Muslim, Christian leaders condemn terror plot, reaffirm mutual trust

Mr Khalid Shukur Bakri (far right), chairman of Yusof Ishak Mosque, greeting Reverend Keith Lai, president of the National Council of Churches of Singapore (fourth from left) and other Christian leaders as they arrived at the mosque in Woodlands yest
Mr Khalid Shukur Bakri (right), chairman of Yusof Ishak Mosque, greeting Reverend Keith Lai, president of the National Council of Churches of Singapore (fourth from left) and other Christian leaders as they arrived at the mosque in Woodlands yesterday. During the meeting, Christian church leaders reaffirmed their commitment to working with Muslim religious leaders to assure them that there is no animosity between the two communities.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Christian and Muslim religious leaders here met yesterday to reaffirm the mutual trust and understanding between the two communities and condemn the plot by a Protestant Christian youth to attack Muslims at two mosques.

The meeting was held at Yusof Ishak Mosque in Woodlands, one of two sites targeted by the youth, a 16-year-old Singaporean of Indian ethnicity who had been inspired by the 2019 Christchurch shootings.

Leaders from the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) met Mufti Nazirudin Mohd Nasir and Mr Esa Masood, chief executive of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore.

Also present were the chairmen of Yusof Ishak Mosque and Assyafaah Mosque, as well as Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam, and Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Faishal Ibrahim.

NCCS' president, Reverend Keith Lai, told the media that the Christian community was pained by news of the alarming plot.

"We were in shock and disbelief that this could happen, and especially coming from a 16-year-old," he said, adding that "whatever had been planned by this young man is contrary to what our Bible teaches about love and acceptance".

The teenager, who was a secondary school student when he hatched his plan last year, became the youngest detainee under the Internal Security Act.

Dr Nazirudin said the leaders discussed various steps that could be taken to deepen understanding between the Christian and Muslim communities here, and agreed on the need to guide young people from being influenced by extremist ideologies easily found online.

He added that such ideologies feed on fear, anxiety and misinformation, and prey on the vulnerable and less informed, including young people.

"Our unequivocal message of respect and care for others must reach our young in our communities from the pulpits, in classrooms and in our own homes," he said.

Reverend Lai said the incident was a "wake-up call for us as a community, not just a Christian community but together as a nation".

The onus, he added, is on the community and parents to make sure they understand the emotions and struggles of their children and teenagers, to counter the potentially damaging influence of online radicalisation.

"This is something that we cannot abdicate and pass to government agencies. It is something that... we have to take responsibility for," he added. "And as religious organisations, we play a very important role as well, to make sure we guide them in the right way."

Dr Nazirudin said the Muslim leaders were reassured that the case was an isolated incident.

"As a community that has often needed to explain itself and what Islam truly represents, we deeply empathise with your shock and anguish that someone who professes the Christian faith seeks to do the very thing that would desecrate it," he added.

During the meeting, Christian church leaders reaffirmed their commitment to working with Muslim religious leaders to assure them that there is no animosity between the two communities.

Dr Nazirudin called for Singaporeans to remain united through this problem, saying: "We have witnessed how in these difficult and challenging times in a global pandemic, our common humanity and the sanctity and safety of human lives matter the most. We have put all differences aside to unite and protect one another."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 29, 2021, with the headline 'Muslim, Christian leaders condemn terror plot, reaffirm mutual trust'. Subscribe