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:
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:
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:
Assalamulaikum. May peace be upon you.