The Straits Times says

Solidarity is perfect foil for terror

Soon after news broke of the detention of an infant-care assistant for self-radicalisation - the first case involving a woman in Singapore - it was announced that two auxiliary police officers have been netted in the anti-terrorism drive. This could be the first instance of uniformed personnel implicated in terror plots. One of them planned to take part in armed violence in Syria, while his colleague supported his intentions. The former was detained under the Internal Security Act, and the latter was put under a restriction order. More than others, the auxiliary police officers should have understood that the private readiness to resort to violence, for whatever cause, represents a security threat to Singapore. Yet they abrogated the trust that a secular society had placed in them by going along with the mindless, pseudo-religious flow of terror groups.

Moving against the woman infant-care assistant and the two auxiliary police officers are examples of the proactive approach that Singaporeans must maintain against radicalisation. The security agencies have proved, arrest after arrest, their vanguard role in ensuring that radical ideas do not translate into violent acts. However, it would be difficult to deter every nascent saboteur through intelligence and policing. Family and friends of those harbouring explosive hate owe it to society to bring such cases to the preventive attention of the authorities. Combating terrorism must span the entire body politic if the cellular mutation of terror and its spread through gender, class and age are to be stopped.

Security measures are vital but countering terror must go beyond these, especially when society's morale is sapped by fresh revelations of threats and new attacks. The perfect foil for Islamist terror is a renewed sense of solidarity and the steadfast refusal to view Muslim citizens differently. Such public sentiment must be weighty enough to overcome fears that terror might spawn tit-for-tat terror - as evident in the attacks on Muslims in Britain and Canada. Islamophobia is no less lethal than the hatred of other religions.

Stigmatising Muslims as a community would feed into the same malevolent thinking that drives terrorists in a country to demarcate the world into two halves: themselves and all others. However, embracing people of different faiths can help make society whole again. Such efforts are the best defence against the exclusivist and poisonous teachings of self-proclaimed preachers. Thankfully, Muslims in Singapore agree that extremist teachers have no place in Singapore's secular multi-religious society. The mandatory Asatizah Recognition Scheme helps to ensure that wayward fanatics are weeded out. But there is no way of rooting out the virus of radicalism spread via the Internet. Society can only hope to inoculate itself by remaining inclusive.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2017, with the headline 'Solidarity is perfect foil for terror'. Print Edition | Subscribe