Minister Jayakumar urged that international terrorism should continue to be a key issue at ARF Ministerial Meetings as the menace of terrorism could not be conquered overnight. To date, discussions at the ARF had focused on the preventive or security aspects such as law enforcement and infomraiton exchange so that the region could harden itself as a target against terrorists, and effectively disrupt terrorist cells such as the JI and Al Qaeda. However, ARF should now pay attention to an equally important aspect, which is the emotional or psychological dimension of terrorism. Terrorists misuse or hijack religion for their various causes to inflame hatred and incite feelings of enmity in their community against others to justify their actions. ARF should also address this fundamental issue.
Minister Jayakumar said that contrary to what the terrorists are purveying, the war against terror was not a battle between Muslim and non-Muslim countries, but a contest for the hearts and minds within the Muslim world. Non-Muslims do not have the standing to participate in this intra-civilization debate. To effectively address the problem, eminent Muslim leaders, religious scholars and religious personages needed to speak out against deviant or distorted interpretations of the religion. Minister Jayakumar noted that there were moderate Muslim countries represented at the ARF and that they should, and indeed have, spoken up. In this connection, he commended the Indonesia Government for organizing the recent International Conference of Islamic Scholars, and noted that these scholars had condemned terrorism. Minister Jayakumar said that the ARF and ARF participants have to support and encourage more such voices of moderation, and facilitate their reach to the wider Muslim community. It was important for the ARF to support moderate Muslims in this and make sure that they succeed as their success was critical for the international community to effectively deal with terrorism and those whu misuse religion.
Singapore Delegation to the 11th ARF
Jakarta, 2 July 2004