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Religious Rehabilitation Group 'invaluable' in maintaining harmony: PM Lee

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the group's role is especially vital with the ongoing conflict in Syria and Iraq drawing foreign fighters from all over the world.

SINGAPORE: The current turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa has had an impact on Singapore and its neighbours. And as a result of this, the work of Singapore's Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) continues to be important in helping to maintain harmony in society and keeping Singapore safe.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made these comments at a Berita Harian award ceremony on Tuesday evening (Aug 19).

The RRG is the first organisation to receive the Achiever of the Year Award, for its contribution to the Muslim community and the country. It was started a decade ago to counter the radical misinterpretation of Islam by members of the Jemaah Islamiyah group in Singapore.

Ten years on, Mr Lee said the organisation's work has been invaluable in not just fighting extremist ideology, but also maintaining religious and racial harmony in Singapore. He added that the group's role is especially vital with the ongoing conflict in Syria and Iraq. Mr Lee said the conflict feeds a terrorist narrative, drawing thousands of foreign fighters from all over the world, and the effects are not just felt globally, but closer to home as well.

The Prime Minister said: "Our neighbours, Malaysia and Indonesia are also concerned that a number of their citizens have joined in the fight and even carried out suicide attacks. A few Singaporeans have gone there too, and others (who were planning to go) have been intercepted. The danger is that they learn the techniques of terrorism, they are infected with this radical ideology and forge an international brotherhood of fighters and produce a new generation of terrorists. 

"So I am very relieved that in Singapore, we have RRG to provide proper religious guidance, offering a robust ideological counter to the terrorists and extremists and preventing the vulnerable from being led astray and drawn in."

Mr Ali Muhammad, Co-Chairman of the RRG, said the award gives them heart to continue their good work. "I am very sure all the members of RRG are happy that after a number of years, about 12 years battling on the ground, with the appreciation given, this will boost them to work harder."

The event also saw rower Saiyidah Aisyah Mohammed Ra'fee winning the Inspiring Young Achiever Award 2014. She took no-pay leave to train in Sydney before winning the gold medal in the 2,000m women's lightweight single sculls at the SEA Games last year.

"This award means a lot to me because it means I have the ability to actually inspire other youths, especially in the Malay community, to go out there and achieve their dreams as well," she said.

"For me, it's a big thing, because as an athlete, all I wanted to do was just win and I didn't realise that all these things come with that gold medal. And that is a very good thing, because my personal satisfaction actually became something that not only motivates me, but fellow Singaporeans as well."

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