Our beloved Habib Hassan

Esteemed faith leaders

Friends

A very good evening and thank you all very much for inviting me to join you for such a meaningful and purposeful gathering.

During Ramadan season, I am always struck by this heightened community spirit of togetherness and warmth amongst Muslims, and between Muslims and non-Muslims. We see mosques opening their doors to welcome people from all races, religions and walks of life to break fast or iftar together.

And we know that other faith and social institutions have graciously offered and allowed their carpark spaces at churches, temples and schools, for Muslims to park while performing their nightly tarawih prayers at neighbouring mosques.

It is also heartening to hear from many of my Muslim constituents that their non-Muslim colleagues have reminded them to leave work on time such that they may have their iftar together with their families.

These are just some of the beautiful anecdotes of the Singaporean community or kampong spirit - people visiting each other; engaging one another; having meals together; looking out for one another, and accommodating to the other's requests or needs.

And we need to build on this foundation that our fathers have built for us, such that this kampong spirit and brotherhood can be kept intact, and possibly enhanced, for our children, and their children's children. As parents and community leaders, it is our obligation to ensure that our children's future is safe and secure.

It is therefore important for us to continuously explore means to maintain our peace and harmony. And being the world's most religiously diverse nation, our investment in interfaith harmony and cohesion is vital. We must ensure that religion is not used to divide us.

Unfortunately we kept hearing religion being used by some groups in various parts of the world to justify their violent acts. The recent terror attacks in Manchester, London, Paris and Tehran are stark reminders that no society can be fully sanitised nor immune from terror. We have seen in the past how terror elements, or extremism, have crept into our society.

We must clearly, categorically and collectively condemn any acts of terror. And we must not allow these incidents to seed doubts in our minds or sow discord in our hearts, which may cause racial or religious fault lines to exist.

Crises which happen overseas involving peoples of different faiths do not necessarily bear religious causes. Most are driven by local or regional politics, or tribal or sectarian differences. We must be consciously mindful that we do not allow our interfaith cohesion be breached by foreign issues.

That is why we must consciously and constantly seek ways to bring our people together, acquaint them with each other better, make them understand one another clearer, bond them closer together, remove any divisive elements or obstacles. Only then can we enhance the level of confidence and comfort amongst our society and hold together better, through thick and thin, especially for the sake of our children.

And as a Singaporean citizen, we owe our gratitude to all the interfaith leaders here today, for proactively taking this initiative to jointly reflect on, and help address, prevailing issues of concern to all Singaporeans. It is heartening to know all of you will continue to emphasize to your respective flocks that NO acts of terror anywhere in the world, and for whatever reasons, must be allowed to affect Singapore's unique and harmonious diversity. Indeed, it is our collective responsibility in the community to come together to identify and fight against extremism.

We must recognise that our social and inter-ethnic cohesion, our security is only as strong as the effort we continuously put into building it. We cannot take it for granted and must continue to build on what we have to ensure that we are able to withstand any shocks that may come our way.

Allow me to conclude by thanking all of you present today for your continuous effort and may your effort inspire and catalyze others to do likewise. Thank you very much and may I wish you - selamat berbuka puasa.

Source: MINISTRY OF DEFENCE (MINDEF)