S’pore is a prized target for ISIS

Singapore has so far remained an infertile ground for extremism.

By Belmont Lay | September 29, 2017

Bilveer Singh, an associate professor and learned man at the National University of Singapore Department of Political Science, has explained in an article in The Diplomat about why Singapore is a legitimate, just and prized target for terrorism.

His June 28, 2017 piece also explains why the most likely perpetrator of a terrorist attack on Singapore is the Islamic State (ISIS) and its network of affiliates in the region.

He wrote this piece months before it was reported that a 39-year-old radicalised Singaporean appeared in an ISIS propaganda video — a reality that has really hit home.

Why is Singapore a prized target?

This point might appear obvious enough, but it could do with some explaining.

Singapore is viewed as a high value target due to a lot of prior history stemming from the conception of modern Singapore and how she conducts herself on the economic and international stage.

According to Bilveer, Malay extremists view Singapore as an illegal creation. The city-state was historically part of Malay land but has been transformed into a Chinese majority country.

Singapore is also perceived to be hostile to Malay-Muslim interests at the regional and global level, especially through its close ties with the West, the United States, and even Israel.

Allies of these countries, such as France, United Kingdom and Belgium, have all been on the receiving end of retributive attacks.

Singapore’s vigilance and vulnerability

Singapore has so far also been terrorism-free.

Making any headway on that front will be a great psychological boost for terrorists internationally, showing that Singapore can be hit despite its resolve.

It will also be seen as a milestone breach, as al-Qaeda and its regional affiliate, mainly the Jemaah Islamiyah, have failed to do anything previously over more than one decade.

Moreover, many arrests have made the ground infertile for ISIS propaganda and support in Singapore, owing to the robust counter-terrorism measures put in place domestically.

Clear and present dangers

In time to come, though, the likely end of the Islamic State in Raqqa, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq, will happen.

And when these territories fall, ISIS fighters overseas will return back to Singapore’s surrounding regions, which will likely raise the security threat here.

And those returning are credible threats as they have been battle-hardened.

But it should be noted that the threat of ISIS has been prevalent since 2014.

Analysts would assess the security situation to have maintained at the same levels, or perhaps, worsened since then.

Via The Diplomat:

Since Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the creation of the so-called Islamic State and caliphate in June 2014, Singapore has been directly and indirectly targeted for attacks. Singapore’s national flag was included in a list of the “enemies,” members of a coalition at war with the Islamic State. A number of targets for attack in Singapore have also been identified, including the Singapore Stock Exchange and its sprawling port. Singapore has also been clearly listed as part of the Islamic State’s Southeast Asian province (or wilayat) under its emir, Isnilon Hapilon.

With Singapore already viewed as the capital of capitalism in the region, the foundations for the ideological battle were long laid.

Bilveer also wrote:

Ideologically, Singapore has been consistently labeled as being part of the “crusader coalition,” being a “disbeliever” and a “thaghut” (enemy) and hence, a legitimate and just target for attack. As Singapore is part of the “Operation Inherent Resolve” coalition that is fighting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, a consequence of this has been the call on local, regional and global jihadists to punish Singapore for being at war with the Islamic State.

In practical terms, relying on our bigger neighbours to ensure our security will never be breached is only part of the solution.

Singapore is not in this fight against terrorism alone. It will also be less likely to prevail without regional cooperation.

But it is cold comfort given how one of our own has taken up the fight for the opposite side.

Top photo via screengrab from YouTube

About Belmont Lay

Belmont can pronounce "tchotchke".

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