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K Shanmugam: Vetting process may not have detected suspicious signs

“There have been a few arrests, but in the overall scheme of things, it’s isolated.”

PHOTO: BT

SINGAPORE – The two Singaporean auxiliary police officers issued with orders under the Internal Security Act (ISA) is a serious, but isolated case, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday (Jun 20), he said, “there have been a few arrests, but in the overall scheme of things, it’s isolated, and it is our duty to reach out and make sure the Muslim community continues to feel the bond, and be able to strengthen those bonds.”

“When they look at a police officer to deal with a problem, they don’t say, it’s a Malay officer, it’s a Chinese officer, or Indian officer. We don’t want our people to think along those lines.””

He added: “Incidents like this may cause them to think like that, and may cause employers to start looking at the race or religion of the employees they are seeking to employ.

“Thankfully, our social compact, the way we have worked on inter-religious, inter-racial confidence, the emphasis on being a very strong multiracial society with everyone having very good opportunities – all this will stand us in good stead and face up to this challenge.”

The non-Muslim community also has a responsibility to keep this in perspective, added Shanmugam.

Everyone has a part to play

According to Shanmugam, the Government has rolled out schemes like the Asatizah Recognition Scheme (ARS) to counter rising extremism.

The ARS is a compulsory certificate program launched on Jan 1, 2017 for all Islamic religious teachers. It was set up to enhance the standing of our religious teachers (asatizah) and to serve as a reliable source of reference for the Singapore Muslim community.

The Muslim community, meanwhile, should also reach out and take part in community activities, he said.

“You will always get a small minority, but the way to make sure the mainstream of your society is inoculated against this … is to make sure that you get the bonds deepened,” said Mr Shanmugam. “That can only happen if you take part in community activities, come together, sit together, eat together, play together and work together.”

– Minister of Home Affairs, K Shanmugam

VETTING PROCESS MAY NOT HAVE DETECTED SUSPICIOUS SIGNS

Shanmugam told the press that there were “no obvious signs” that the two men were radicalised, noting that he is “not sure” AETOS’s vetting process would have detected any suspicious signs when Khairul joined the force in 2015.

“I think it would be very wrong to suggest that employers start vetting Muslim candidates in a different way,” he said. “That would have a very opposite effect of what you want.”

Shanmugam also made reference to London’s Finsbury Park incident on Monday, where a man drove a van into Muslims leaving a mosque after prayers.

Responding to concerns about Islamophobia here, he said that Singapore is “far away from that”, “because of the series of steps we have taken, and the active efforts that we take to build the bonds within the community”.

But he stressed the importance of being watchful that people may start to have these kinds of feelings and thoughts, and that there is a need to deal with it.

“We have to make sure that the non-Muslim community understand that we have to continue as we have in the past, because a very substantial majority of our Muslim community is peace-loving and our brothers and sisters, and it is our duty to make sure our bonds are strong.”

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