In a Channel NewsAsia report dated 3 October (Tuesday), it is reported that Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said in Parliament that authorities will be reviewing legislation and studying ways to counter the threat of hate speech and extremist teachings.
Mr Shanmugam was speaking on the motion “staying united against the terrorism threat” filed by four members of the House – MP for Holland-Bukit Timah Christopher de Souza, MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar, MP for Bukit Batok Murali Pillai and Jurong GRC MP Dr Tan Wu Meng.
The Minister stated that religious teachings must be aligned with the national’s values, saying that, for example, the country except distinguish Islamic scholars to share their experiences.
“But it is important to be clear on the practices which will not work here and we have to be careful that we do not import the religious conflict from other countries,” he stressed.
The Minister stated thatMHA is also coming up with more ways to deal with hate speech.
“We are studying whether we need to move more quickly, and have more options to deal with this particular issue appropriately and decisively,” he said.
The Minister said the ministry is considering suggestions on how to prevent radicalisation earlier, saying that the number of Singaporeans detained under the Internal Security Act has increased while more than 40 foreign workers and maids have been radicalised since 2015. The Ministry supports the proposal for an Islamic college to train religious teachers who understand Singapore’s multi-religious and multiracial context.
The minister also highlighted the risk of copy-cat attack,
He noted that there have been calls for Singaporeans to copy terrorist attacks launched overseas using vehicles, knives and day-to-day implements. He said, “We do not say much about this but it is there. Last year, we picked up someone who was intending to go to the Middle East to fight, and he was a driver of a large dump truck.”
Mr Shanmugam stated that to win the “psychological battle” of staying united as a society after an attack, Singapore needs to strengthen its social cohesiveness, and affirm multiracialism as a fundamental principle of Singapore society.
Citing examples of troubled race relations across the world, Mr Shanmugam said, “We don’t have in Singapore movements titled ‘Black Lives Matter’, because to us, all lives matter.”
Mr Shanmugam reiterated that Singapore takes an “activist” approach to maintaining racial harmony.
He said, “Singapore’s approach – as I have sketched out is to build a Singapore identity that can accommodate diversity and celebrate our different racial and religious identities, whilst at the same time creating a broad common space that we all share, as Singaporeans.”
“That’s an ongoing journey. It has to be continuously adjusted and refined as circumstances evolve both locally and internationally,” he ended.
Commenting on the news, online readers questioned how the government is keeping the racial harmony itself, particularly referencing to the Reserved Presidential Election.
Gerrard Leow wrote, “Your team’s “practice” of this year Presidential election is totally unacceptable. Let’s see if you and company can still maintain 69.9% in the next GE.”
Kenneth Low wrote, “What is acceptable and not acceptable? Like who is Malay and who is not?”
Pat Eng wrote, “Anyway regardless of race, language and religion as in our Pledge no longer holds true. What a pity after holding it true for 52 years.”
Zaidi Abu Irfan wrote, “It is time to have minister in charge of Christian affairs, Hindu affairs, Buddhist affairs etc.
Islam is the minority religion yet have a minister in charge of it.”
Kumar Nathanael Elijah wrote, “We do not have a “Black Lives Matter”, because all protests, no matter how peaceful will be swiftly dealt with the law unless it’s tucked away obscurely in Hong Lim Park under the watchful eyes of note taking plainclothes policemen.”
Eric Cheong wrote, “Mr. Shanmugam, your Permanent Secretary lead you with the speech & comments?
From your “Home Team was abused”, clearly shown that you are being lead by your PS. Poor Minister.”
Kumar Nathanael Elijah wrote, “Extremist teaching. Like the unassailable right of our political elite to change laws as and when it pleases them, even contrary to logic and rationale, and for our courts to reiterate that the parliament’s will is stronger than the letter of the law.”
Kenneth Kwan wrote, “Probably our government in the midst of drawing n implementing policies that encourage non divisive practice and governance. But at the same, they are master maven in distraction, diversion, debatable, disputable, and dichotomy tactics!”
Theodore Than Jun Wen wrote, “Your team’s “practice” needs to be re-looked and realigned to the interest of the citizens and not the benefit of your team.”
Ramos Maria wrote, “You guys use race to suit your political agendas. Your policies continue to marginalise the Malays and Indians in Singapore. It’s called color-bar policies.”
Any Yreo wrote, “Everything and every time when he speak is about tightening! I am wondering is Singapore really so loose!”
Haziq Rosli wrote, “What is acceptable and not acceptable?
You talking about Amos Yee right? The US gave him the thumbs up. He got the last laugh and your shiny head is not happy right?”
Chin Hua Yak wrote, “He cannot even integrate and unite all the Malays but yet want to integrate and unite all the races.”
Andrew Lee wrote, “Is he referring to the reserved president election?”
Some agreed with what he said and asked him to do something about the hate comments written by Burmese on various Facebook posts.
Sway Choon Lim wrote, “It is about time. Look at the hate comments by the Burmese residing here encouraging and supporting their generals in the genocide of the minority.”
Mohammed Fairoz S wrote, “The government should read what is written by Myanmar nationals on Facebook! They supported violence and genocide in Rakhine! The government should re-look our policy on immigrants and workers from Myanmar! Perhaps a ban is absolute necessity now.”
Maliq Abdul wrote, “Hate, Islamophobia, and racist comment by Myanmar nationals on Facebook. What is the policy for hiring Myanmar workers here? They really hate Muslim people.”