SINGAPORE: Individuals in Singapore are being radicalised at a faster pace, Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam said on Wednesday (Sep 13).
Speaking at a dialogue session attended by members of the Muslim community and grassroots leaders, the minister said that there were 18 radicalised Singaporeans arrested in the past two years, a increase from the 11 nabbed between 2007 and 2014.
He added that before the Islamic State militant group came on the scene, authorities assessed it would take about two years for individuals to become radicalised, but now some individuals may be radicalised in as little as one or two months.
Mr Shanmugam added that the Government would bar preachers of any religion who seek to bring down other faiths with their messages.
Two foreign Christian preachers recently had their applications to speak in Singapore rejected for making "denigrating and inflammatory" comments on other religions.
"For us, I think the way to take is: 'We don't want any of this. We have an island. Let's try and keep all this out. And we live in peace and tolerance'," Mr Shanmugam said on Wednesday evening.
The Government's approach to dealing with the issue also includes measures to strengthen Islamic religious leadership, he said. For example, the Government made it mandatory for all Islamic religious teachers, or asatizah, to be recognised under the Asatizah Recognition Scheme since January this year.
There is also a code of ethics for asatizahs, and the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) provides stronger support for Islamic teachers "to practice Islam in the context of Singapore", he added.
In addition, the Religious Rehabilitation Group, MUIS and community organisations have increased engagement, such as by distributing booklets on guarding against radicalisation, according to the minister.
Mr Shanmugam noted that terrorism is becoming an increasing threat in the region, with the Islamic State targeting spots like Marawi in the Philippines to strengthen their grip.
He called on the community in Singapore to step forward to guide youths who may be more vulnerable to influence from religious extremism, and urged them to be involved in community activities to sustain bonds.
"We have to work together to build a community that can work for us, a community regardless of which race, which religion, that wants a multicultural, multi-religious society, strong community bonds, united in the face of all the challenges that we are facing," he said.