Racial and religious communities must unite to fight extremism: Teo Chee Hean

(From left) Riseap President Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, DPM Teo Chee Hean and Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim sharing a light moment during the reception of the 17th RISEAP General Assembly on Oct 3, 2017.
(From left) Riseap President Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, DPM Teo Chee Hean and Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim sharing a light moment during the reception of the 17th RISEAP General Assembly on Oct 3, 2017.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
DPM Teo Chee Hean and Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim welcoming Riseap President Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud to the opening of the 17th Riseap General Assembly on Oct 3, 2017.
DPM Teo Chee Hean and Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim welcoming Riseap President Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud to the opening of the 17th Riseap General Assembly on Oct 3, 2017.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Different racial and religious communities must unite to counter extremism and violence in all forms, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

"Inter-communal tensions and distrust can be easily exploited by those seeking to divide society and advance their radical ideology," Mr Teo said on Tuesday (Oct 3).

He was speaking at the 17th general assembly of the Regional Islamic Da'wah Council of South-east Asia and the Pacific (Riseap), held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel.

Riseap, formed in 1980, is an organisation for Muslim-minority communities in South-east Asia and the Pacific region to cooperate and share best practices.

Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security, pointed to the conflict in the Rakhine State in Myanmar as an example of a "longstanding and complex inter-communal issue with deep historical roots".

"Such conflicts, if unresolved, can breed extremism and terrorism that could spread to threaten the region," he said, calling on all parties to stop the violence, restore stability and allow humanitarian aid to those who need it.

To counter extremism and terrorism, a close watch must be kept on exclusivist and divisive teachings or statements, he said.

For example, Singapore recently banned two foreign Christian preachers who made denigrating and inflammatory comments of other religions.

Mr Teo also said there was a need for religious leaders of different faiths to contextualise religious practices in the "multi-religious milieu" of their societies, as well as the need to build "open, inclusive and integrated societies", pointing to policies here that allow different communities to interact.

"By building open, inclusive and integrated societies and contextualising religious practices to our multi-religious societies, we can build bridges of trust and mutual understanding among all communities, including our Muslim communities," he said.

"This will provide a strong reservoir of trust as we counter extremism in all its forms together, and promote social progress for all."