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46% of young adult Singaporeans open to religious extremist views being posted online, a worrisome trend

Such openness, according to some experts, is a cause for concern as the publication of such views can result in undesirable consequences such as hatred, incitement to rebellion, extreme intolerance towards other faiths and can even have serious effects on national security

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A white paper from the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) revealed that 46% of young Singaporeans would allow extremist views to be posted online and this includes things like deeming other religions as the enemy and posting it on social media and other platforms.

Such openness, according to some experts, is a cause for concern as the publication of such views can result in undesirable consequences such as hatred, incitement to rebellion, extreme intolerance towards other faiths and can even have serious effects on national security.

The paper’s authors — Dr. Mathew Mathews, Mr. Leonard Lim and Ms. Shanthini Selvarajan of the IPS, a Singapore-based think-tank — said that, “Given the rise of self-radicalisation in terrorist incidents, hate speech, and Islamophobia both globally and in Singapore, it is comforting that the majority of Singaporeans would not allow religious extremists to post their views online. But the significant quarter of the population, as well as higher proportions among the young, who would permit such freedoms is worrying.”

Director of the Centre for Interfaith Understanding, Mr Mohamed Imran Mohamed Taib, stressed that the younger generations — especially in a “deeply plural society” like Singapore — need to know that non-violent extremism can also have an adverse impact.

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“(Non-violent extremism) can seed prejudices, breed distrust, cause segregation and lead to hostility. It will not take much to spark violence when the general population is rife with prejudices, distrust and hostile perceptions and attitudes towards an out-group,” he said.

On this matter, an insightful question was posted by Mr Muhammad Faizal Abdul Rahman, a research fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies’ (RSIS) Centre of Excellence for National Security, who said: “Extremist content promotes the belief that humanity is in a perpetual state of conflict. Would this realisation make young Singaporeans appreciate better the necessity for emergency preparedness and safeguarding religious or racial harmony?”

Most young Singaporeans admitted that they are indeed more open to extremist views online, but also added that they have faith in their ability and those like them to draw a line at views that incite hatred or violence.

This so-called “openness” has been attributed to their exposure to the ideals of freedom of speech and expression . Others think that the youth have been “desensitised” to such views, precisely because of the freedoms they are now enjoying courtesy of the Internet and social media.

“Resilience is not nurtured by isolating ourselves from extremism, but by exposing ourselves to it, engaging with it, and repudiating it,” said one young and eloquent Singaporean.  /TISG

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