Identifying weak religious grounding as a common trait among radicalised individuals here, national leaders yesterday reiterated the need for a holistic approach to counter the threat of terrorism.
Speaking at the East Asia Summit Symposium on Religious Rehabilitation and Social Integration, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said: “One common characteristic that has been observed among radicalised individuals that we have investigated in Singapore is that they possess weak religious grounding.”
He added that this made the individuals “more susceptible to believing wholesale the radical exhortations that distort religious concepts to give their message of violence an aura of divine sanction”.
Since the first arrest of alleged Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) members here, religious scholars and teachers have embarked on a counselling programme to debunk radical ideas, said Mr Teo, who is also Home Affairs Minister.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the event, Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said that a holistic approach cannot only involve “kinetic power or arresting people”.
Stressing the importance of showing radicalised individuals “the right approach to religion”, Mr Shanmugam said: “When you radicalise a person you are creating a human bomb … you can arrest and put him in prison, you can also try to de-radicalise by getting him to see the real aspects of religion.”
While religious leaders here have been reviewing the curriculum and enhancing training of Islamic teachers, challenges abound, said Singapore’s mufti, Dr Fatris Bakaram.
For instance, some preachers and leaders are reluctant to correct popular misconceptions “because they have this worry of being unpopular”, he said. He added: “Preachers and teachers have to stand up, have to develop their self-confidence, that they are part of the whole responsibility to guide youths.”
Dr Fatris said that the young today exhibit an increased sense of “restlessness to fight injustices”. They should be given the right platforms to further their desire for social justice, he said. “The younger generation has the energy and drive to change the world, and that has to be acknowledged.”
For instance, Islamic studies graduates have been employed as youth development officers in local mosques to assure young Muslims here that they have important and active roles to play in the religious community, he said. “When (the youths) feel they are appreciated, that they are given the trust and confidence to contribute, I think that will provide effective safeguarding them from being deceived by the extremists.”
Dr Fatris added that while terrorism cannot be isolated as a “Muslim problem”, Muslims must not shy away from it. “We have to acknowledge that this is the issue of the day affecting global communities … extremist groups have been using, or abusing, the name of Islam … It is not to say that Islam itself is the source of the problem, but the misunderstanding of Muslims and their religion is the thing we have to address,” he said.