Muslims urged to respond with kindness and calm, after report of teen's terror plot on 2 mosques

Worshippers at Assyafaah Mosque on Jan 29, 2021.
Worshippers at Assyafaah Mosque on Jan 29, 2021.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Two days after the authorities announced that a 16-year-old student influenced by far-right ideology was planning a terror attack on two local mosques and had been detained, Muslims on Friday (Jan 29) were reminded of the need for mutual understanding and forgiveness, and that hatred must not be countered with hatred or violence.

"When faced with evil and enmity, we respond with kindness, to the extent that a foe can become a friend," said the Friday sermon prepared by the Office of the Mufti - the highest Islamic authority here - and delivered at all mosques nationwide.

"If we are to counter hatred with hatred, the situation will surely worsen and our close relationships we have built before will crumble," it added.

The sermon made clear that while it is understandable to feel shocked and worried on hearing about the case, Muslims are required to be just and fair.

"The mistake made by an individual does not reflect the overall values of the community," it said.

"Just as how we do not want to be perceived unfairly when a Muslim is involved in an act of violence, we ought to avoid behaving as such towards others."

On Wednesday, the Internal Security Department (ISD) disclosed that the student, identified as a Protestant Christian of Indian ethnicity, had been radicalised online and harboured an antipathy toward Islam.

He had watched a live-streamed video of the terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2019, read the attacker's manifesto, and had made plans - including buying a tactical vest, selecting a machete and drafting a manifesto - to attack the Assyafaah Mosque in Sembawang and Yusof Ishak Mosque in Woodlands on the anniversary of the Christchurch attacks on March 15.

He was arrested on Nov 26 last year, and issued a detention order under the Internal Security Act on Dec 23.

On Friday, the sermons at both mosques were delivered by the two deputy muftis, who also spoke to worshippers.

At the Yusof Ishak Mosque, Ustaz Mohd Murat Md Aris said the incident is an opportunity for Muslims to reach out and correct misperceptions among local young people who may not be able to fully comprehend international events and how they relate to Singapore.

At the Assyafaah Mosque, Dr Mohammad Hannan Hassan reiterated the need to continue strengthening inter-religious relations and harmony.

Worshippers at Assyafaah Mosque on Friday agreed with the call for a calm and considered response to the incident.

Student Muhammad Auji, 14, said: "It is our duty as Muslims to help our non-Muslim friends understand our religion correctly. After all, we are taught to remain patient during times like these."

Technical officer Mazlan Sidek,43, said the case was "shocking". He said: "This shouldn't be happening in Singapore, especially since we have an established education system and access to many credible sources of information."


The radicalised student had chosen Assyafaah Mosque in Sembawang (left) and Yusof Ishak Mosque in Woodlands as his targets. ST PHOTOS: DESMOND FOO

On Thursday, leaders of the National Council of Churches of Singapore met Mufti Nazirudin Mohd Nasir and Muslim leaders at Yusof Ishak Mosque to reassure the Muslim community that they stand together and want to help in any way possible.

Both sides also acknowledged the need to do more to protect their young and their communities from extremism.

The Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Association (Pergas) has also issued a statement on the matter, noting that radicalism is incongruent with the teachings of Islam, Christianity and other religions.

Friday's sermon also underlined the need to be mindful of dangerous online influences that could see "the seeds of hatred and prejudice towards other groups take root".

"We must ensure that we, as well as the younger generation under our care, always get our information from reliable and credible sources," it added.