Muslim youths speak up on countering radicalism at debate

Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin said terrorism and radicalisation are not unique to Islam and Singaporean Muslims should not take it personally when these issues are discussed.
Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin said terrorism and radicalisation are not unique to Islam and Singaporean Muslims should not take it personally when these issues are discussed. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Terrorism and radicalisation are not unique to Islam and Singaporean Muslims should not take it personally when these issues are discussed, Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin said on Saturday (Oct 15) at the finals of the Singapore Muslim Youth Debate.

Mr Amrin was referring to the motion of the day for the annual English-language debate: Muslims in Singapore are not proactive in countering radicalism.

Teams from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Ngee Ann Polytechnic engaged in a spirited debate on it.

Mr Amrin, who was guest of honour, said after the debate that it was an important issue of the times, and one that each Muslim has to grapple with.

"We should not take such questions defensively as questions like these are opportunities for us to reflect and ask ourselves... All major religions face it, so there's no need for us to feel that we are being targeted."

He added: "The fact that people have to ask probably means that we don't do enough, or it's not visible enough." He urged the 130 youths in attendance to keep up efforts to fight radicalism.

Earlier, the team from NUS had argued for the motion, saying that current efforts were mostly led by institutions and the Government, and did not emanate from the ground.

Such efforts also did not address the root cause of radical ideology, they argued, and focused more on ferreting out people who are already astray and are considering launching terror attacks.

Said Ms Aaeshah Ng, 24, who was on the team: "Counter radicalism is seen as only valuable insofar as it actually enhances the benefits of counterterrorism."

Her teammate, Mr Muhammad Idaffi Othman, 23, added: "We are very quick in sharing posts about detainees, statements made by the Internal Security Department, but all this noise on social media is not proactivity."

But the Ngee Ann Polytechnic team argued that the community has countered radicalism through education, and working with religious and community groups.

They cited cooperation with groups such as the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG), which helps counsel detainees, as vital to the successful reintegration of radicalised individuals back into Singapore society.

Ms Maisarah Suhaimi, 18, said: "The fact that (these groups) have succeeded in reintegrating most detainees back into society show that they are effective in their proactiveness."

Teammate Amirah Ilyana Amran, 20, added that the community has "done what they can within their limitations", such as through supporting mosque and grassroots activities to strengthen community bonds and to reach out to other communities.

Judges awarded the win to the NUS team.

A similar topic was explored at a seminar for young people on Saturday morning, organised by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), as part of ongoing community efforts to expose and debunk extremist thoughts.

Speakers spoke about issues such as reconciling religious values with the needs of the modern society.