Islamophobia as unacceptable as radical terrorism, says PM Lee Hsien Loong

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, during a media doorstop after an iftar session at Tanglin Police Division, on June 20, 2017.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, during a media doorstop after an iftar session at Tanglin Police Division, on June 20, 2017.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Islamophobia is as bad and uancceptable as radical terrorism, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday (June 20).

He warned against allowing anti-Muslim sentiments to take root, hours after news broke that two Singaporean auxiliary police officers have been arrested under the Internal Security Act for their links to terrorism.

PM Lee cited the incident in London's Finsbury Park earlier this week - where a white man drove his van into a crowd of Muslim worshippers leaving the mosque and killed one person - as an act of Islamophobia.

"We have to make sure that none of that happens either because of neglect or because somebody is circulating materials which stoke fear and apprehension and worsen the situation, " he said.

He attended an iftar session at Tanglin Police Headquarters on Tuesday evening in a show of support for the uniformed services, after the Home Affairs Ministry announced the arrests of two Aetos officers.

The duo were stationed at Woodlands Checkpoint when they were nabbed last month.

Muhammad Khairul Mohamed, 24, has been detained for planning to travel to take part in armed violence in Syria, while Mohamad Rizal Wahid, 36, was placed on a Restriction Order for supporting his colleague's plan.

 
 

Sketching out the heightened threat of terrorism around the world, he said it is unrealistic for Singaporeans to think the Republic can be immune to this.

There has been a "steady trickle" of people who have been self-radicalised over the years, he noted.

Mr Lee acknowledged that the three arrests under the ISA this month - the two Aetos officers, and infant care assistant Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari - have struck close to home.

However, he stressed that security forces here such as Aetos, Certis Cisco, and the Home Team have done an outstanding job keeping Singapore safe.

The country is one of the safest places in the world, without being one of the heaviest-policed places in the world, he said.

"You don't see people with guns at every street corner, and yet you feel safe," said Mr Lee. "And that's one of the reasons why I decided to come here today.... to show my support for the Home Team, and my confidence in them, and encourage the officers that, well, these things happen, but we continue to have confidence with you and to work with you."

This message of reassurance must go out to the broader community as well, he added.

Mr Lee said he plans to meet Malay/Muslim community leaders next month to update them on the terrorism front, find out what their worries and concerns are, and "make sure we are still completely on the same page".

He plans to hold another session with community leaders from the different races after that.

"It's not just about the Malay/Muslim community, but also how the other communities react to this and respond to the Muslims in Singapore," he said.