Singapore

Christian leaders say teenager's actions unrepresentative of the faith

The National Council of Churches (NCCS) and other Christian leaders in Singapore yesterday expressed sadness, shock and concern at the revelation that a local teenager of Protestant faith had plotted to attack two mosques and kill Muslim worshippers here.

They also decried his actions as unrepresentative of the Christian faith and its teachings.

The student, 16, is the youngest person detained under the Internal Security Act for terrorism-related activities and the first to be inspired by far-right extremist ideology.

"NCCS treasures the special relationship it has with the Muslim community... It wishes to assure our Muslim friends that there is no animosity between our communities, and that we remain committed to defeating hatred and violence," it said in a statement signed by its president, Reverend Keith Lai, and general secretary, Reverend Ngoei Foong Nghian.

The council told The Straits Times it would meet Mufti Nazirudin Mohd Nasir, the highest Islamic authority in Singapore, and Muslim leaders today.

In a statement condemning all acts of terror and violence as having no place in any religion, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) warned that the pervasive nature of social media posed the risk of extremist ideologies seeping into homes.

"We are grateful that in Singapore, we have close bonds of friendship and trust among faith communities and their leaderships and will not allow any acts of terror by misguided individuals to threaten our social fabric," said Muis, as it stressed that the case was an isolated incident.

The non-profit Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) warned that the case showed how extremism and radicalisation are blind to religion, race, sex, and age.

RISING DANGER

In a statement, it pointed to the increased use of online platforms during the Covid-19 pandemic, and in tandem, the rising danger of Internet falsehoods.

"Misperceptions and misunderstandings of religion that lead to radicalisation and violence must be dealt with seriously," it said.

The onus is on religious leaders to do so, the RRG added.

The Hindu Endowments Board and Hindu Advisory Board urged vigilance against the spread of extremism, while the Sikh Advisory Board said early detection and escalation of radicalised individuals and groups was key.

Young people also need to be equipped with the right digital skills, said Dr Md Badrun Nafis Saion, chairman of non-profit group AMP, as he called for the Muslim community to remain calm and rational during this time.

COMMUNITY ISSUES