Laws can­not be only tool to fight ter­ror­ism

The New Paper - - NEWS - HARIZ BAHARUDIN

Govt and com­mu­nity must work to­gether in bat­tle against big­otry and ter­ror

In­ter­faith re­spect and har­mony are keys to tack­ling ter­ror­ism and big­otry, but this can­not be done through laws alone.

Rather, said Min­is­ter for Home Af­fairs and Law K. Shan­mugam yes­ter­day, there is a need to go “beyond” — cit­ing Sin­ga­pore’s in­ter­ven­tion­ist ef­forts that he said have helped bol­ster re­li­gious co­ex­is­tence here.

Speak­ing at the open­ing of a two-day in­ter­na­tional fo­rum or­gan­ised by Mus­lim wel­fare or­gan­i­sa­tion Jamiyah Sin­ga­pore and the Morocco-based Is­lamic Ed­u­ca­tional, Sci­en­tific and Cul­tural Or­gan­i­sa­tion, Mr Shan­mugam said laws “can­not cre­ate pos­i­tive feel­ings”.

“They can pre­vent neg­a­tive ac­tions, but to cre­ate a pos­i­tive com­mu­nity, you need to go beyond,” he told the au­di­ence in his open­ing ad­dress, who in­cluded rep­re­sen­ta­tives from 19 dif­fer­ent coun­tries.

Mr Shan­mugam fol­lowed up with a list of ini­tia­tives that he cred­ited to help­ing main­tain in­ter­faith har­mony, such as the racial quota for pub­lic hous­ing, the manda­tory mi­nor­ity rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Par­lia­ment and the re­cent pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

But he said the Govern­ment’s role is lim­ited as well, call­ing on com­mu­nity mem­bers and groups to work in tan­dem.

“The Govern­ment has a very ac­tive role, but it is also some­thing that non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions, com­mu­nity lead­ers, re­li­gious lead­ers, ev­ery­one, has got to come to­gether,” he said.

“It can­not just be done by the Govern­ment. It can­not be done with­out the Govern­ment, but it has to be done by all of us in part­ner­ship.”

Mr Shan­mugam warned that gaps in so­ci­eties will be “widened” if the problems of re­li­gious big­otry and Is­lam­o­pho­bia are not tack­led.

He cited the Fins­bury Park at­tack in June, where a man drove a van into peo­ple out­side a mosque in re­tal­i­a­tion for the Lon­don bridge at­tacks a few weeks be­fore that.

The min­is­ter said: “In­ci­dents like th­ese play into the hands of ter­ror­ists. Acts of fear and ha­tred will only in­crease. The cy­cle of vi­o­lence will in­crease if we do not break it and if we do not ac­tively work to break it.”

Mr Shan­mugam re­it­er­ated how there is a need to “get away” from the idea that one re­li­gion is to be blamed for ex­trem­ist be­hav­iour and ter­ror­ism.

Not­ing the at­tacks in re­cent years that link Is­lam with th­ese ter­ror­ists, Mr Shan­mugam said that it was the aim of ter­ror­ists to draw “deep di­vi­sions” and spread Is­lam­o­pho­bia.

Speak­ing be­fore him, Jamiyah pres­i­dent Mohd Hasbi Abu Bakar said it was im­por­tant to com­bat the “men­ace of mis­un­der­stand­ing the faith of Is­lam and Mus­lims”, which he said was a goal of the con­fer­ence.

He added: “As Mus­lims, it is also reli­giously in­cum­bent upon us to stand up for jus­tice and to do so by telling oth­ers — in­clud­ing to our own fel­low Mus­lims — the un­am­bigu­ous mes­sage that to re­sort to vi­o­lence in the pur­suance of one’s goals is to cross the ‘red line’ of Is­lam.”

harizbah@sph.com.sg

PHOTO: BERITA HAR­IAN

Mr K. Shan­mugam (left) af­ter the open­ing of the fo­rum.

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