02 February 2016
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam recently warned of “social distancing” as a threat to Singapore’s multi-religious and multi-cultural harmony. Social distancing is in fact evidence of religious fundamentalism, which in tandem with other drivers, could potentially produce extremist violence downstream.
In a wide-ranging policy speech on 19 January 2016 Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam identified four inter-connected challenges to Singapore’s multi-religious and multi-cultural harmony: direct terrorist attacks; radicalisation of a part of the Muslim population; the Muslim population growing “somewhat distant” from the rest of the society; and Islamophobia among the non-Muslim communities. Much analytical ink has been spilled in recent months over the direct physical threat posed to Singapore by the likes of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its Southeast Asian affiliates, exemplified by the recent attacks in Jakarta; and the sharpening concern over young Singaporean Muslims being radicalised via exposure to slick ISIS ideological narratives online.
Where Mr. Shanmugam arguably broke new ground was his candid analysis of the remaining two worrying trends: the apparent social distancing of some Muslims from the wider community and anti-Muslim prejudice fanned by 15 years of the ongoing war against violent Islamist extremism. The notion of “social distancing” in particular deserves further unpacking.
… Kumar Ramakrishna is Associate Professor and Head of Policy Studies in the Office of the Executive Deputy Chairman, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
GPO / RSIS / Online
Last updated on 03/02/2016