The community should be aware of the threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and take preventive measures, said Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli.
He urged parents, for example, to watch for signs of radicalisation in their children and report them early to the authorities so that they can be counselled.
"The Government's role is to ensure that our borders are secure, there is racial harmony and that we do not become a society that hates each other," added Mr Masagos, who was speaking to the media after the launch of the Global Security Asia conference and exhibition yesterday.
"But everyone has a part... We would like the community to be involved, be our eyes, our ears."
The biennial three-day event on security and terrorism at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre focuses on the threat of ISIS in Asia.
About 58 delegates from countries including Malaysia, the Philippines, Israel and France are attending. There are 168 exhibition booths on security solutions and technology, as well as weapons to combat terrorism.
Mr Masagos added that the ISIS threat has a "global effect", and that about 300 people in the region, including some Singaporeans, have gone to Syria and Iraq to join the group.
"Our concern is when and if they come back, what will they do? They become a new threat to our land. They would have been exposed to a very different world view in Syria, and when they come back, they may import those ideas," he said.
"We have two families participating in Syria. When they come back, we have to rehabilitate them."
His remarks were backed by security officials from across the region. Royal Malaysia Police Senior Assistant Commissioner Sahabudin Abdul Manan said: "Terrorism is not just in Syria, it's everywhere.
"There are people in this region who support ISIS or sympathise with them. This is dangerous, because they take the law into their own hands."
Senior Superintendent John Jambora of the Philippine National Police noted that the ISIS threat is an "international concern", adding that there are several Muslims in the Philippines who may be recruited for terrorism.
Conference chair Rohan Gunaratna, a professor of security studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said: "ISIS presents the most dominant terrorist threat to Singapore and the region.
"Its ability to radicalise and militarise individuals anywhere in the world is growing. Singapore will have to work with regional partners, primarily Malaysia and Indonesia, to reduce the threat."
This article was first published on March 4, 2015.
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