Thwarting Islamophobia is everyone's responsibility

The need to thwart Islamophobia, as advocated by Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam, is undoubtedly critical now, given the unceasing terrorist attacks the world over ("Stop anti-Muslim views from taking root: Shanmugam"; yesterday).

An important starting point is the belief that all religions preach good values. However, it is unfortunate that every religion has its share of black sheep.

There will always be gullible believers who are misguided and exploited by those who wilfully misinterpret the religion to satiate their agenda.

Unfortunately, the rampant terrorism that the world is now witnessing is the work of Muslims, and not every individual is sufficiently rational to dissociate this from Islam.

Guilt by association is a very real phenomenon.

In order to ensure Islamophobia does not take root in Singapore, several measures are necessary:

• Leaders of all religions must constantly preach, remind and demonstrate to congregations the need for religious tolerance, harmony, respect and peaceful co-existence.

•The non-Muslim community must refrain from associating Islam with terrorism, even though the rampant terrorist attacks have been committed by misguided Muslims. This is not the time to joke about Muslims being terrorists. Contrary to what some may believe, we have not reached a state of communal cohesion, trust and understanding where we are able to recognise a joke and accept it as one.

• The Muslim community needs to help itself by recognising the folly of radicalisation, and condemning terrorist attacks. Remaining silent is not an option, as it can be misconstrued as supporting these acts.

• Schools must continually inculcate in students, especially the impressionable young, the virtues of inter-religious harmony, tolerance and respect.

So, everyone has an equal obligation and responsibility to ensure that the country's social fabric is not frayed.

Lawrence Loh Kiah Muan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 01, 2016, with the headline 'Thwarting Islamophobia is everyone's responsibility'. Print Edition | Subscribe