Call to reinforce vital 'racial harmony' message

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat.
Education Minister Heng Swee Keat. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Educators need to remind students that racial and religious harmony, which has been fundamental to Singapore's success, must never be taken for granted.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, speaking at a racial harmony forum yesterday at the Institute of Technical Education College Central, cited external events, such as the threat of radicalisation posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as among the challenges the city-state will have to face.

Earlier this year, two Singaporean youths were arrested under the Internal Security Act for terrorism-related activities. One had planned to carry out attacks here and to assassinate government leaders if he could not leave for Syria to join ISIS.

"We need to keep a watchful eye on our charges, helping our young find meaning and purpose in their school and community, so that they will not fall prey to radical and extremist religious beliefs," said Mr Heng, noting that the prevalent use of the Internet and social media among Singaporeans has made it easier to post careless remarks about other races and religions.

"While we have enjoyed harmony in the last 50 years, fault lines may emerge again if we are not careful," he said, suggesting that schools work with parents and the community to understand and appreciate the many different beliefs and cultures.

The annual racial harmony forum, which was started in 2002, was attended by about 900 school leaders and teachers.

Institute of Policy Studies director Janadas Devan, the guest speaker, said race relations in Singapore today are by no means perfect.

"Inter-racial and inter-religious harmony is too fine and fragile a thing to take for granted," he said. "It may exist in Singapore today, but there is no guarantee it will exist forever."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2015, with the headline 'Call to reinforce vital 'racial harmony' message'. Print Edition | Subscribe