Inter-communal tensions could breed extremism and threaten the region, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said yesterday, as he called on different communities to unite to counter extremism and violence.
Speaking at the 17th General Assembly of the Regional Islamic Da’wah Council of South-east Asia and the Pacific (Riseap), Mr Teo said: “Inter-communal tensions and distrust can be easily exploited by those seeking to divide society and advance their radical ideology.”
Formed in 1980, Riseap is an organisation for Muslim-minority communities in the South-east Asia and Pacific regions to work together and share best practices.
Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security, was the guest of honour at the event, which ends today and will see delegates from 24 countries coming together to strengthen ties, network and learn best practices.
In his opening speech at the Grand Hyatt hotel yesterday, Mr Teo underscored the importance of keeping a close watch on all exclusivist and divisive teachings or statements, no matter the religion.
He cited the ban on the works of preacher Rasul Dahri, who was jailed by Malaysian authorities last year for teaching Islam without accreditation, and also brought up the two foreign Christian preachers who were banned from speaking here as they had made inflammatory comments on other beliefs.
Religious leaders of all faiths have to contextualise their practices in the “multi-religious milieu” of their societies, said Mr Teo.
He asked for Riseap members and partners to build open, inclusive and integrated societies, which could strengthen relations among communities and encourage integration.
Mutual understanding and respect, he said, will provide a “strong reservoir of trust” that will help to counter extremism in all forms together and “promote social progress for all”.
“By building open, inclusive and integrated societies and contextualising religious practices to our multi-religious societies, we can build bridges of trust and mutual understanding among all communities, including our Muslim communities,” Mr Teo said.