Youngsters must do part against extremism: Lawrence Wong

Second Minister for Communications and Information Lawrence Wong.

Extremist terrorism can easily damage the racial and religious harmony Singapore has worked hard for, and the younger generations here must do their part in the fight against extremism.

This was the message of Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong last Saturday at a closed-door dialogue with 350 young people from community and religious organisations, as well as institutes of higher learning.

He cautioned against taking the Republic's peace and security for granted during the event held at the Institute of Technical Education College Central, which was the first of what he hopes will be a "regular series where we can engage young people... on how the terrorism threat continues to develop, and to discuss what we can do about this".

"We should not be naive in thinking these threats are far away, they are in other countries, they don't affect us, and if we keep our heads low, the threats will pass us," cautioned Mr Wong.

"Make no mistake, the security threats we face are real and serious. And we have to do whatever is necessary to protect Singapore and Singaporeans... It also means contributing to international efforts to tackle the threat at source, which we are doing by being part of the coalition against ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria)."

Mr Wong cited the example of a Singaporean woman who took her 18-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son to accompany her husband to Syria, where she worked as a cook while her daughter taught English to the children of ISIS fighters.

"All of these recruits who have joined the fight support the terrorists... and they would be hardened by the violence they have seen and participated in. They may well return to the region, to Indonesia, to Malaysia and to Singapore. You will never know what consequences may arise," he said.

Aside from terror groups, a self-radicalised "lone wolf" can easily be moulded from the propaganda available online, he said. In 2013 for instance, two young Singaporeans "became fixated with radical videos and literature". One tried to join foreign militant groups and the other abetted him. Both were found out and placed on Restriction Orders.

"Our pioneers and seniors stood firm and responded to the terrorist threat resolutely. It's time for a younger generation of Singaporeans to take up the responsibility," said Mr Wong.

This article was first published on February 9, 2015.
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