Are Singaporean youths nonchalant towards terrorism?
Just a few hours ago, a truck crashed into a crowd of spectators watching fireworks in Nice, France. This latest attack, which left over 80 people dead and more than a hundred injured, happened in the wake of recent ones in Saudi Arabia and Baghdad.
Terrorism has been edging closer to home. Even our neighbouring countries, Malaysia and Indonesia, have not been spared from attacks in the past month. Malaysia faced its first attack from ISIS on Jun 28, leaving eight people injured, while a suicide bomber killed a security officer on Jul 5 in Indonesia.
It is getting harder to say that Singapore will forever be safe from such attacks, yet it seems many Singaporean youths remain apathetic towards terrorism.
That is not to say we are ignorant though.
I polled 20 youths, all aged between 18 and 25, and found that the majority were aware of recent acts of terrorism through news shared over social media.
Amas Teoh from Temasek Polytechnic shared how the recent terrorist attacks in Malaysia and Indonesia have made him more concerned.
“I am actually quite worried that Singapore may be the next target as our neighbouring countries like Indonesia and Malaysia were victims of the recent bombings,” said the 19-year-old, who is pursuing a diploma in aviation management.
However, while youths seem aware of the threat of terrorism, the bulk of my respondents displayed a sense of apathy towards the whole issue. I tried to understand why, by probing further.
Firstly, youths feel they are unable to identify the face of danger.
While the government has increased police patrols in public places and also urged Singaporeans to stay vigilant, youths displayed scepticism and a sense of helplessness when asked how they would identify a suspicious person.
Some of my respondents highlighted how the stereotypical “suspicious person” in island-wide posters – usually someone with a black cap and duffel bag – is a far cry from how actual suicide bombers look in recent terrorist attacks.
Christopher Parwani, 20, a student from Republic Polytechnic, said: “The stereotypical image shown by the media may be unrealistic. The attacker might even be someone we did not even expect.”
Secondly, we have overwhelming confidence in our local security forces.
Our police have done well in preventing terrorist attacks here. From foiling an attempt to bomb Changi airport to the more recent arrests of self-radicalised locals, the successes of Singapore’s security forces are undeniable.
Nathania Chan, a final year veterinarian tech student from Temasek Polytechnic, said: “The government has been vigilant and successful in preventing potential terrorist attacks, so I believe that we are safe.”
However, having such overwhelming confidence in the government may not only result in a false sense of security, it may also cause us to take security for granted. This is especially worrying when our security forces themselves highlight their inability to deal with every threat to the nation.
Minister for Home Affairs and Law K Shanmugam warned us back in March that it was a matter of “when” and not “if” a terror attack hits [Singapore].
Zoey Tan, 21, an undergraduate from the National University of Singapore, noted the limits of Singapore’s well-equipped security system. She said: “I’m quite worried that an attack will happen here. I have confidence in our security forces, but no system is impenetrable.”
As a matter of fact, terror does not have a face and it is difficult to prevent every terrorist attack, which can happen anywhere at anytime.
Perhaps it is time we go beyond raising awareness to prevent an attack. Instead, we should educate Singaporeans on how to manage a crisis. If an attack on Singapore is really “a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if'”, then it might make sense for us to learn how to respond better to an incident on home ground.
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