3. “The threat of religious terrorism to Singapore is more apparent than real”. Do you agree?
“Despite counter-terrorism successes by regional authorities, the terrorist threat in the region and to Singapore remains real.” – Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Law and Second Minister for Home Affairs (AsiaOne News, July 19th 2010) Introduction
Firstly, there is a need to clearly distinguish between apparent threat and real threat. This essay will adopt the definition that apparent threat will mean: threat that is perceived to be seemingly real or true on the basis of evidence that may or may not be confirmed. This is in contrast to the definition of real threat- threat that is existing or occurring in fact. In simpler terms, apparent threat will mean something that is a socially constructed belief while real threat is based on tangible, actual evidence. It has to be understood that religious terrorism should not be confined or stereotyped to one religion – Islam. There are other terrorist attacks by other religions in other parts of the world such as those by Jewish or Christian terrorists. However, for this essay, it will mostly be concentrated on Islamist terrorism. There are no recorded instances of religious terrorism occurring outside of the Islamic faith in Singapore. Also, there are other factors such as the high Muslim population in neighbouring countries and the existence of one infamous terrorist group in Singapore- the Jemaah Islamiyyah, or the Al-Jama’ah Al-Islamiyyah (AJAI) (Singh 2007: 51). This essay will take on the stand that the threat of religious terrorism in Singapore is more real than it is apparent. There is a socially constructed belief that the threat of a terrorist attack in Singapore is bound to happen. Moreover, this is further perpetuated by heads of states and relevant ministries constantly reminding Singaporeans that a terrorist attack is guaranteed to happen; and that it is just a matter of when. Even if they base these warnings founded on the notion of a perceived threat, we must still consider their statements to the media as those that carry weight; hence it is unlikely that these threats are merely based on presumptuous beliefs that Singapore will be attacked. Furthermore, even the education ministry has made a calculated move to carefully drill this “siege mentality”1 into our minds via compulsory social studies and history lessons. We have been made to believe that a terrorist attack is imminent, therefore this threat is real. Hence, this essay aims to show you why this threat is more real than apparent through vital evidences of religious terrorism in Singapore and the sources and outcomes of these terrorist activities. I will also debunk the dangerous assumption that the threat is more apparent than real. Religious Terrorism
It has to be understood that religious terrorism deviates vastly from the proper teachings of the mainstream faiths (Islam, Christianity, Jewish etc.). Terror group leaders of AJAI and Al-Qaeda, regarded as the “world's most dangerous international terrorist group”, are creating their own hybridization of religion (Chew, 2009). They justify their suicidal bombings (jihads) and acts of terror through their clever brand of interpretation of the Quran which they preach to their followers. This often leads to radicalisation and violent forms of extremism which precedes religious terrorism. Religious terrorism has been gaining greater publicity in Singapore compared to the last couple of decades due to the rising power of AJAI and their purported links to Al-Qaeda. AJAI acquired terrorist sentiments when one of its founders, Abdullah Sungkar, made contact with Osama Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda . Furthermore, the threat of religious terrorism became very real when in December 2001, a key terrorist plan by AJAI was discovered to involve organised bomb attacks on United States warships docked at the Changi Naval Base, Ministry of Defence of...
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