The recent terrorist attack allegedly perpetrated by a 28-year-old self-proclaimed “white supremacist” Australian man against Muslim worshippers in two mosques in the city of Christchurch on Friday (15 Mar) was “a horrific massacre”, said Singapore’s Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam.
Mr Shanmugam condemned the act in a Facebook post the same day the shooting took place, and was shocked that such a heinous act was carried out in a country as peaceful as New Zealand.
New Zealand, added Mr Shanmugam, is often viewed as “a model of race relations”.
“Our prayers are with the victims and their families. It is heart breaking that people, praying in a mosque, should be mowed down,” said Mr Shanmugam.
Mr Shanmugam also condemned what he had labelled as an “Islamophobic” remark by Australian senator Fraser Anning.
Senator Anning, in responding to the news regarding the terrorist attack, branded Islam as “a violent, fascist religion, and said it promoted savage beliefs”, in addition to having villified Prophet Muhammad and blamed Muslim immigration for the massacre.
“The real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place,” he added.
Senator Anning further said that “those who follow a violent religion that calls on them to murder us, cannot be too surprised when someone takes them at their word and responds in kind”.
“The Senator’s Statement is sickening. It is completely unacceptable. And he issued it when people are grieving,” charged Mr Shanmugam.
Crucial for societies to combat rising Islamophobia and extreme right-wing ideology: K Shanmugam
A day after the terrorist attacks, Mr Shanmugam told the media, as quoted by The Straits Times: “When you see the face of the person who was alleged to have committed the crime, I think you see the face of evil.”
Speaking after a grassroots event, Mr Shanmugam also highlighted, in the aftermath of the New Zealand terrorist attacks, the need to combat rising Islamophobia within societies, and to clearly draw the line between free speech and hate speech.
“Just as we come down hard on terrorists who say that they attack on behalf of Islam, you got to come down hard equally on Islamophobic people.
“Also, you got to deal with the ideology … It’s not just dealing with specific incidents,” he added.
“For that you got to start by acknowledging that it is there. When you do not acknowledge it, the problem just grows.”
The role of the authorities, he said, lies in regulating speech targeted at sowing discord and unrest amongst citizens in Singapore.
“We try and draw a line and a fairly strict line, whether it is in the form of entertainment or preaching … Anything that interferes [with] or attacks other peoples’ religions, race,” ST quoted him as saying.
Responding to queries regarding whether the authorities will ramp up security at religious sites in Singapore following the New Zealand attacks, Mr Shanmugam said that strict laws against hate speech and use of firearms have already been put in place, but nonetheless the Republic remains on high alert.
Mr Shanmugam also warned Singaporeans against sharing the footage of the massacre.
“I would urge people who have come across this to really not spread it … because we are giving the gunman and the right-wing ideologists exactly what they want by spreading it.
“Please delete it. And don’t spread it,” he stressed.
Following Mr Shanmugam’s remarks, the Singapore Police Force has reminded the public against circulating any footage concerning the attacks, and to delete such videos should members of the public receive them.
PM, President, and Foreign Minister among other Singaporean leaders who condemned NZ terrorist attack
On the day the attacks took place, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in his condolence letter to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, wrote: “Precious, innocent lives were lost, and many were injured,” and added that “Singapore strongly condemns the vicious and mindless act of terror”.
“This heinous act is an attempt to spread fear and hatred. We must not allow such acts to divide our societies,” added Mr Lee.
President Halimah Yaacob, in her letter to New Zealand Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy, wrote that she “was appalled to learn of the attacks on Masjid Al Noor and Linwood Masjid in Christchurch on March 15, 2019”.
“On behalf of the people of Singapore, I convey our deepest condolences to the bereaved families of the victims, and wish those injured a swift recovery,” she added.
Madam Halimah also wrote that Singapore condemns the “senseless act of violence against innocent civilians at places of worship”, and that the Republic’s “thoughts and prayers are with New Zealand during this difficult time”.
Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan also wrote to New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters, stating that the terrorist attack was an “unforgivable act of violence that goes against the principles of harmony and tolerance”.