Don’t stoke Islamophobia, says Singapore churches’ council

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SINGAPORE: As Singapore’s National Council of Churches called on Singaporeans not to see the Muslim community in negative light following the detention of a mother of one for radicalism, a group of ustaz urged Muslims to deal with the terrorism scourge seriously.

While the council of churches said the detention of Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari under the Internal Security Act should not be used to stoke the flames of Islamophobia, the seven laid out three measures Muslims should take to tackle Islamic terrorist ideology.

According to a report in The Straits Times (ST), the council noted in a letter to Mufti Fatris Bakaram and Abdul Razak Maricar, the chief executive of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, that the Muslim community had contributed significantly to Singapore’s progress and the strengthening of its multiracial and multireligious community.

“The actions of a misguided few must never be seen as representing that of the majority of Muslims here,” said the letter signed by council president Rennis Ponniah and general secretary Ngoei Foong Nghian. The letter was also posted on its website, said the ST report.

On Monday, Singapore’s ministry of home affairs announced that Izzah, a 22-year-old infant care assistant, had been detained earlier this month as she had been deeply radicalised and supported the Islamic State’s use of violence.

In saying it will pray for the Muslim community during this difficult time, the council urged Singaporeans to continue working together to ensure nothing jeopardised the country’s inter-religious harmony and peace, according to the ST report.

Meanwhile, seven ustaz and Islamic leaders urged Muslims to report individuals who had been influenced by radical ideology or who praised acts of terror committed worldwide.

“Violent ideology must be viewed as heresy, and must be reported to the authorities so that its influence can be constrained, and the individuals involved can be rehabilitated.”

They said the detention of Izzah showed that although the Muslim community had been warned about terrorist activities abroad and advised to steer clear of such activity, there were still members who had fallen prey.

“Being in multiracial Singapore, we need to be aware that our activities and actions will have impact and implications on other communities.

“This case will no doubt raise feelings of unease and anxiety among the other communities. They may be suspicious of the Muslim community, especially Muslim women who deal directly with the general public,” the ST quoted them as saying.

They urged the Muslim community to take decisive steps to ensure no one else became radicalised, adding: “This has become more urgent in the light of terror attacks happening around the world.”

They suggested that Muslims show Singaporeans that Islam was a religion of peace, and that it did not preach violence; ensure that they received Islamic religious knowledge from clear and credible sources and not from sources of unknown origin, including from online sources; and take proactive measures to reach out to other communities.

“We need to get close to our neighbours in any way, and we need to encourage all members of our community to take part in community events, so that people know who we are.

“They need to know we are just like them, and share the same aspirations in life. We also want to contribute to national development, and want good for all. Although many community activities have been carried out by many members of our community, this needs to be further improved,” The ST quoted the statement as saying.