I had a rather heated discussion (ok… more like argument) with my dad the other day. He said that counter-terrorism is the role of the government. He is convinced that there is nothing Singaporeans can do in countering terrorism. He thinks that at best, we can try to prevent terrorism. At best, we can be a bit more alert to prevent the carnage from any terrorist attacks. But as citizens, there is nothing we can do to fight or counter terrorism. That job is the government’s and the government’s alone.
I disagree completely.
Every single one of us plays an integral role in fighting and countering terrorism. Because terrorism isn’t just about the bomb going off. It’s not just the groups of deranged individuals out to create chaos and carnage. Terrorism is a sick, twisted ideology. And while we, as individuals, may not be able to do anything to hunt down the terrorists, each and every one of us have a role to play in fighting that ideology.
Minister Chan Chun Sing puts it best. On the day of a terrorist attack, perhaps there really isn’t much that most Singaporeans can do. The tasks would mostly fall upon SAF and MHA. But what we can do, is do everything we can to counter terrorism the day before and the day after the terrorist attack.
What does Minister Chan mean by that?
About what we should do the day after the attack, he has said this before:
“The day after is very important. When people come together and…pull together even tighter, that sends a very strong and powerful signal to the people who mean us harm: that even if you break our bones, if you shed our blood, tear our skin, we are not going to let you rob us of our normalcy”
And I think that makes complete sense. Because the aim of terrorists and terrorism isn’t to cause chaos and carnage. That is just a means to their ultimate end, which is to break our spirit, rend our society asunder, and end our way of life.
So if, on the days after a terrorist attack, we do not take the trains and buses, we stay away from the malls, we stop going to work, we stay at home, we cower under our beds, we stop living our lives normally, then the terrorists win. If, on the days after a terrorist attack, we start looking at one another with suspicion, we start tarring every member of any race or religion with the same brush, then the terrorists win.
But if we continue to live our lives normally, come closer as a people, pull tighter as a society, then we would have won. Just like how the Indonesians reacted after the Jakarta attacks earlier this year.
Hopefully more Singaporeans will be like this satay seller in Jakarta.
And then there is the “#illridewithyou” movement in Sydney just after the cafe hostage incident.
That’s the sort of spirit and unity we need. To have that, each and everyone has a part to play. And the work starts now. The days before the attack. Because even now, the terrorists are trying to divide us, sow seeds of suspicion and discord amongst us. Minister Chan rightly pointed out:
“We must make sure that we never allow anybody to sow the seeds of discord or cast doubts among our different races or religion. If we ever allow them to succeed in dividing us, then even without a bomb going off, we are finished.”
What we need to do now, during the days before the attack, is to have a deeper understanding of other races and religions, and do our best to build strong friendships with people from other races and religions. That is a message that Minister Chan Chun Sing has been spreading through his work with the People’s Association and the labour movement (so apparently NTUC isn’t just about the supermarket…). These are the two largest organisations of people in Singapore that can form a steady bedrock on which the movement to fight terrorism can be built.
But just these two organisations alone aren’t enough. Every single Singaporean needs to play our part. There are many things to do the days before and the days after the attack.
And the work starts now.
[Featured image via TodayOnline]