“Terrorism has no religion”: discard this divisive slogan

The Humanist Society (Singapore) sets out our position regarding the slogan “Terrorism has no religion”.

As Singapore celebrates Racial Harmony Day this month, we are mindful that the terrorist threat to Singapore is at its highest in decades. Singapore’s political leaders has emphasised that the question is not whether a terrorist attack will happen here, but when it will happen.

It is an unfortunate fact that most terrorist attacks in major cities have been perpetuated under the banner of radical Islamic ideology. A similar attack in Singapore will undoubtedly have ramifications on the relationship between persons of different races and faiths.

After each attack by the Islamic State or its adherents (also known as ISIS/ DAESH), ordinary citizens, political and religious leaders often condemn the attackers by asserting that “terrorism has no religion”. However the Humanist Society (Singapore) suggest that this is a divisive slogan which discriminates against people with no religion.

The statement ‘terrorism has no religion’ can also be read as saying that the terrorists were in fact irreligious. Such interpretation even more glaring in reactions stating that the terrorists were “not true Muslims” or “not true believers” – therefore by implication having no religion. The logical conclusion of such statements is that atheism, or the lack of religion, is the root of terrorism instead.

While the slogan was formulated to guard against racial or religious prejudice, it inevitably casts aspersions against persons who have no religion. The Society is concerned that such sentiments may lead to further contempt and discrimination against people who do not subscribe to organised religion. We suggest that a better rallying call is “United against Terrorism”.

It is simplistic to think that merely disassociating religious ideology from terrorism will guard society against terrorism. Society’s collective response to a terrorist attack involve physical responses like the newly established Rapid Deployment Troops, as well as social and psychological responses such as the further strengthening of our multi-racial, multi-religious fabric.

We therefore call upon the Singapore government to step up national defense programmes regarding psychological defense, and the Inter-Religious Organisation and other grassroots organisations to conduct inter-faith events where the aftermath of a potential terrorist attack in Singapore can be honestly and frankly addressed.

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