Malay/Muslim community is resilient but facing challenges: Shanmugam
Singapore's Malay/Muslim community can take pride in the significant progress it has made over the years and face the future with confidence, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam.
The community is better educated, has more assets and is more resilient, he told 400 Malay grassroots leaders and People's Association staff at a dialogue on religious harmony and resilience held yesterday at the Grassroots' Club.
Mr Shanmugam added that the Malay/Muslim community can be "a beacon in these troubled times".
In an hour-long speech, he highlighted successful members of the community and urged the community to continue working hard.
It must be successful and confident in its culture, traditions and religion as well as be integrated into Singapore's multiracial fabric, he said.
He also flagged several challenges facing the community, chief among them radicalism and terrorism. One worrying trend in the region is the rise of exclusivist views and the influence of foreign preachers who lead young men astray.
He singled out Mr Zakir Naik and Mr Ismail Menk, who have preached in the region.
Mr Naik has said Muslims cannot vote for non-Muslims or have Christians and Jews as friends, while Mr Menk has said it is blasphemous for Muslims to greet believers of other faiths during festivals such as Christmas or Deepavali.
"Unfortunately, in this region, no one is stopping this kind of teaching," said Mr Shanmugam.
He stressed that there are also exclusivist preachers from other religions, and the Government will take a tough stand on anyone who denigrates people's race or religion.
Mr Shanmugam also called on the community to stay alert for signs of radicalism, as radicalisation from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria-related propaganda can take as little as "one to two months".
Grassroots leaders can do more, by rallying Malay/Muslim residents to take part in community programmes and activities and helping them to understand the "multiracial ethos" of society, he added.
Other challenges he raised yesterday included challenges faced by Malay/Muslim professionals in finding employment and the community's over-representation in drug and crime statistics.
After his speech, Mr Shanmugam took questions from the audience in a closed-door dialogue. He was joined by Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing and Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin.