Speech by Ms Low Yen Ling, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Education & Ministry of Trade and Industry, at the Debate of President’s Address, 25 Jan 2016, Parliament

Published Date: 25 January 2016 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Fighting Terrorism Inclusively

Countering ISIS with a caring & inclusive SG, & strong Singapore identity

1. Good afternoon Madam Speaker, and thank you for allowing me to participate in today’s debate.

2. We have heard from several Members their concerns about the threat of terrorism and the ISIS. A force that is insidious and growing, but not insurmountable.

3. If we stand back-to-back, join hands, hearts and minds, together we can collectively fight the battle to win this war.

4. Everyone, every Singaporean can fight terrorism. Each of us - from the doorman, to the clerk, lawyer, teacher or firefighter - has a responsibility for our collective security. The government can be our bulwark, but each Singaporean is needed to prevent terrorism from splintering our society.

5. May I suggest we counter the threat of terrorism with an ‘I-CAN’ approach:

  • I - an Inclusive society,
  • C -Community involvement,
  • A - Advancing and upholding our values, &
  • N - forging a strong National identity

6. In short, it is:“I-CAN”. This is a fight that calls on all Singaporeans to play a part in defending and protecting our home, people and land from the terrorist threat.

7. This is a battle beyond border controls, guns or law. We are waging a war for hearts and minds. The forces of terrorism capture the thoughts and desires of individuals and make them destroy their country, loved ones and home.

8. In an economic downturn or difficult times, it is even easier for any terrorist influence to play the card of race and religion to divide us. Potential fault lines like a wrong understanding of Islam, racial stereotyping, or a weak national identity can threaten us from within. Therefore, as one people, we must close ranks to build a fair, caring, cohesive and inclusive Singapore that leaves no space for the weeds of terrorism to grow.

9. Please allow me to elaborate on I - inclusive society.

I - Fighting terrorism with Inclusiveness

10. In President Tony Tan’s address of the 13th Parliament, he urged us to build a caring and inclusive Singapore. Building an inclusive society is our ultimate defence. For when members of a society care for one another in unity, divisive elements find it hard to take root.

11. Homegrown terrorism tends to be driven by disaffection, anger and the search for significance.2 Potential ISIS recruits are attracted by false sense of idealism and the promise of being able to change the world.

12. By strengthening our community bonds, and building trust across races, we weave a tight network against these warped ideologies. By caring for the marginalised and weaker members of our community, an inclusive society is able to desist the lies of radicals like the ISIS seeking to lure the disenfranchised.

C - Community involvement & all hands on deck

13. The fight against terrorism belongs to us all, each and every Singaporean. Only a whole-of-society response can nullify this clear and present danger. To do this, we need all hands on deck - community involvement from self-help groups like the CDAC, Mendaki, SINDA, Eurasian Association and bodies like the IROs, People’s Association as well as VWOs and NGOs.

Make social harmony a priority

14. Together, we must continue to make social harmony a priority. Without it, Singapore would not be where it is today nor can we progress. At every level of our society, we must continue to strive to foster mutual understanding, tolerance and respect, and enable Singaporeans, regardless of race, language or religion, to flourish in diversity and harmony.

15. Social harmony and inclusiveness promote trust across religions and strengthen community bonds. To this end, inter-faith dialogues and initiatives such as the Community Engagement Programme (CEP) must continue to play a role in uniting Singaporeans, foster mutual understanding, multi-racialism and multi-culturalism.

Total Defence

16. By safeguarding and upholding religious and social harmony, we are each doing our part to boost our strategy of Total Defence that comprises military, civil, economic, social and psychological defence. The community can act as an early warning system for police and intelligence services. Social workers and family members can work upstream to prevent potential ISIS recruits from being radicalised. Together, we can work to prevent potential fallout from social disenfranchisement by strengthening families and marriages, keeping open communication lines between races, and educating the public on their role in our collective fight against terrorism. With everyone chipping in, we can achieve an inclusive Singapore.

IS - Inclusive Singapore

17. With everyone chipping in, we can achieve an inclusive Singapore. We have made progress with the Pioneer Generation package, Medishield Life and the rollout of master plans for enabling those with disabilities, the elderly and improving social assistance. For both low-income and middle-income Singaporeans, real incomes have increased five to six times since 1965. In terms of social mobility, 14% of those with lower-income parents end up in the top 20% of incomes. 1 In the U.S, only about 7.5% do so. Singaporeans have also stepped up in support through social entrepreneurship and charity giving.

