SINGAPORE - Building bonds of trust and understanding between different communities can help to prevent extremist teachings from taking root, especially among the young, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said on Friday (Nov 24).
He urged Singaporeans to reach out to others outside of their own communities, saying this would encourage openness and interaction, and help build stronger community bonds.
This, he said, could also help prevent young people from being influenced by extremist ideology.
Speaking at the Singapore Muslim Women's Association (PPIS) 65th anniversary gala dinner, Mr Teo said: "One event that has disturbed me here in Singapore recently... is that for the first time, we have had to deal with women, young women, becoming affected by extremist ideologies. We must do our best to prevent the young from being led astray in this way."
In June this year (2017), Singaporean Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari, 22, a contract infant care assistant at a centre in Tampines, became the first woman to be detained under the Internal Security Act for radicalism.
"We need to recognise the danger of exclusivist teachings to our social cohesion, and the threat that violent extremist ideology poses to our peace and security. And so, we must reject exclusivist and extremist teachings and not let them take root here in multi-cultural, multi-religious Singapore," said Mr Teo.
In his speech, Mr Teo praised the PPIS for its efforts in reaching out to other communities. For example, the PPIS had organised a celebration with the Taoist Mission, Singapore Council of Women's Organisations, and the Interfaith Youth Circle, to promote conversations among various faith groups, he said.
During the event on Friday, the PPIS also celebrated its other milestones and achievements in promoting social and family bonds in Singapore.
It has, for instance, organised several conferences to promote family ties over the years, and launched new centres with specialised services. These include a centre to provide marital counselling and therapy, and centres for early childhood education.
The association was formed in 1952 to provide support for Muslim women in areas such as employment and childcare.
PPIS president Rahayu Mohamad said the organisation has done well in reaching out to forge new partnerships with other agencies and organisations as part of its collaborative effort in helping and strengthening the community.
But she added that the work must continue, saying: "Amidst celebrating our many achievements and new friendships, we must also remind ourselves to display humility and grace as we journey in the pursuit of excellence."