want to prevent from happening," he said.
Once people begin to entertain the idea of terrorist ideology, "you are basically sailing very close to the wind", he told reporters.
He said that the authorities have been monitoring the online situation, and are keeping tabs on people who subtly promote terrorist ideology in their writings or blog posts.
"We will continue to work with our community leaders, with our religious leaders, to ensure that the message of Islam - that we know is a religion of peace - gets embedded in the hearts and minds of fellow Singaporeans so that when they go onto the Internet, which you cannot block, they know what is right and what is wrong," he added.
At a separate event, Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin said he believes the Malay/Muslim community supports Zulfikar's detention and urged Singaporeans not to take the country's carefully built peace and harmony for granted and to work to preserve them.
"We need to pay attention to what our youth and we as well
read on the Net," he said.
"We need to get involved in citizen activities so we know our neighbours and know what it really means to live in harmony."
Speaking on Friday, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam stressed how Singapore has spent decades building tolerance, acceptance and appreciation across religious and racial lines, and ensuring that minorities feel they have a stake in the country.
This includes policies that encourage different races to live alongside one another in Housing Board flats, adequate parliamentary representation through the group representation constituency system and fair participation in other aspects of life, including business and academia.
He said: "Now, we also have to say a big 'no' to extremism and all teachings that tend towards extremism. Otherwise, the ground would become fertile for extremist teachings to be absorbed, and then for terrorism."
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