18. Most importantly, an inclusive Singapore will unite Singaporeans and counter potential fractures of marginalization and disaffection that could make us vulnerable.

Threat of radicalisation

19. However, inclusiveness does not come naturally. We have to continue to work hard at it, and it takes time. In addition, radicalisation is not limited to those on the fringe. One of our first self-radicalised individuals in 2007 was a lawyer named Abdul Basheer Abdul Kader.

20. A Quebec University psychology professor who has studied hundreds of terrorism examples, Mr Jocelyn Bélanger, suggests that radicalisation stems from the fundamental and universal human quest for significance. He found proof that “feeling humiliated and ashamed were predictors of radicalisation and willingness to die for a cause.” He further explained, “Neuroscientific evidence shows that the part of brain associated with social exclusion and physical pain is the same. It means, when you’re being ostracized, not included, you’re physically hurt.”

21. Therefore inclusion is vital, and education is key to guiding this fundamental human drive.

Educating the public

22. Through education in the public sphere and in schools, we can promote the right understanding of Islam, encourage Singaporeans to be inclusive, show respect and tolerance, prevent marginalisation and uphold our nation’s founding principles of justice, equality and meritocracy.

A - Advance our goals of meritocracy, equality and opportunities for all

23. By upholding these inclusive values, we snuff out the erroneous ideology of terrorism.

24. Our pledge of “being one united people, regardless of race, language or religion”, based on “justice and equality” will keep our nation united as we defend and uphold it across all sectors of our society. Be it in education, the economy or social sector, Singaporeans must safeguard, live up and hold fast to these principles.

Inclusive values as a vanguard against terrorism

25. As President Tan outlined in his opening address, the Government seeks to make our nation a place where every individual, regardless of background, can do well as long as he applies himself or herself. We will continue to invest heavily in education, from pre-schools to institutes of higher learning. Our diversity in higher education makes for an inclusive Singapore. There will be no let-up in our efforts to improve healthcare, transport and infrastructure.

26. As the economy re-structures, we continue to strive to create opportunities for all. The introduction of SkillsFuture and the Committee on the Future Economy serve to advance the interests of Singaporeans at large, and secure the prosperity and progress of our people. As we reaffirm our fundamental values, we value our people and, ultimately protect ourselves from terrorism.

N: A strong National identity

27. As a form of defence, Madam Speaker, may I suggest that we take a fresh look at how we can fortify our Singapore identity and national pride?

28. The love for our nation is preventive medicine to the toxins of ISIS. Nationalism and positive fervor for our country is counter defence against the emotional pull of radicalised terrorists, who are sadly, ready to even give up their lives for a broken ideology. Having a strong national identity gives us rootedness, connections and a deep sense of belonging to one another, and our homeland.

I Love SG

29. The time is now - one year after SG50 - to fortify, validate and let our Singapore pride shine. During the Jubilee year, we shared a sense of unity and national pride like never before.

30. We saw a glimpse of this fierce and protective love expressed during the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Singaporeans of different races, ages and beliefs were united in grief. Under the blanket of mourning, a special sense of togetherness, a special sense of kindness and a special sense of Singaporean-ness emerged. As we waved Singapore flags to bid Mr Lee farewell, there came too, a realisation of what our little red dot has achieved - encapsulated in the life and travails of our Founding Father.

31. This emerging honest and fierce pride can defend us against the threat of extremism. It can keep Singapore strong and free.

Fortify our Singapore identity

32. Post-SG50, we need to fortify our Singapore national identity, values and aspirations. In an interview by The New Yorker, a young French Socialist politician named Nicolas Cadène said that one of the reasons for the rise of extremism in France was because it had failed to create a national story that included all its citizens. 3

Forge the Singapore narrative

33. So, what is our Singapore narrative today? What are our guiding principles and values we want to enshrine - old and new, that can lead us towards SG100? What is our Singapore dream? While the SGFuture dialogues that have started help us answer some of these questions, we need to waste no time in forging a strong post SG50 Singapore identity that can withstand the onslaught of globalized terrorism and its insidious penetration.

34. And indeed our common Singapore identity, values and dreams will give us the rootedness and strong ground from where we can stand to fend off the enemy’s aims to alienate and divide.

