Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. (Photo by Roslan Rahman/AFP)
Conflicts in other parts of the world must not affect the racial and religious harmony in Singapore, the city state’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said.
Singapore has to try protect itself against conflicts in other countries such as Iraq and Syria, he said.
Lee was speaking to around 300 community leaders at a dialogue on terrorism and Islamophobia at the ITE College Central in Singapore.
Attacks by terror groups like Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) can affect the way people view Muslims in Singapore, he said.
"We have to expect the recent spate of ISIS-inspired attacks in the world, the situation in the Middle East, around us, and... even in Singapore, to have caused some doubts and qualms among Singaporeans," he said.
It is therefore vital that racial and religious harmony remains strong, he said.
Despite ISIS suffering setbacks in Iraq and Syria, the group remains "a magnet for religious extremists," Lee told the gathering.
Some followers will return to Southeast Asia, Lee added, pointing to the recruitment of fighters from Malaysia and Indonesia and the conflict in the Philippine city of Marawi.
In Singapore, foreign workers are being radicalised, and a steady trickle of Singaporeans being self-radicalised, the Straits Times newspaper reported.
Extremist teachings are creeping into the mainstream and will weaken racial harmony if they take root, the newspaper said.
Lee called on community leaders to tackle these problems by repairing harm done by external events, and strengthening trust between the different faiths.
"Racial and religious harmony … in Singapore is very precious," he said. "What we have didn't happen by chance."