December 2018
M T W T F S S
« Nov    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31  
Tags
(Premium): Commentary ASEAN ASEAN (R) ASEAN-ISIS Chen Chen Lee Country (R): Indonesia Country (R): Malaysia Country (R): Myanmar Country (R): Philippines Country (R): Singapore Country: ASEAN Country: Australia Country: Cambodia Country: China Country: Germany Country: India Country: Indonesia Country: Japan Country: Laos Country: Malaysia Country: Myanmar Country: North Korea Country: Philippines Country: Qatar Country: Russia Country: Singapore Country: Singapore Country: South Korea Country: Taiwan Country: Thailand Country: UK Country: US Country: USA Country: Vietnam donald trump Elections: Indonesia 2019 Elections: Thailand 2019 European Union Event: SDSWR Events: AAF Focus CH: Hong Kong Focus JP: Abenomics Focus MM: Rakhine State Focus MY: GE14 Focus SG: SG Secure Focus SG: Smart Nation Focus SG: Society Focus TH: Protests Focus UK: Brexit Fukushima Global Citizens Singapore Institute: ERIA Institute: EU Centre in Singapore Institute: SIIA Leaders: Aung San Suu Kyi Leaders: Jokowi Leaders: Kim Jong Un Leaders: Lee Hsien Loong Leaders: Lee Kuan Yew Leaders: Mahathir Mohamad Leaders: Obama Leaders: Trump Myanmar: NLD Nicholas Fang Org: AIIB Org: G20 Region: Africa Region: Asia Region: Latin America Region: Middle East Reports Simon Tay Topic (Environment): Peatland Topic (Environment): Smallholders Topic (R): Belt and Road Topic (R): Business Topic (R): Digitisation Topic (R): E-Commerce Topic (R): Economy Topic (R): Green Finance Topic (R): Infrastructure Topic (R): Palm Oil Topic (R): Peatland Topic (R): Smallholders Topic (R): Sustainability Topic: Anti-Globalisation Topic: Belt and Road Topic: Business Topic: Development Topic: Digitisation Topic: E-Commerce Topic: Economics Topic: Elections Topic: Environment Topic: Finance Topic: Global Citizens Topic: Globalisation Topic: Green Finance Topic: Haze Topic: Human Rights Topic: Human Trafficking Topic: Infrastructure Topic: Investment Topic: Labour Topic: Nuclear Topic: Palm Oil Topic: Race Topic: Regional Integration Topic: Religion Topic: Security Topic: Small States Topic: SMEs Topic: Sustainability Topic: Sustainable/Green Infrastructure Topic: Trade Trade: AEC Trade: CPTPP Trade: FTA Trade: FTAAP Trade: Multilateralism Trade: RCEP Trade: TPP Trade: War Trends (Digital): Cybersecurity Trends (Digital): Data privacy Trends (Digital): Data security Trends (Digital): Digital Economy Trends (Digital): Digitisation Trends (Digital): Facebook Trends (Digital): New Media Trends (Digital): Smart Cities Trends (Environment): Air pollution Trends (Environment): Climate Change Trends (Environment): Energy Trends (Environment): Green Growth Trends (Environment): Hotspots Trends (Environment): Riau Trends (Environment): RSPO Trends (Environment): Sustainability Trends (Environment): Water Trends (Globalisation): ASEAN Citizens Trends (Globalisation): Populism Trends (Globalisation): Workers Rights Trends (Security): South China Sea Trends (Security): Terrorism Trends (Social): Demographics Trends (Social): Diversity United States us midterm elections WTO

Tackling exclusivism crucial in fight against terror threat

multiculturalism-169

19 Jun Tackling exclusivism crucial in fight against terror threat

The spectre of a terror attack in Singapore has loomed large in recent months.

Political leaders, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, have warned repeatedly that it is not a question of if, but when, such an attack will strike our shores.

At the same time, the frequency of terror attacks around the world, and more worryingly, closer to home in the South-east Asian region, has led Singapore authorities to raise terror threat levels to “the highest in recent years”.

The news out last week that a Singaporean woman has become the country’s first female detainee under the Internal Security Act for radicalism, serves as a stark reminder of the looming threat for the country.

The Ministry of Home Affairs also released its first-ever national terrorism threat assessment report some two weeks ago. It aimed to give the public “a better understanding” and appreciation of the terrorism threat, and to encourage Singaporeans to be alert and prepared.

