Fight terror, show tolerance: Shanmugam
Home Affairs Minister says fight against terror also includes guarding against rise of anti-Muslim sentiments
How do you stop someone who drives a vehicle onto the pavement, then stabs people on the streets?
You can't, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam.
"You have got to make sure the conditions that create such ideas are nipped in the bud. Not easy but you have to work hard, and that is what we've been doing," he told reporters yesterday, a day after terrorists struck in the heart of London.
Attackers drove a white van at high speed into pedestrians on London Bridge, before stabbing people in the nearby Borough Market area, full of pubs and restaurants. Seven people were killed and 48 injured.
The three suspects were shot within eight minutes of the first police call.
British police arrested 12 people yesterday in connection with the attacks, after raiding several addresses in Barking, a suburb in east London.
No Singaporeans were affected by the attacks, said a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman.
Mr Shanmugam said "poison" preached by extremists is one of the underlying causes of a terror attack.
In Britain, extremists have done so under the freedom of speech framework, but there are "relatively limited" legal tools for agencies to intervene, he said.
Adding that different societies draw the threshold at different levels, he said: "We have active state intervention in making sure people get integrated, people live together. We prevent extremist teaching. We have laws that allow us to intervene much earlier than agencies in other societies can."
"Deeply disturbed by the recent spate of terror attacks around the world.
"In a short span of 10 days, we saw five major terror incidents in some major cities, the latest of which was yesterday's senseless attacks in London. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their bereaved families.
"The attacks are ghastly reminders that we must remain vigilant in our struggle against the scourge of extremism. Singapore is not spared in this global fight. Singapore has already foiled two planned attacks so far, and we recently found out that one Arabic online publication had identified two Singapore buildings as potential targets. We must be prepared.
"At the same time, we must not let fear overwhelm us or drive a wedge between our communities, or we will play into the hands of the perpetrators.
"We must stand in solidarity, and stay strong in the face of adversity. If an attack does happen, we must bounce back stronger. We will not let terror take control of our lives.
"Singapore has a strong foundation of a harmonious multi-cultural and multi-religious society. I am confident that we will together win this war against the evil of terrorism."President Tony Tan Keng Yam in a post on Facebook last night
Thanks to these laws, radicalised individuals have been arrested over the past few years.
"But even with all that, don't assume that nothing will happen," said Mr Shanmugam, adding that more arrests will be revealed in the next few weeks.
Urging everyone to be involved in SGSecure - a nationwide movement to prepare Singaporeans for a terror attack - he added that those who know of family members or friends being led astray by extremist ideology should report them to the authorities.
"You are helping that person. You are helping society. You are helping the country.
"When you keep quiet, and an attack like this happens, and you know security forces cannot be everywhere, then you are doing a serious injustice to the system," he said.
He also encouraged both Muslims and non-Muslims to come forward and condemn these acts of violence.
Community leaders and religious leaders, too, should make sure people are tolerant of each other's cultures and religions.
"Anything else leads to society riven apart with deep rifts," he said.
In the same vein, Singapore also needs to guard against growing anti-Muslim sentiments. Internal surveys have shown that while people may be politically correct, such sentiments are growing.
The latest example is an act of vandalism reported by The New Paper on Saturday. The word "terrorist" was stuck on an illustration of a Muslim woman in a hijab on a hoarding at the upcoming Marine Parade MRT station.
"Non-Muslims have a duty to make sure that we also embrace our Muslim brothers and sisters, and the Government will work towards that," said Mr Shanmugam.