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Monday, May 11, 2009

For Muslims in S'pore, a sense of relief - ST 10 May

For Muslims in S'pore, a sense of relief
Mas Selamat's capture affirms community's stand against violence
By Zakir Hussain

The re-arrest of Mas Selamat Kastari in Johor, where he sought shelter while on the run, vindicates the Singapore Muslim community's stand that they have no sympathy for those who plot violence in the name of Islam, several leaders of the community said yesterday.
After the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) regional leader escaped from the Whitley Road Detention Centre in February last year, there was suspicion among some that he might be harboured by sympathisers here.

Mr Abdul Mutalif Hashim, chairman of the Darussalam Mosque in Clementi, said that for as long as he was on the run, some suspicion lingered over Muslims here.

'I feel very relieved now, as that assumption did not help race relations,' he said.

Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and Education, stressed that the Malay-Muslim community was just as alarmed as other Singaporeans were over the escape.

'Now that Mas Selamat has been caught, a sense of relief is as much felt by the Malay community as by the community at large.

'This reflects the fact that the Malay-Muslim community is mature and rational and understands that whatever threatens the nation is also a threat to them, and therefore, we are as single-minded about how we need to address and look at the threat of terrorism,' he said.

Mr Abdul Mutalif, who also chairs the Choa Chu Kang Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle, agreed: 'It was clear for all to see that Mas Selamat was someone who was capable of causing damage and chaos in our country.'

He was plotting attacks on Singapore when the Malaysian Special Branch arrested him in Johor on April 1.

That he fled Singapore almost immediately after his escape from Whitley was 'a clear indication that Muslims here did not harbour Mas Selamat, or condone his terrorist activities', Mr Abdul Halim Kader, chief executive of community group Taman Bacaan, said yesterday.

Online comments posted after the terrorist's escape last year, suggesting that he would surely get help from Malay-Muslims here, prompted Mr Abdul Halim to mobilise about 100 volunteers to distribute 10,000 'wanted' posters. He did so to send a message that Mas Selamat was an enemy of the people, regardless of race or religion.

Mr Abdul Halim also heads the Inter-Agency Aftercare Group, which looks after the welfare of JI detainees' families. He said it will continue to provide social and counselling help to Mas Selamat's wife and children here.

Veteran mosque leader Rhazaly Noentil urged all Singaporeans to continue interacting across religious lines to build trust, and not let the terror threat affect racial harmony in Singapore.

Mr Allaudin Mohamed, the chairman of the Khalid Mosque in Geylang, said: 'Our community understands the agenda of the extremists is destructive, and sees the larger need to live in harmony as Singaporeans.'

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