SINGAPORE: The incident where two Singaporean auxiliary police officers were issued with orders under the Internal Security Act (ISA), is a serious, but isolated one, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday (Jun 20) Mr Shanmugam said that public confidence in the police is high, with 90 per cent of Singaporeans having “very high levels of confidence” in the police. People also do not distinguish between auxiliary police officers and police officers, he said. “When they look at a police officer to deal with a problem, they don’t say, it’s a Malay officer, it’s a Chinese officer, or Indian officer. And going forward, we don’t want our people to think along those lines.”
He added: “Incidents like this may cause them to think like that, and may cause employers to start looking at the race or religion of the employees they are seeking to employ.
“Thankfully, our social compact, the way we have worked on inter-religious, inter-racial confidence, the emphasis on being a very strong multi-racial society with everyone having very good opportunities, all this I think will stand us in good stead and face up to this challenge.”
But he also stressed that everyone will have work to do.
The Government, he said, has rolled out policy measures designed to deal with extremism like the Asatizah Recognition Scheme. More measures will be announced over the next six to nine months, he added, and the Government “will have to push on with that”.
The non-Muslim community also has a responsibility to keep this in perspective, added Mr Shanmugam.
“There have been a few arrests, but in the overall scheme of things, it’s isolated, and it is our duty to reach out and make sure the Muslim community continues to feel the bond, and be able to strengthen those bonds.”
The Muslim community, meanwhile, should also reach out and take part in community activities, he said.
“You will always get a small minority, but the way to make sure the mainstream of your society is inoculated against this … is to make sure that you get the bonds deepened,” said Mr Shanmugam. “That can only happen if you take part in community activities, come together, sit together, eat together, play together and work together.”
VETTING PROCESS MAY NOT HAVE PICKED UP SIGNS OF RADICALISATION AT TIME OF HIRE
The Home Affairs Ministry on Tuesday announced that auxiliary police officer, 24-year-old Muhammad Khairul Mohamed, was detained this month for having the intention to undertake armed violence in Syria. His colleague, 36-year-old Mohamad Rizal Wahid, was given a restriction order for suggesting to Khairul various ways to get to Syria.
Mr Shanmugam said he is “not sure” that any vetting process would have detected any suspicious signs at the time Khairul joined in 2015, noting that there were “no obvious signs”, and it would be “difficult” to have picked it up.
“I think it would be very wrong to suggest that employers start vetting Muslim candidates in a different way,” he said. “That would have a very opposite effect of what you want.”
When asked if incidents like this could raise concerns of Islamophobia in society, Mr Shanmugam made reference to London’s Finsbury Park incident on Monday, where a man drove a van into Muslims leaving prayers at a mosque.
He noted that thankfully, Singapore is “far away from that”, “because of the series of steps we have taken, and the active efforts that we take to build the bonds within the community”.
But he stressed the importance of being watchful that people may start to have these kinds of feelings and thoughts, and that there is a need to deal with it.
“We have to make sure that the non-Muslim community understand that we have to continue as we have in the past, because a very substantial majority of our Muslim community is peace-loving and our brothers and sisters, and it is our duty to make sure our bonds are strong.”
SOCIAL MEDIA “NOT APPROPRIATE PLATFORM” TO RECEIVE RELIGIOUS GUIDANCE AND INSTRUCTION: MUIS
In a media statement, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) stressed that social media is “not the appropriate platform” to receive religious guidance and instruction, “not least in understanding complex political and armed conflicts in the Muslim world”.
MUIS noted that in Khairul’s case, as well as that of Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari – who was detained last week for radicalism – what is “common and disturbing” is that both were self-radicalised through social media.
“Exposure to the propaganda of extremist and radical groups online who exploit these conflicts to radicalise Muslims will misguide them to believe that participation in such conflicts is a religious duty,” said MUIS. In both cases, family and friends found out about their views and intentions but did not report them to authorities, it added.
“The best way to help our loved ones away from this path is to offer help early by referring them to experts in this area, as soon as we detect there may be something wrong,” said MUIS.
MUIS added that it is also working to develop the capabilities of local asatizah, or Islamic religious teachers, to be able to engage Singaporean Muslims on social media, noting that some younger asatizah have “started to make some good headway” in this area.
“We hope to populate social media with socio-religious content which is appropriate to Singapore, and negate the dangerous content which had managed to mislead Khairul and Izzah,” it said.
MUIS also urged the community to play its part, and report family members and friends who exhibit such tendencies as soon as they are detected, so “appropriate help and intervention can be given”.
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