SINGAPORE: Authorities will be reviewing legislation and studying ways to counter the threat of hate speech and extremist teachings, Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said in Parliament on Tuesday (Oct 3).
Mr Shanmugam, who is also Law Minister, was speaking on the motion “staying united against the terrorism threat” filed by four members of the House – MP for Holland-Bukit Timah Christopher de Souza, MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar, MP for Bukit Batok Murali Pillai and Jurong GRC MP Dr Tan Wu Meng.
The minister said that authorities will be reviewing the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act to deal with “segregationist teachings”.
“Religion can be and has been a source of strength to our society, but we must also watch for exclusivist, intolerant practices because these can deepen fault lines and weaken our entire society,” Mr Shanmugam said.
He shared that the Ministry of Home Affairs is looking at tightening restrictions on foreign preachers who do not share Singapore's values of religious harmony and making sure they do not come to Singapore to preach.
MHA is also coming up with more ways to deal with hate speech.
"There are laws today and we have used them. We are studying whether we need to move more quickly, and have more options to deal with this particular issue appropriately and decisively,” he said.
The ministry is also considering suggestions on how to prevent radicalisation earlier and it supports the proposal for an Islamic college to train religious teachers who understand Singapore’s multi-religious and multiracial context, which Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim spoke about.
CALLS FOR COPY-CAT ATTACKS
The minister said that the number of Singaporeans detained under the Internal Security Act has increased while more than 40 foreign workers and maids have been radicalised since 2015.
There have been calls for Singaporeans to copy terrorist attacks launched overseas using vehicles, knives and day-to-day implements.
“We don’t say much about this but it’s there ... last year we picked up someone who was intending to go to the Middle East to fight, and he was a driver of a large dump truck,” Mr Shanmugam said.
The Government has responded by improving deterrence and protection measures, such as those proposed in the Infrastructure Protection Bill passed in Parliament on Monday.
Authorities also launched the SGSecure initiative last year to rally the community to prevent terrorist attacks and be better prepared to deal with them, he said.
To win the “psychological battle” of staying united as a society after an attack, Singapore needs to strengthen its social cohesiveness, and affirm multiracialism as a fundamental principle of Singapore society, he said.
Citing examples of troubled race relations across the world, Mr Shanmugam said: “We don’t have in Singapore movements titled ‘Black Lives Matter’ … because to us, all lives matter.”
Mr Shanmugam reiterated that Singapore takes an "activist" approach to maintaining racial harmony.
“Singapore’s approach – as I have sketched out is to build a Singapore identity that can accommodate diversity and celebrate our different racial and religious identities, whilst at the same time creating a broad common space that we all share, as Singaporeans,” he said.
“That's an ongoing journey. It has to be continuously adjusted and refined as circumstances evolve both locally and internationally.”