Singapore

'Exclusivist views' must not take root: PM Lee

Singapore must insulate and inoculate itself against foreign conflicts and quarrels, says Prime Minister

Singapore must not let conflicts elsewhere affect the trust and harmony between different races and religions here, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

The country has to try its best to insulate and inoculate itself against conflicts and quarrels in other countries, noting that attacks by terror groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) can affect attitudes towards Muslims here.

"We have to expect the recent spate of ISIS-inspired attacks in the world, what is happening in the Middle East, in our region... to have caused some doubts and qualms among Singaporeans," he said.

That is why effort must be put in to ensure racial and religious harmony remains strong, he told around 300 community leaders before a closed-door dialogue on terrorism and Islamophobia at ITE College Central.

In his speech, PM Lee highlighted the global threat of terrorism. Terrorists are increasingly carrying out attacks with everyday objects, which are very difficult to detect and prevent.

And while ISIS has lost its stronghold of Mosul in Iraq, it remains "a magnet for religious extremists".

Some of its followers will return to South-east Asia, which PM Lee said is "on the front line" - terror groups are actively recruiting fighters from Malaysia and Indonesia, while terrorist militants are still battling Philippine forces in Marawi.

Singapore itself remains a target of terrorists, he said.

Citing a foiled plot by an ISIS-linked group last year to launch a rocket at Marina Bay Sands from Batam, PM Lee added: "They have us in their sights, and we have to know that.

"We know that there are others out there, and we also know of other attacks that had been planned but have not been carried out."

PM Lee's speech came a week after he held a dialogue with Malay/Muslim leaders on the issue, to hear their concerns and let them know the Government is on their side as they counter extremism and protect the social fabric.

In Singapore, there are worrying trends of foreign workers being radicalised, and a steady trickle of Singaporeans being self-radicalised.

Extremist and exclusivist teachings are creeping into the mainstream and will weaken racial harmony if they take root.

If these "exclusivist views" gain ground, it will weaken racial harmony and make Singapore more vulnerable to extremist terrorism, PM Lee said.

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