Community support key to curbing terrorism

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean greeting retired Navy serviceman Mohd Salleh Khan Surattee, 80, who used to serve in the Navy with Mr Teo, at the event yesterday.
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean greeting retired Navy serviceman Mohd Salleh Khan Surattee, 80, who used to serve in the Navy with Mr Teo, at the event yesterday.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Individuals who show signs of being radicalised can be saved, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday.

He added that strong community support is essential to protect Singapore and Singaporeans from terrorism, even as security agencies work hard to detect, prevent and deal with potential attacks.

He was speaking at the 13th Ministry of Home Affairs appreciation lunch at the Pan Pacific Hotel, held in recognition of the contributions made by community volunteers, including those from the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) and Inter-Agency Aftercare Group (ACG).

Said Mr Teo, who is Coordinating Minister for National Security: "If a person is uncovered early, he or she can receive religious and psychological counselling by RRG and its counsellors. The RRG has managed to 'save' several of these individuals."

Close to 320 volunteers and their families attended yesterday's lunch.

Thanking long-time partners in the fight against terrorism, Mr Teo said the terror threat in Singapore is at its highest level since the Jemaah Islamiah group was dismantled here in 2001.

Since 2015, 11 Singaporeans have been detained and six were issued restriction orders. Foreigners working here who were found to be radicalised were also deported.

Recently, Singaporean Megat Shahdan Abdul Samad, 39, had appeared in an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) recruitment video, which was denounced by Muslim organisations here.

RRG volunteer Ahmad Saiful Rijal Hassan hopes to spread awareness about the dangers of ISIS ideology.

Said Mr Ahmad, 31, a researcher at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies: "We've been advising parents and teachers to provide solid information with regard to religion. Whenever they have issues with religious matters, the right place to go is to seek clarification from accredited teachers."

Mr Teo, who spoke in Malay, said he noted that the Muslim community has supported making the Asatizah Recognition Scheme mandatory for religious leaders.

As a result, Muslim religious teachers "are well-positioned to impart religious knowledge, from credible sources, that is contextualised to our multi-religious society".

Improving community efforts to curb the terror threat can help, on top of having more inclusive community and social practices, and to support at-risk individuals and families to overcome personal challenges.

At the ground level, families affected by terrorism have received help from ACG.

DPM Teo, stressing the importance of building strong community bonds, said Singapore has introduced important institutions, laws and regulations to help preserve racial harmony. He cited changes to the Constitution to ensure the presidency reflects Singapore's multiracial society.

Noting that Madam Halimah Yacob is Singapore's first president from the Malay community in 47 years, he said: "Let us give her our full support."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 01, 2017, with the headline 'Community support key to curbing terrorism'. Print Edition | Subscribe