Singapore

Places of worship should remain welcoming and open: Shanmugam

Minister rejects idea of beefing up security at places of worship, says they should remain welcoming

Places of worship should not be turned into fortresses but remain welcoming and open, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said yesterday, as he called on the wider community to instead counter radical ideologies by educating young people against far-right extremism.

Speaking to the media after a meeting between Christian and Muslim leaders at the Yusof Ishak Mosque in Woodlands, the minister responded to a suggestion that religious groups here beef up security at locations where worshippers gather.

"You go to a place of worship, you are approaching with a spiritual mindset. You are going there because you want spirituality, or you have problems or in some way you want a conversation with a higher being," said Mr Shanmugam.

"If we started turning places of worship into fortresses, how welcoming is that going to be? And is it really going to be effective anyway? I think we have to have a sense of balance here."

While those in charge of places of worship should be more alert, he said he would be careful about religious groups enhancing security measures.

"Security is everyone's business. Every person has got to look at things - are there bags left somewhere? Is someone behaving in a way that is odd? These are cues that one has got to pick up.

"We try to do that education through SGSecure," said Mr Shanmugam, referring to the national movement to sensitise, train and mobilise Singaporeans to play a part in preventing and dealing with a terrorist attack.

Saying Singapore's emergency forces are ready to respond to threats, he added: "I think we also need to keep our way of life, and our way of life means religious institutions are welcoming and open."

The minister attended the meeting between the religious leaders following the disclosure of a plot by a Protestant Christian youth to attack Muslims at two mosques here - Yusof Ishak Mosque and Assyafaah Mosque in Sembawang.

The 16-year-old Singaporean of Indian ethnicity has been detained under the Internal Security Act.

At the meeting, the religious leaders reaffirmed the mutual trust and understanding between the two religious communities, and condemned the terror plot.

Mr Shanmugam said he was heartened by the strong statements put out by the various religious authorities following news of the youth's detention, adding that Singapore's religious harmony, which is seen as a way of life, is unique and must be protected.

He noted that Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong, a Catholic, was the guest of honour at the Thaipusam festival yesterday at Sri Thendayuthapani Temple in Tank Road.

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