SINGAPORE - The latest case of a self-radicalised Singaporean is a grave reminder of the serious threat of terrorism, said Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim on Monday (June 12).
But, he added, Singapore's Muslim community and its security agencies are working hard to counter this threat.
He made the point in a Facebook post on the news that a woman had, for the first time in Singapore, been detained under the Internal Security Act for radicalism. Held earlier this month, Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari is a 22-year-old Singaporean who was a contract infant care assistant from a PCF Sparkletot pre-school.
"Every time we see a case such as this, we are all deeply disappointed and worried that Singaporeans will have doubts about Muslims," said Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister for Communications and Information.
"Let me say that together with the security agencies, our Muslim community, led by MUIS (Islamic Religious Council of Singapore) and other community groups such as the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG), are striving hard to safeguard our community against extremism, raise vigilance and provide help to those who need it."
Efforts include Muis's refinements of the content of religious classes at mosques, and since the start of this year, making it mandatory for qualified Islamic teachers to be endorsed by the Asatizah Recognition Scheme, he said.
Dr Yaacob called on Muslims to redouble their vigilance against the spread of extremist and exclusivist ideologies.
"If you notice suspicious behaviour or signs of radicalisation among your family and friends, you must alert the authorities. This is the best way for us to help the individual, our loved ones from harming themselves and others," he said.
In a video on his Facebook page, he added: "We are not here to condemn the individual. We condemn the act, but we want to save the individual. We want to help him or her, who has gone astray. We want to bring him or her back to the straight path."
Dr Yaacob expressed the hope that the latest detention would not undermine the trust built up among the communities in Singapore in the past 52 years.
It is important to note that the vast majority of the Malay/Muslim community are peace-loving and want to contribute to Singapore, said Dr Yaacob. But the community must do more, by stepping forward and informing religious authorities, such as MUIS and the RRG, about individuals who may show extreme behaviour.
"It is really very heart-wrenching when you see young individuals who have been radicalised. They have a bright future ahead of them here in Singapore, and we can help them."
He also made a plea to everyone in his Facebook post: "To fellow Singaporeans, I appeal to everyone to stand united, and support one another more strongly, expand the common space in which we come together to bond, and protect the peace and harmony we cherish in this Singapore that we call home."
Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims - one in which the community does good for others, Dr Yaacob noted. But this year, it has been marred by a series of terrorist attacks around the world, he added.
"I strongly condemn the extremists who abuse Islam for their own twisted agenda. They belong to a small group. The overwhelming majority of us utterly reject their ideology and distortion of Islam," he said.