SINGAPORE – The threat of extremism and terrorism continues to evolve and remains a worry, especially with the recent political turmoil in Afghanistan, said Minister of State for Home Affairs Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim on Sunday (Sept 26).
The humanitarian crisis unfolding in Afghanistan is fast becoming a global security concern, and transnational terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) could take advantage and establish a foothold there, he said.
Radicals from South-east Asia may also be inspired to travel to Afghanistan to take up arms with militant groups, just as Jemaah Islamiyah members had done so in the past, he said at a discussion with grassroots organisations in Admiralty.
“The Taliban takeover could also inspire regional terrorist groups in their violent struggle to establish Islamic rule. Therefore I cannot stress enough the importance of staying vigilant and doing our part to keep Singapore safe,” he said.
Associate Professor Faishal added that continued dialogue between communities remains important, and reinforces the commitment to avert cracks and fault-lines from forming in the social fabric.
The roundtable discussion on Empowering Youths: Countering Extremism And Strengthening Social Cohesion was co-organised by non-profit group Taman Bacaan and Admiralty grassroots organisations, together with the Inter-Agency Aftercare Group (ACG) and the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG).
The RRG consists of volunteer Islamic scholars who counsel radicalised persons, while the ACG looks at the socio-economic well-being of detainees and their families.
Taman Bacaan has held similar forums over the years for youths to meet experts in counter-terrorism.
The hybrid in-person and online event in Woodlands was attended by more than 40 people and included presentations by RRG secretary Mohamed Feisal Mohamed Hassan, and Master Benjamin Tan from the Singapore Taoist Federation.
Dr Feisal, who is also a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, spoke about religious and secular fundamentalism.
He said community engagement efforts were strengthened in the wake of the Sept 11 attacks in 2001, when the Government realised that social cohesion could unravel should a terror attack happen in Singapore.
Prof Faishal, who is also Minister of State for National Development, said safeguarding Singapore’s racial and religious harmony requires a whole-of-society effort.
“Events like today reinforces our commitment to avert cracks and fault-lines from forming in our social fabric, and I call upon all of you to continue being gracious and respectful to one another, even to our foreign friends living and working in Singapore.
“A simple act of kindness to our neighbours or even to help spread positive messages will certainly go a long way,” he added.
Mr Vikram Nair, MP for Sembawang GRC, highlighted the threat of individuals becoming radicalised online.
“The reality is that self-radicalisation has become even easier with technology. So it’s important for people to have enough relationships in the real world to be resilient to this.”