Norming Moderation in an Iconic Target: State-Civil Society Endeavours in Singapore's Management of Religious Anxieties

Publication Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date



The proposed research will examine Singapore’s response to terrorism post September 11, in particular the maintenance of a “moderate mainstream” Muslim community as a bulwark against the fraying of harmonious ethnic relations. In light of the global concern—and often paranoia—with diasporic Islam, Islamic religious institutions and civil society have been portrayed in the popular media as hotbeds of radicalism, promoters of hatred, and recruiters for a ‘conflict of civilization’ between the Muslim world and the modern world. Islamist attacks in Madrid and London have since brought increased urgency to the question of how to contain or moderate Islamic radicalism among a local minority of Muslims. Singapore’s experience of local Muslim terrorists, and response to this threat, can be of interest to Western countries which now face the threat of domestic terrorism emerging from Islamic minority populations. Indeed, having declared itself as a terrorist’s “iconic target,” Singapore has taken a broad-based community approach in advancing inter-religious tolerance, including a subtle initiative to include the Muslim civil society in advancing the understanding of and the promotion of a moderate brand of Islam in Singapore. Four strands can be discerned: (1) focus on revamping Islamic religious education in Singapore’s madrassahs to make the curriculum relevant to a knowledge-based economy and ensuring that the madrassahs and mosques remain key agents in promoting moderate Islam; (2) promoting a Singapore Islamic Education System to reach out to the larger Muslim community; (3) encouraging the Malay-Muslims to reach out to the non-Muslims by connecting the mosques with the larger Singaporean society; and (4) supporting and engaging in a civilizational dialogue between Asia and the Middle East as a platform for moderates.


Asian Studies | Public Law and Legal Theory | Public Policy | Religion Law

Research Areas

Law, Society and Governance


Conference on 'The Unravelling of Civil Society: Religion in the Making and Unmaking of the Modern World', 22-24 March 2006

City or Country


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