“When we see religious conflicts elsewhere, we have to remind ourselves that those are not our fights. We must not let events elsewhere erode the trust and harmony between different races and religions in Singapore,” said Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong while speaking at a dialogue on terrorism and religious extremism with community leaders from various races and faiths.
He exhorted Singaporeans to work very hard to maintain a multi-racial and multi-religious society.
He added, “The spate of terror attacks around the world has affected Singapore, with Muslims here feeling like they are under the spotlight and non-Muslims perhaps worrying if they could still trust Muslims.”
He noted that the self-radicalised Singaporeans who were arrested by the authorities here were motivated by conflicts in the Middle East and the extremist ideologies of the terrorist group, the Islamic State (IS).
About 300 community and religious leaders attended the programme. This closed-door dialogue — where only Lee’s opening remarks were open for media coverage — was held a week after the Prime Minister had met with Malay/Muslim leaders.
The last time he had conducted a similar session with leaders from the various groups was in November 2014. Since then, Mr Lee noted, much has happened: There have been more frequent terrorist attacks in the West, and fierce fighting in the Middle East against the IS terrorist group. At home, the authorities are seeing a steady trickle of self-radicalised individuals.
While observing that Singapore is “an oasis of peace”, Lee emphasised that it is not possible for the country to be disconnected from the conflicts happening around the world. “When racial or religious conflicts happen elsewhere, it can have an impact on Singapore.”
Singapore enjoys strong racial and religious harmony, with Muslim and non-Muslim religious leaders working hard to promote inter-faith relations. “We must keep up this effort, to repair the harm done by external events, and to strengthen the trust between different faiths,” Lee urged.