Faced with issues such as growing Islamophobia and religious extremism, Singapore must never allow xenophobia and majoritarianism to override the protection and guarantee of equality – particularly to minorities, said Singapore Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam on Wednesday (Feb 1).
“We are all Singaporeans. We guarantee the safety, security and freedom of religion to all, including the Muslim community,” he told a roundtable discussion at a symposium organised by the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS).
Mr Shanmugam opened his speech by revealing he had initially not been slated to speak. “But events around the world give cause for pause, for reflection,” he said, referring to the likes of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as US president.
“Post-US election, there has been a scramble, to predict the policies of the new Administration and what it means for the world,” Mr Shanmugam said. “We now have had a preview of what might happen … The country whose actions possibly have the greatest importance on the world seeks to change course, and seeks to change course suddenly.”
Pointing to the US exiting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and banning citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries within a week of Mr Trump assuming office, he said: “When a superpower moves this fast, the rest of us have to avoid being caught in the slipstream.”
He warned that events in the US could impact Singapore on a racial and religious front, specifically the “public disagreement” displayed by Mr Trump’s firing of the acting Attorney-General for opposing his travel ban, protests on the streets and deep splits within Congress.
“There are many consequences to perceptions of the US, its leadership role in the world, and the role the Rule of Law plays and is valued in the US,” said Mr Shanmugam. “One of the consequences … is that it could lead some Muslims around the world to become anti-American, believing that the US has become more Islamophobic.”
“This has serious risks for a lot of people including us.”