Singapore, Multi-Cultural, Multi-Religious

We’ve heard all these things before. But, have you ever wondered why we have become associated with such descriptions?

We, the citizens of Singapore, pledge ourselves as one united people. Regardless of race, language or religion…

We have internalized the words. We know what they mean.

In school, during National Service, in our HDB flats, we’re constantly surrounded by other races.

Imagine the shock then, when it was announced that two teens were arrested under the Internal Security Act for plotting to carry out acts of terrorism in Singapore.

Terror in the Little Red Dot

The first was student Mohd Arifil Azim Putra Norja’i, 19. The other was an unnamed 17-year-old student. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Arifil had made plans to join ISIS. Arifil was allegedly self-radicalized by propaganda he found online.



Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Teo Chee Hean said that “our community leaders have worked hard to counter radical ideology…”

The problem is, who are these leaders?

Are our religious leaders and inter-faith organizations doing enough to integrate the many religions here? Quick, off the top of your head, how many religious leaders or inter-religious organizations can you name?

What are these Inter-Faith Organizations doing?

One of them is called the Inter-Religious Organization (IRO) and they describe themselves as such:

IRO About us



Promoting peace and religious harmony are all good ideals to follow. The IRO says that they work quietly to promote peace and religious harmony but they are perhaps going about their business too quietly.

Look at the IRO’s events calendar and there is nothing on it.

Besides making the obligatory appearence at disasters or national events, nothing on the IRO appears in the news. Their last IRO news was about the 2012 General Meeting. If they can’t even maintain their own website, what then are they exactly supposed to be doing?

Who else are in the game?

Then there is the Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles (IRCC).

IRCC About Us


The IRCC is a government-supported initiative. They are supposed to promote racial and religious harmony at the constituency level.

But when was the last time you went to their events? Have you even heard about them?

IRO Peranakan


The last event they organised was on understanding Peranakan culture with a visit to the Peranakan Museum on May 23, 2015. But that was only in one constituency. Singapore has 27 constituencies. Where’s the engagement with the rest of the community?

These two are supposed to be the more prominent inter-religious organizations, and frankly most of us have never heard of them.

For those of us who identify with a religion, the community support given in our churches, mosques, and temples seem to be doing more to combat extremism and inter-faith tolerance than these organizations are.

Different Times, Different Challenges

The challenges facing us in the next 50 years will be different from the challenges that we have faced.

The way that these organizations engage us will also have to change. Otherwise, more like Arifil will start to emerge, shattering the peace and understanding we have worked so hard to secure

Singapore’s inter-faith communities are simply not doing enough.

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 Featured image via IRCC