Islamophobia poses a significant risk to Singapore’s social fabric and the Government, as well as the community, must recognise this risk and deal with it, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam. Speaking after a closed-door dialogue with 60 Madrasah students on Wednesday (Mar 30), Mr Shanmugam said they had raised concerns about Islamophobia and that it was an issue “obviously troubling them”. At the dialogue, which involved students ranging from Secondary 3 to pre-university level, Ms Afifah Shameemah Md Yusof recounted her experience from two years ago. “We were at a multi-racial camp and ironically someone made a terrorist joke about Muslims. And even though it was a joke, it of course affected us and hurt us deeply,” said the student from Madrasah Al-Maarif.
Mr Shanmugam said his fear is that although Singapore is unlikely to see violence towards Muslims in the near or medium term, non-Muslims in the country could start developing a set of attitudes internally as a reaction to terror attacks elsewhere in the world. He said that there are signs that this is already happening. “People will be too politically correct to express them, but internally they will start looking at Muslims differently. And that is something that will be destructive to the soul and spirit of Singapore that we have created – a multi-racial and multi-religious community where we embrace all races and live as one community,” he noted.
Mr Shanmugam urged the non-Muslim population to reach out and engage Muslims here so as to maintain the nation’s social cohesion. He also pointed out that Islamophobia plays “right into the hands of terrorists”. “They want you to marginalise the Islamic community, so that when the minority Muslim community feels marginalised and they feel discriminated, that’s when you get fertile ground for recruitment,” he said.