SLUG: 2-285815 Singapore / Terror
TITLE=SINGAPORE / TERROR L-ONLY
INTRO: Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong is urging citizens of the city-state to remain tolerant of Singapore's Muslim minority in face of terrorism. More from V-O-A's Alisha Ryu in our Asia News Center.
TEXT: Last month's discovery of an alleged terrorist cell in Singapore deeply shocked the small but prosperous Southeast Asian nation. Fourteen of the 15 suspected terrorists arrested by the police were Singaporean Muslims some with alleged links to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida organization.
Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong says the discovery of the cell and the arrest of Muslims have what he terms "worrying implications" for the city-state's multi-racial and multi-religious society.
In comments published in newspapers Wednesday, Mr. Goh outlines a potential scenario in which dozens of Chinese and Indians are killed or injured in a terrorist attack. He says in his words I dare not imagine the anger of the Chinese and Indians against our Malay Muslims.
The majority of Singapore's four million people are ethnic Chinese who practice Buddhism, Taoism or Christianity. Malay Muslims make up another 14 percent of the population. About eight percent are
ethnic Indian Hindus.
The director of the East Asian Institute in Singapore, Gungwu Wang, says the prime minister has good reasons for believing that terrorism fears are increasing the risk of a racial and religious confrontation in one of the world's most orderly and peaceful countries.
/// WANG ACT ///
I think there is some reason for concern because not that long ago, there had been very serious tension between the Malay Muslim population and the ethnic Chinese in Singapore. This was one of the reasons that led to the separation of Singapore from Malaysia. The independence of Singapore really stemmed from a really serious concern to keep ethnic relations as harmonious as possible so that the new country would have a chance to develop peacefully.
/// END ACT ///
Singapore was torn by racial and religious riots in the 1950s and 60s. The violence peaked in 1964 when 23 people were killed and 460 injured.
Prime Minister Goh is urging non-Muslim Singaporeans to work together now to stop distrust from building again between the different races and religions. He says Singapore's Muslim community should not be made to shoulder the blame for the acts of a few extremists. (Signed)
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