Reject divisive views, urges DPM Teo

Rebuff views that limit our interactions and divide us as communities, he says

Divisive views that discourage Singaporeans from interacting with each other should be rejected, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday.

He underscored the importance of inter-religious mixing when speaking at an iftar, or breaking of fast, organised by the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) and the Khadijah Mosque in Geylang.

Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security, recounted his meeting with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University, Dr Ahmed Al Tayyeb, who visited Singapore recently.

Dr Ahmed, widely seen as a top international scholar and leader in Islam, had said that Muslims and members of other communities could interact in a practical way - including shaking hands and greeting members of other religions on religious holidays.

"I was impressed by his open approach to inter-religious interactions. He said that Muslims should live and thrive in a multi-religious environment," said Mr Teo in his speech which he delivered in Malay.

Such an approach is beneficial for Singapore, where people from all faiths "can have meals together, visit one another, and share our joys and sorrows together", he added.

"We should reject views that limit our interactions and divide us as communities."

ENHANCING RESILIENCE

Indeed, we must remain vigilant at all times, and enhance our community resilience.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER TEO CHEE HEAN

The session was attended by community leaders and religious leaders from different faiths, as well as Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli and his predecessor, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim.

RRG co-chair Ali Mohamed said there has been a significant rise in violent extremism as religion gets increasingly politicised.

He warned that extremists will take advantage of existing tensions within communities and misrepresent religious teachings to drive their misguided and violent agenda.

Upstream efforts, like promoting racial and religious harmony and creating awareness in the community, must work in tandem with downstream or corrective efforts, like RRG's rehabilitation, to effectively address these threats, he added.

Mr Teo said the terror and radicalisation threat facing the region remains, citing the bombings in Indonesia that occurred last month.

At least 13 people were killed in bombings at three churches in Surabaya on May 13 - the deadliest terror attacks in Indonesia for years.

Singapore continues to detect radicalised individuals, Mr Teo noted, raising the recent case of Mohamed Faishal Mohd Razali, 27, who was detained under the Internal Security Act after becoming radicalised by divisive teachings online.

According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, investigations found that Faishal wanted to undertake armed violence overseas in various conflict zones including Syria. He was detained in April this year.

Said Mr Teo: "Indeed, we must remain vigilant at all times, and enhance our community resilience."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 07, 2018, with the headline 'Reject divisive views, urges DPM Teo'. Print Edition | Subscribe