Alsoknown as Islamic State (IS) and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), theIslamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a terrorist militant group, known forits brutal assaults on civilians. Its roots traced back to the U.S.
invasion ofIraq in 2003. Thousands of Sunnis formerly loyal to Saddam Hussein were leftjobless and became mad when the U.S. administrators, under Paul Bremer, decidedto “de-Baathify” the Iraqi civil and military services. Since then, al Qaeda inIraq was established to retaliate against U.S. troops in Iraq.
It has spreadthe vengeance spirit beyond its territories, particularly into large areas inthe Middle East. This self-proclaimed caliphate has claimed responsibility forthe many terrorist attacks around the world, and destroyed many monuments, buildingsand temples. They have also inspired “lone-wolf” terror attacks by sympathizersin other parts of the world such as Ottawa and Sydney. Currently, there are manycountries fighting together against ISIS.
Singaporehas been targeted by several terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and the JemaahIslamiah, yet ISIS is currently the one posing the most significant threat inrecent years. ISIS had plotted to carry out a few attacks against Singapore,which were fortunately immediately dealt with by the Singapore authorities andprevented. In August 2016, the Indonesian authorities prevented the KatibahGonggong Rebus, a Btam-based terrorist group, instructed by the Indonesian ISISgroup based in Syria, from launching a rocket attack against the Marina BaySands integrated resort from an outer island of Batam. Clearly, Singapore is a keytarget of these terrorist groups. This is made evident when Singapore was citedas a target in jihadist publications and videos, on top of the attempted terrorattacks. In September 2015, an ISIS publication which listed Singapore as amember of the “crusader coalition” ISIS was fighting against was released. And again,in May 2016, an ISIS video named Singapore (among other countries) as a countryinfiltrated by “disbelievers” and threatened the “tyrants” of the country.
Thismay be largely because Singapore is a secular democracy and is very relevant tothe Western world as host to many of the economic and commercial interests ofthe Western nations. On top of that, Singapore has taken part in severalinternational coalitions against terrorism. Currently, ISIS remains the most significantthreat to Singapore.ISIS’intentions are clear – to get more attention, inflict damage and thus spreadfear. It wants to break down the psychological resilience and social fabric oflocal communities, to cause divide between communities.
Singapore has seen atleast two citizens joining ISIS. This is a very real issue. Singapore treat suchthreats seriously as it is very vulnerable due to its small size and it beinglocated between two large neighbours, Malaysia and Indonesia. Terrorism hashighlighted the importance of societal resilience. Because it is a multi-racialsociety, Singapore need to maintain racial harmony among its variouscommunities.
Especially in times of extremism and terror like now, Singaporeansneed to build social resilience and stay united. Insensitivity may sparkmisunderstandings and create tension among various races which can potentiallyturn any one of us into a terrorist. According to the Senior Minister of Statefor the Ministries of Defence and Foreign Affairs, Dr Maliki Osman, thisentails building and investing in relationships with each other, having properunderstanding and trust amongst the different races and religions, andrejecting discrimination against fellow Singaporeans.TheSingapore government has taken many preventive measures like enhancingprotective security measures for buildings and premises.
It also constantly upgradesits capabilities and modifies its operational set-up, training the security andpolice response forces to be well-prepared, both mentally and physically. Despitethe government’s effort, Singapore is still not completely safe from terrorismand will never be. However, Singaporeans can do their part to make Singaporesafe by portraying community vigilance, cohesion and resilience. To encourage Singaporeansto play a more active role, the Community Engagement Programme was introducedand has since brought community leaders together, building ties between differentraces and religions. SG Secure, which represents the national strategy to safeguardSingapore against such threats, was launched and has successfully been madeknown to members of the public.
However, with all these campaigns and talks,many Singaporeans remain unclear and confused, not knowing the danger that surroundsthem or how to deal with it. The government needs to continue reaching out tocitizens and ensuring they are equipped with right skills while the citizens oughtto help spread the message and raise awareness about this issue among fellow Singaporeans.