This is timely, given how Singapore continues to be a prized target for terror groups, and had been specifically targeted in the past year.

The refrain of the possible inevitability of a terror attack here has become almost as ubiquitous as the description of Singapore as a multiracial and multicultural society, where inclusivity and tolerance are key watchwords for social stability and harmony.

While this concept dates back to almost the very inception of the state and is nothing new, it may hold the key to addressing the current threat of radicalisation and terrorism.

Inclusivity can act as a necessary ballast against divisive ideologies that prey on a particular group or individual’s sense of alienation, marginalisation and oppression.

Such ideologies aim to lend credence to the idea that they have to be different from others in all aspects of life and that there cannot be common ground with other faiths.

Countries around the world are grappling with how to face down the rising wave of terror attacks sweeping the globe under the auspices of terror groups like the self-styled the Islamic State, the potentially resurgent Al Qaeda, and other regional gangs of thugs and extremists.

The measures to address these and other threats, such as cyber attacks and the vulnerability of the youth especially to digital propaganda and online recruitment by terror groups, have ranged from hard physical measures such as strengthening protective infrastructure and response forces, to online countermeasures and psychological operations.

These are no doubt important efforts and should continue. But there also needs to be work done to address the root philosophical and psychological causes of the terror phenomena, besides dealing with the physical manifestations and symptoms.

Much of the rationale and motivation for recent terror attacks stem from interpretations of religious texts and teachings that emphasise exclusivism.

Exclusivism is the practice of being exclusive by disregarding opinions and ideas other than one’s own, or by organising entities into groups by excluding those that possess certain traits.

Religious exclusivism asserts that one religion is true and all others are in error. Such values are often, if not always, antagonistic and they denigrate the beliefs held by other faiths while asserting absolute superiority of their worldview.

Exclusivism based on belief systems is not a new phenomenon, with examples dating back to Ancient Greece. Modern-day examples have taken on a more violent streak, with death to non-believers, even those from within the same religion but whose practices are different, becoming a goal or requirement for true believers.

It should be pointed out that religious leaders across virtually all faiths have highlighted that such violently exclusivist beliefs are not actually part of the teachings of any true religion.

But thanks to the rise of social media and technology, growing sophistication among extremist groups, and disenchanted and disaffected youth around the world offering fertile recruitment grounds for perpetrators of terror, exclusivist tendencies have been spreading around the world.

With so-called “lone wolf” attackers being encouraged on social media or in the dark spaces of the Internet to commit atrocities, the potential for more future attacks anywhere in the world, with little or no warning, is immense.

Tackling exclusivist sentiments would seem like the logical starting point for dealing with the issue. But for a country like Singapore, it is an imperative.

Singapore is widely recognised as being among the most religiously diverse nations in the world. Our history and societal make-up have seen the embracing of a tolerant and respectful attitude towards religious and cultural diversity, with the government playing a key role in promulgating and encouraging such an approach at all levels of society.

A cornerstone of this approach has not been to encourage uniformity, but to foster appreciation of the inherently diverse nature of our country, and recognising the benefits therein.

We should continue to uphold progressive religious values that encourage awareness and respect for cultural diversity and equality, while establishing common ground to forge harmonious relationships.

It is not hard to see why a country whose citizens understand, respect and appreciate each others different beliefs and attitudes, will enjoy peace and hence stability.

But in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, this stability may become essential to ensuring the survivability and success of any nation in the future. Inclusive values will also ensure solidarity, cohesiveness and resilience for the “day after” scenario, given the inevitability of an attack.

Singapore’s Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Ms Grace Fu, said in the wake of the latest announcement of the country’s first female detainee for radicalism, that all Singaporeans should stand united and not allow our society to fracture, as this would mean a victory for terrorists.

The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore also said it would work with its partners to safeguard against exclusivist and extremist ideas from taking root in the community.

The concepts of understanding and tolerance should not be required of any single religious group, but should be embraced by all religions and communities throughout society.

Only then can we truly begin to tackle the terror threat in a comprehensive and systematic fashion which will hopefully produce long-term success.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Nicholas Fang is the executive director of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs and oversees the institute’s Global Citizens Singapore programme, which aims to broaden awareness of key international issues amongst young professionals and the public. This commentary was published in TODAY on 19 June 2017.