SINGAPORE: The different communities in Singapore must continue to embrace each other, and share and build on common spaces, both psychologically and physically, as part of the multi-faceted effort to counter terrorism, said Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman on Thursday (Nov 30).
“More needs to be done at the local community level. While remaining vigilant is a must, strengthening our social fabric is a continuous work in progress, which we can never take for granted,” he said.
The terrorism threat must be tackled from many fronts - ideological, economic, legal social and political, he added.
Dr Maliki was speaking at a panel discussion at the Asian Civilisation Museum following the screening of a documentary produced by Channel NewsAsia, exploring Islamist extremism in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.
He added that Singaporean Muslims must continue to build on their own brand of Islam that exists in a majority non-Muslim context like Singapore, while the majority non-Muslim Singaporeans must embrace the minority communities’ efforts to be part of the Singaporean community.
To that end, he is happy to see more Singaporeans becoming more comfortable in discussing inter-faith issues, Dr Maliki said.
THAT SOMEONE CAN BE DERADICALISED IS A “SILVER LINING”
There are many dimensions to understanding radicalisation, extremism and terrorism, Dr Maliki said. The hour-long documentary, entitled Facing Terror provides insight to this understanding, he said.
In the documentary, Channel NewsAsia's Supervising Editor, Sujadi Siswo, who spent 11 years covering Indonesia as a correspondent, interviewed several people, including a student who was on the cusp of joining the Islamic State in Syria, a former militant who learnt and taught others how to make bombs, and the Indonesia national police chief.
Dr Maliki said: “That is a silver lining, that although one may have been radicalised, one can be deradicalised, one can appreciate the impact of what one has done previously.”
The documentary comes at a time of increasing terror threat in Southeast Asia, a challenge Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong flagged during the ASEAN Summit held in the Philippines earlier this month.
Mr Lee noted that as the terror group Islamic State loses ground in Syria and Iraq, more fighters may return to Southeast Asia.
At home, three Singaporeans - two men and a woman - were dealt with under the Internal Security Act (ISA) between September and November this year for terror-related activities.
Dr Maliki added that the documentary offers “very real” accounts of what is happening.
“We’ve seen reminders, we’ve seen exercises, we’ve seen tabletop exercises on what could happen. This is what had happened, from the people who had gone through it, the voices of people who are saying that we regret it happened, we want to make it better, there’s hope,” he said.
Head of the Centre of Excellence for National Security Dr Shashi Jayakumar said that some of the returning fighters might be disillusioned and may want to meld back into society.
"Some may actually be leveraged on to talk about their experiences, so narratives of disillusionment are going to be very very potent in time to come,” he said.