Learning from the terror attacks

Learning from the terror attacks
Pakistani students shout anti-Taliban slogans during a protest in Karachi.

The terrorist outrage in Pakistan and the siege crisis in Sydney reveal dimensions of the terror threat that are dangerously relevant to Singapore.

The Taleban mass assassins who attacked a school in Peshawar, massacring children with almost biological hatred, show the savage depths to which terrorists are prepared to sink in support of their repellent "cause".

There is no reason to believe that their counterparts in the arc of militancy, stretching all the way from the Middle East to South-east Asia, are incapable of similar brutality towards the innocent.

The malevolence and persistence of the terror threat, manifested shockingly in Peshawar, underline the need to protect countries by using all the resources that the state can muster, from intelligence-gathering and preventive detention to the robust handling of criminal groups masquerading as religious partisans.

The Pakistani authorities will be held to their word that this is a point of no return in their war on terror.

Although the scale of the Sydney cafe siege was smaller and the casualties far fewer than in Peshawar, the ease with which a lone attacker succeeded in carrying out his nefarious plans cannot but resonate in another city which is open, multicultural and peaceful.

Even as the hostage-taking is investigated to determine whether security loopholes helped the attacker to mount it, Singapore must ensure that its contingency plans are sound enough to deter attackers or defeat them decisively in the event that an incident occurs.

Sydney was a reminder to the Singaporean public to abjure the fond belief that an attack cannot take place here.

There is yet another essential lesson from Sydney. The calm and united response to the barbarity attests to the national solidarity of the Australian people, born of social maturity and a history of religious coexistence.

Its idiomatic agency is encapsulated in the #illridewithyou hashtag on Twitter, whose popularity is a sign of the instinctive ability of Australians to separate the terrorist chaff from the Muslim wheat that is an essential part of their demographic landscape.

Terrorists have ambitious goals.

Their aim is not only to terrify the population but also to divide it.

Revenge attacks on religious minorities further the terrorist agenda by injuring the trust inherent in peaceful human relationships and the stake that minorities have in the body politic.

The best way to repel militants is to prove that their insidious tactics will not prevail.

The Community Engagement Programme, which involves Singaporeans in response plans, to be activated when a crisis occurs, plays an important role in containing the fallout from a terror attack. It must not destroy society.


This article was first published on December 22, 2014.
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