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Planned terror attack a grim reminder we can’t let our guards down

Although Singapore prides itself on safety and cultural harmony, we must remain watchful against signs of radicalisation.

Jeremy Na
Jeremy Na

Just like that Khalid song, Young, dumb and broke. Ok maybe not dumb but definitely the other two.


Published: 31 January 2021, 7:40 PM

For many of us who take public transport, we’ve probably heard this line at least a few hundred times. 

“If you see any suspicious-looking person or article, please inform our staff or call 999.” 

But these reminders to report suspicious behaviour may have faded into nothing more than white noise. After all, living in Singapore means that everyone is so assured of our safety that we wouldn’t think that something like a terror attack would actually happen. 

The recent news of the 16-year-old who planned a terrorist attack, however, serves as a stark reminder that safety is something that’s not to be taken for granted. 

Sure, we were lucky that he got caught before he was able to enact his plan. Some might say that the authorities did exactly their jobs in catching the person before he could act on it. 

Yet, this incident got me reflecting. 

Personally, I’ve always thought the threat of terrorism always felt distant instead of real. Sure, we’ve had terror threats in the past, but those were few and far between. Living in Singapore means we are well protected and as such, the only times I read about terrorism were from the articles about incidents happening overseas. 

But for some reason, this case really touched a nerve. Much like other youths, it left me shocked and alarmed. 

How could someone that seemed so normal on the surface become radicalised to this extent? Even his family and friends were unable to tell. 

What surprised me most was the method in which he was radicalised. He wasn’t recruited online by some nefarious entity for their grand plan, or brainwashed by some authority figure. He was self-radicalised. 

After spending a substantial amount of time online, he found himself exposed to extremist media such as the livestreaming of terror attacks and ISIS propaganda videos. This, combined with his extremist far-right ideology, led to an immense hatred of Islam which prompted his attack.

When you take into account the fact that we are spending an increasingly large amount of time online, it does translate into a higher risk of radicalisation.

As the Internal Security Department (ISD) stated: “This case demonstrates yet again that extreme ideas can find resonance among and radicalise Singaporeans, regardless of race or religion. It is a threat to all of us and our way of life.”

We as Singaporeans cannot grow complacent in the face of safety. As a society that relies heavily on multiculturalism, any successful attack will have ramifications that extend far beyond the attack itself.

With this in mind, it is crucial to note the importance of staying vigilant and watch out for signs of radicalisation in people around us, whether it is a family member, a co-worker, or a schoolmate. No, we should not be paranoid, but there’s no harm in being a little more attentive.

Spotting the symptoms of radicalisation

There are a few ways to look out for signs of radicalisation. 

According to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), possible signs of radicalisation include: Expressing the belief that violence is justified, idolising and showing support or sympathising with terrorists and their causes, trying to influence others to support terrorism and/or participate in terrorist activity, as well as displaying insignia or symbols in support of terrorist groups.

Should you observe these traits in any of your peers or family members, it is imperative to try to speak to them and reach out to them to prevent them from going too far down the road. 

If you feel like you are unable to stop the person, then do not hesitate to contact the authorities. Early action will result in them being able to get the help they need and more importantly, will help keep everyone safe.

The Internal Security Department urges the public to stay alert to suspicious items and individuals, and to inform the authorities by calling 999, sending an SMS to 71999, or by using the SGSecure app.

As Singaporeans, we’ve all got a part to play in keeping our country safe.

Yes, the authorities have done a good job in keeping us safe, to the point that we are widely recognised in the international community as one of the safest countries on the planet. 

But all it takes is a single incident to derail us. So let us continue to remain vigilant to ensure Singapore remains a safe place for us all.


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