Let’s not lose our humanity in our desire to eradicate ISIS

There have been a number of reactions online about the Paris attacks. One by Devadas Krishnadas calls for tackling Islamic extremism using “strong laws, capable intelligence and security forces and hard headed leadership with backbone”.

In addition, Devadas calls us to “police each other in the cyber world and report to the authorities any indication of violent tendencies or sympathy for those who practice terrorism, racial or religious hatred. We must be prepared to constrain the speech of those who espouse or sympathise with violent extremism whatever the claims to legitimacy.”

This sounds like the beginnings of a police state. Like Nazi Germany. Very Orwellian. It’s no wonder that someone in a comment in the thread called Devadas a proto-fascist.

But it is understandable why Devadas said what he did. In fact, I agree with some of what Devadas said about needing tough laws and strident action. But some of the comments on his post are unforgiveably terrible. Particularly this:

Calvin Cheng's stupid post

Who is Calvin Cheng? Amongst other things, he was a Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) of Singapore.

I find what Calvin Cheng said appalling.

There may be a case to be made about stricter laws, even ones such as the Internal Security Act (ISA) which allows for detention without trial. There may even be a case to be made for the death penalty for known extremists who are found to have committed acts of terror. But to wish death upon their children too?

Calvin Cheng went on to post a this a few comments down in the discussion thread:

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 09.35.13

The Chinese part says: when you cut the grass, remove the roots. This will prevent future problems. He cites the example of President Xi Jinping of China who not only deals with his enemies, but also makes sure their families are  destroyed. I think he really thinks its justified to kill the children of terrorists. This is very dangerous thinking. A very slippery slope.

How deep do we go to get rid of all the roots? Kill all the terrorists? But then that may galvanise other Sunnis to create other splinter groups. So if we follow that logic, we need to kill all the Sunnis. Every single one of them. Then what? What if some other people who are not Sunnis yet get seduced to their way of thinking but reading their doctrines? So we need to burn all their books (yes, every one, including their most sacred one), purge every single bit of knowledge about them from existence. That is the logical conclusion of what Calvin Cheng had suggested.

What Calvin Cheng said is abhorrent and disgusting. It is bigoted, racist and borders on Islamophobia. But it seems that Calvin Cheng is not alone. There are already people who are discriminating Muslims. In France, a woman wearing a Muslim headscarf was denied entry into Zara. People are refusing to get into cabs driven by Muslims.

For all of these bigots, racists and Islamophobes, I apologise.

Yes. We need strict laws. Yes. We need tough action, even violence, to combat the ISIS scourge. But there must be balance. We must start from the premise that the vast majority of people, including Muslims, are largely rational and can be convinced that our way of life is better for them and the world at large. Then we need to show that our way is indeed better by ensuring that everyone, including Muslims, have a fair and decent chance to improve their overall wellbeing and that of their children. We need to give EVERYONE hope.

Why? Because we are all in this together. There is only one Earth. We share this one home. The only home we will know for a very very long time to come. We need to come together, rather than be divided. We need calibrated force, but we need to address the underlying socio-economic conditions and issues of identity and tribe that fuel hate and terror. We need to transcend petty differences and evolve into a united humanity. Carl Sagan puts it most eloquently:


From Zen Pencils by Gavin Aung Than. Source.

Assalamulaikum. May peace be upon you.


6 thoughts on “Let’s not lose our humanity in our desire to eradicate ISIS

  1. For too many years, we have taken a middle path. As long as people are willing to negotiate with terrorists, we cannot eradicate them. I personally would applaud Putin’s method. There is no other way to deal with mad people who don’t respect others.

    Barbaric , yes . But is there another way ? Body bags of these so called ISIS leaders should arrive at their HQs. Putin is the only world leader who is capable of doing this.


    • I do not deny that we need strident military action to take out the ISIS militants. That much is clear. What is less clear is what needs to be done in other countries. How do we treat the Muslims so that they are less likely to be tempted to join ISIS? How do we win the ideological war? What sort of influence should USA exert on Saudi Arabia to stop exporting extremist Wahabism/Salafism? Those are tougher, but no less important, discussions to have.


      • Agree. But I am not sure if the US can play a major role here – they are partly responsible for the situation in the Middle East. The US always acts in and its cronies (read Saudi Arabia) interests. That is the problem here. They have to support a despotic regime in Saudi Arabia, who themselves are the biggest bankrollers of terrorism in the ME and also the rest of the world, in different guises of Jihad. What can we do here in Singapore ? We should treat our Muslims here with more understanding; their religion had been hijacked by mad men. They cannot be responsible, and we should not expect them to answer every time a bomb goes off somewhere. It is easy just to blame one religion. I don’t have the answers, but certainly more tolerance and understanding would go some way to assure our Muslims friends that we too emphatize with their plight. Religion has nothing to do with terrorism. It would help if the Muslim leaders in Singapore come out strongly and state their position without taking a middle ground. We cannot compromise or negotiate with terrorists, wherever they come from and whatever they claim to be fighting for. These people don’t believe in dialogue. Why should we even think we can change them ?


      • Indeed. I agree we shouldn’t negotiate with terrorists. For them, we really should just go in hard on them. But we certainly shouldn’t create any conditions which make it easier for them to convince other people to join them. And hence I completely agree with what you have said that we should have more tolerance and understanding towards our Muslim friends.


  2. Pingback: We cannot allow our fear to overwhelm our humanity. | Confessions of an Expat

  3. For me, I’m sort of glad I did not miss this. Now I can take note of Calvin Cheng. He is so certain of the validity of his own perceptions …. positively alarming. No wonder there is precious little room for the middle of the road of all opposing camps to begin to build consensus. Thanks to him and his kind, I continue for now a pragmatic pessimist.


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