Ministers urge unity among communities in anti-ISIS fight

Kurdish refugees watch from a hilltop as thick smoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobani during heavy fighting between Islamic State and Kurdish Peshmerga forces, seen from near the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the sou
Kurdish refugees watch from a hilltop as thick smoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobani during heavy fighting between Islamic State and Kurdish Peshmerga forces, seen from near the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province on Oct 26, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

Singapore needs to play its part in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group because, in doing so, it contributes to its own security, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday.

His comments followed Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen's announcement in Parliament that Singapore will deploy military personnel and contribute equipment to the multi-national coalition forces fighting ISIS.

All Singaporeans are affected by the ISIS terror threat, said three ministers yesterday - including Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim - as they called for unity among communities here.

"The threat posed by ISIS affects all of us, in all countries. Singapore is not immune," said Mr Teo. This is why Singapore will send Singapore Armed Forces liaison and planning officers, a tanker aircraft for air-to- air refuelling, and an imagery analysis team, Dr Ng said yesterday.

At the same time, the Government is reaching out to explain the thinking behind the decision to contribute to the fight against ISIS. Yesterday, it distributedletters to grassroots leaders on the ISIS threat, so that they can better explain the situation to residents who ask about it. The letters outline the Government's stand on the terror group.

Singapore has also acted to strengthen its community bonds and counter extremist ideology to help prevent Singaporeans from becoming radicalised, said Mr Teo.

He praised community efforts to tackle the ISIS threat.

"It is heartening to see how all communities have worked with and supported one another in our efforts to tackle this challenge," he said in a statement.

He singled out the Malay-Muslim community for taking a firm position against the violent actions of ISIS.

Mr Teo, who is also the Coordinating Minister for National Security and Home Affairs Minister, also lauded the community for taking steps to counter ISIS' extremist ideology and to help those suffering from violence in the Middle East.

Since last Friday, the Religious Rehabilitation Group - which counsels those influenced by radical misinterpretations of Islam - has issued a pamphlet that aims to clear up confusion about ISIS' aim of creating an Islamic caliphate.

The 12-page pamphlet also advises the Muslim community on the best way to help victims of the Syrian conflict, and encourages those with questions about extremism to contact the group or the nearest mosque.

Meanwhile, Singapore's leaders stressed that the country's move is against ISIS, not Islam.

"I know some of us may think that Islam and Muslims have been put in the spotlight again. But this move against ISIS cannot be interpreted as an act against Islam, or Muslims, because ISIS is not Islamic," said Dr Yaacob in a statement.

In Parliament, Dr Ng said: "Singaporeans at home must understand that the radical ideology and acts committed by a small misguided extremist group in the name of Islam do not represent the majority of believers, who condemn these extremists as going against the teachings of Islam."

Both ministers pointed out that Singapore's Muslim religious and community leaders have unequivocally denounced ISIS, saying its teachings and actions have nothing to do with Islam.

"Islam upholds peace, the preservation of human life and its sanctity, and it is thus forbidden in Islam to wage war wantonly on others," said Dr Yaacob.

He urged all communities to continue to work together, "so that our people are more informed, understand each other better, and are not easily swayed by inaccurate or provocative foreign or social media reporting".

He added: "This way, we will emerge stronger as Singaporeans, united in our common goal for peace, understanding and harmony."

charyong@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh