Safeguard interfaith cohesion: Maliki

Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman.
Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman. PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

Singapore must not allow acts of terrorism overseas to affect social cohesion and religious harmony here, said Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman yesterday.

He added that some of the fights overseas between people of different faiths "do not necessarily bear religious causes", and most are driven by local or regional politics or tribal and sectarian strife.

"We must be consciously mindful that we do not allow our interfaith cohesion to be breached by foreign issues," he said, noting that Singapore is the world's most religiously diverse nation.

Dr Maliki was speaking to religious leaders from various faiths at a meeting organised by Imam Habib Hassan al-Attas of the Ba'alwie Mosque off Bukit Timah Road.

The imam condemned the recent terror attacks overseas, which he said was against the spirit of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

"These heinous acts on innocent fellow humans are crimes that disregard humanity, and are against the teachings of any true religion. There is neither place nor justification in Islam, or any religion, for fanaticism and extremism," he added.

The terrorist attacks in Manchester, London, Paris and Teheran are "stark reminders that no society can be fully sanitised and immune from terror", said Dr Maliki.

"We must clearly, categorically and collectively condemn any acts of terror, and we must not allow these incidents to seed doubts in our minds or sow discord in our hearts, which may cause racial or religious fault lines," he added.

He said the key to building and preserving social harmony in Singapore is to bring people together and make them understand one another better. "Only then can we enhance the level of confidence and comfort amongst our society."

Also at the meeting were leaders from the Buddhist, Taoist, Sikh, Christian and Baha'i faiths. They observed a minute of silence for the victims of the terror attacks.

Bishop Terry Kee of the Lutheran Church urged non-Muslims to stand in solidarity with Muslims when terror attacks happen overseas.

Such incidents may give rise to mistrust and cause stress among the Muslim community here, he said. "The Muslim community has been very consistent in renouncing and condemning such acts. We stand with them and we support them."

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Dr Maliki was asked about the call for people to report their friends or family members who show signs of being radicalised.

He acknowledged that some people may want to protect their friends and family members by not reporting them, but said this actually prevents them from getting the help they need.

He added that the radicalised individuals need help and the authorities need to understand the extent of radicalisation in order to help, counsel and rehabilitate them.

Toh Yong Chuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 11, 2017, with the headline 'Safeguard interfaith cohesion: Maliki'. Print Edition | Subscribe