SINGAPORE - Singaporeans of different races and religions should focus on what they have in common with each other, rather than their differences, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on Saturday (Jan 23).
"Singapore is a multiracial, multireligious country and it's very important that we focus on the many common things we have together, rather than become obssessed with the differences between us," he told the media after a tour of the Al-Islah Mosque in Punggol, organised by residents of Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.
"In this way we can build an open and united society as well," added Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security.
His comments follow Wednesday's announcement that 27 Bangladeshi workers were arrested for planning terror attacks they wanted to carry out back home. It was the largest security crackdown in Singapore in 15 years.
Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam had said on Tuesday in a speech at a symposium that certain trends here posed threats to Singapore's social harmony. He cited some young Muslims in Singapore distancing themselves from mainstream society, and Islamophobia, as examples.
Asked about these comments on Saturday, Mr Teo said that Singapore has maintained its social harmony and peace because different communities made a choice to live together.
Singapore was racially segmented 50 years ago, with the different races living in different parts of the island, he said.
"Over the course of 50 years we began to live together and integrate. I came from an Edusave award ceremony this morning and if you look around, the neighbours, the students, they come from all races and religions," he said.
"This is part of the way Singapore has grown in the last 50 years. But it was a choice that we made. And over the next 50 years, again it is a choice that we make: whether as communities and individuals we decide that we live together and integrate, or we decide we want to be separate and live apart. That will shape the Singapore of the future."