Published: 17 October 2015
Singapore Kadayanallur Muslim League
Indian Muslim Professionals (ImProf)
Jamal Mohamed College Alumni Association (Singapore Chapter)
Federation of Indian Muslims
Ladies and gentlemen
Assalammu'alaikum wt wb
It is my pleasure to be here with you today at the Muslim Youth Seminar, where we look at the important role of youths in maintaining social harmony in an evolving security landscape.
Peace and Stability Not to be Taken for Granted
2. Singapore's peace and stability did not come by chance. Our forefathers had painstakingly laid the foundations for our nation's development and progress. As a multi-religious and multi-racial society, we must not take for granted the peace and harmony that we currently enjoy. The security challenges that we face today, and in the future, will be no less challenging and daunting than those encountered in our early years.
The ISIS Scourge
3. Today, the global threat of terrorism is real. This is further compounded by the conflict in Syria and Iraq where we have seen the rise of the terrorist group that calls itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). ISIS has raised the stakes with its violence and call for jihadeverywhere. It has exploited Islam and distorted religious tenets to justify its violent political agenda.
4. ISIS is not only waging a battle on the physical front but also on the ideological front. It promotes its ideology extensively through the use of social media. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and many other social media applications which our youths are familiar with are some of the platforms used by ISIS to spread its twisted logic.
5. In just four years, the conflict has reportedly drawn more than 20,000 foreign fighters, from over 80 countries. Its declaration of an Islamic caliphate has also influenced self-radicalised individuals and "lone wolf" operatives to carry out attacks in their home countries.
6. The potential threat posed by such individuals is high, as they will return to their home countries more radicalised and indoctrinated. These "returnees" may seek to replicate their experiences back home, through direct action or by providing logistical support to others who are planning terrorist operations. From Singapore's experience in dealing with the regional network that called itself Jemaah Islamiyah, we have seen how some of its members, who were exposed to fighting in Afghanistan, returned to spearhead JI's terrorist plans against Singapore.
Nurturing a Generation that is Resilient against Radical Ideology
7. Unfortunately, the insidious ideology of the ISIS has poisoned some of our very own. Earlier this year, local authorities placed a 17-year-old youth on a Restriction Order, and detained another 19-year-old youth under the Internal Security Act. Both had been self-radicalised. The 19-year-old youth even had plans to join ISIS in Syria, and if he was unable to leave Singapore, he intended to carry out attacks on key facilities and assassinate Government leaders here.
8. Just two months ago, another two Singaporeans, a 29-year-old and an 18-year-old, were detained for involvement in terrorism-related activities. Both of them harboured the intention of travelling to Syria to join ISIS and were radicalised by online ISIS propaganda.
9. In a multi-racial and multi-religious Singapore, all communities have to tackle the threat of extremist violence and terrorism together. All of us can play a part by stepping up our vigilance and preventing our loved ones from going down the wrong path.
10. Youths must be able to discern between truths and falsehoods from the information available online. It is important that they take the initiative to seek answers and clarifications from credible and legitimate sources if they have any doubts about their religion. They can channel their enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge to positive and beneficial activities so that they will not be swayed by negative influences.
11. In the aftermath of the Boston bombing in April 2013, a group of young Muslims rallied together to promote a better understanding of Islam and debunk misperceptions stemming from violent acts committed under the guise of religion. These youths handed out messages propagating interfaith harmony and spoke to passers-by about how their faith is based on the message of peace. It is heartening to hear of such initiatives.
12. In Singapore, a similar youth-driven interfaith initiative has taken root to spread the universal message of love, peace, harmony and kindness as advocated by all faith groups. Initiated in 2012, the Roses of Peace initiative distributed 7,000 roses this year in fifteen locations to the public to spread the message of goodwill, love and peace. Themed "The Singapore Kampong Spirit", it emphasised the need to help and care for one another among our neighbours and among Singaporeans as a whole. This is a meaningful way to spread the message that living in peace and harmony does not happen by chance. Peace, harmony and goodwill must be a conscious choice backed by action.
Building a Strong and Resilient Community Starts Now
13. I must again emphasise the importance of maintaining a high level of vigilance and security against possible terrorist attacks in our country. We must continue to strengthen the level of community resilience to ensure that our society will not be divided and crippled by fear, if something untoward were to happen.
14. As youths with passion and conviction, you can play a significant role in this regard. Whatever you do to help fellow Singaporeans will go a long way in complementing the Government's efforts to tackle extremism and terrorism. I am heartened, therefore, to learn of the twenty "Youth Ambassadors of Peace" present at today's seminar. Your journey and contributions as youth ambassadors can only strengthen the Singapore family as a whole.
15. I hope that you will, at the end of today's seminar, gain considerable knowledge and valuable insights from our distinguished speakers. Seperti pepatah Melayu: "Melentur buluh biarlah daripada rebungnya." Dari awal lagi haruslah dibentuk, dan diasuh dengan baik. Inilah masa yang terbaik bagi anda, untuk mencorak masa depan yang lebih bermakna. So you can make that difference, now, for our future.
16. Thank you.