Muis to set up network to counter radical ideology
As extremists continue to peddle radical ideology online, Singapore's Malay/Muslim community is fighting back with a new network to counsel youth and prevent them from being led astray.
The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) will bring together religious teachers and youth groups who will also be trained to counter radicalisation.
Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim announced this at the Marina Mandarin hotel on Friday, at an annual Hari Raya gathering he hosts each year.
In a speech that took stock of the community's progress and outlined the work ahead, Dr Yaacob, who is Communications and Information Minister, noted that "the great challenge of our time is the radical ideology that has hijacked the name of Islam".
Last month, the authorities announced the detention of two radicalised persons, including the first female detainee, who were planning to travel to Syria to fight.
Urging family and friends to seek help early, Dr Yaacob said such inaction could harm social harmony.
"In overcoming our past challenges, the starting point has always been the resolve of our community. More than ever before, as a community, we must have the resolve to do what is right, especially to protect our young," he said.
The new network is an important step in the community's battle for the hearts and minds of its youth, to inoculate them from virulent radical teachings, and overcome the inhibition of discussing the thorny issue of radicalisation, he added.
The network will also serve as an avenue for people to seek religious advice or help for loved ones, with total anonymity, to help with earlier detection and intervention.
Muis said in a statement that more serious cases will be referred to the Religious Rehabilitation Group, senior Islamic scholars who counsel terror detainees.
Dr Yaacob also updated guests on the planned Islamic college Muis is setting up to nurture religious leaders.
Muis will also organise activities to mark its golden jubilee next year, including an international conference of religious scholars and engagements with the community.
Self-help group Mendaki, which turns 35 this year, will work with more institutes of higher learning to help students pick up skills.
It will start Socialthon, a platform for youth and industry experts to come up with solutions for various sectors.
Dr Yaacob noted that unlike many other minorities in modern democracies, the Malay/Muslim community has adapted well to life here.
It has survived challenges through its resolve and resilience, and ability to find solutions unique to Singapore's context, even as new challenges loom on the horizon.
"We must never give up and compromise on the core values that have held our community and nation together," he said. "We must stand firm that Singapore is our home which we love, care and protect with fellow Singaporeans. The future is ours to shape."