Celebrate SG

35. It may sound antithetical but celebrating our Singapore culture, identity and uniqueness is soft power to fight the harsh and cruel sting of terrorism. Our collective identity, values and aspirations and inclusive Singapore narrative rise up to form a formidable psychological defence. I can! We can!

36. Finally, we will not cower under threat. We are to always be alert but not afraid. Like fighting a virus, the harder we fight, the stronger we get.

37. On this note, Mdm Speaker, please allow me next, to say a few words in Mandarin.


38. 有了和平稳定,就会有发展。有了和平稳定,我们辛苦所建立起来的一切,才能够持续下去。

39. 有了和平稳定,我们的下一代,才能够在良好的环境当中,健康茁壮成长。

40. 因此,我们一定要非常努力,致力维护和平稳定,不要让恐怖袭击,破坏我们辛辛苦苦建立起来的一切。


41. 面对可能发生的恐怖袭击,我们一定要做足全面防卫,包括了军事,民防,经济,社会和心理这5大防卫。说到这里,我要和大家分享5个字:诚、信、勇、忠、和 。

42. 首先,诚,代表坦诚,开诚布公的讨论所面对的难题。在我国这个多元种族、多元文化宗教的社会,各族群只有通过开诚布公的分享讨论,才能够加强了解,才会发现原来大家担忧的,同样是我们国家未来的命运,珍惜的,同样是我们社会的繁荣稳定。另外,也只有坦诚面对问题,我们才能够做最好的准备。诚,是我们全面防卫的基础。

43. 信,代表维护信任。信任是非常脆弱的,信任要建立起来并不容易,但是却非常轻易就能够遭到破坏。而且信任一旦被破坏,就很难将伤痕愈合,。所以我们一定要坚决维护族群之间,这么多年建立起来的信任,不论是个人还是社团,都有责任维护这份信任。

44. 勇,代表勇气。面对可能发生的恐怖袭击,我们一定要团结、勇敢面对,如果我们逃避,我们将更有可能、更快成为目标,如果我们不当一回事,袭击发生的时候,我们将措手不及。因此,我们必须做好准备,勇敢面对。

45. 忠,代表对新加坡的效忠。不管我们是华族、马来族还是印度族,我们新加坡人拥有的,只有彼此。因此,我们必须效忠国家,效忠新加坡,努力维护我们共同建立起来的家园。


46. 最后,和,和平、和谐的“和”。在我们华族文化当中,而且我相信在我们东南亚的传统价值观当中,“和”,是一个共同的核心价值观。

47. 在这里,我要和大家分享三个“和”,首先,我们个人处理问题的时候,最好是能够“心平气和”,大事化小,小事化无;第二,所谓“家和万事兴”,家庭一定要保持和谐安乐,才能够人财兴旺。国家也是一样,一定要维持和平稳定,才能够繁荣进步;第三,社会上,人与人之间,一定要“以和为贵”,所谓“和气生财”,这点和“家和万事兴”的道理,是一样的。

48. “和”,在阿拉伯语,在伊斯兰教里,也是一个核心的价值观,大家都知道,回教徒见面的时候,问候语就是“As-salamu alaykum” ,也就是“和平与您同在”或是“祝您平安”的意思,英语的翻译是“peace be upon you”。

49. 可见大家心灵上所追求的,都同样是和平、和谐、幸福。


50. 我们一定要珍惜现在所拥有的和平、和谐和幸福。

51. 新加坡未来的发展,有赖于区域的和平、社会的和谐、国家的稳定,人民才能够创造幸福。

52. 因此,希望大家能够谨记“诚、信、勇、忠、和”,让我们传统价值观的养份,引导我们站稳脚步,将心比心,为我们的下一代,开创和平稳定、包容温馨、的新加坡!

53. 谢谢!

  1. The Economic Society of Singapore SG50 Distinguished Lecture by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Tharman Shanmugaratnam http://www.mof.gov.sg/news-reader/articleid/1522/parentId/59/year/2015?category=Speeches
  2. How everyday Canadian Martin Couture-Rouleau became a terrorist, Calgary Herald http://calgaryherald.com/news/national/9999-lang-how-radicalize
  3. The New Yorker, 31 Aug 2015 http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/08/31/the-other-france
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