The terrorism threat has grown more severe since the watershed events of 911, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on Thursday (Apr 16) at the East Asia symposium on religious rehabilitation and social integration.
He cited the rise of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which "has exploited Islam, distorting religious tenets to serve violent political agenda".
Emerging challenges include the "returnees" threat - foreign fighters who may continue with ISIS' violent agenda, even after they leave Syria or Iraq. Mr Teo, who is also Home Affairs Minister, said this new generation of foreign fighters will pose an international security threat for decades to come.
Another threat is that of "lone wolf terrorists" - individuals who fall under the influence of the violent ideology of ISIS and proceed to carry out attacks, on the own, in their home countries. Such attacks have already occurred in countries like Australia, Canada, the United States, France and Denmark.
Many individuals, especially youths, said Mr Teo, have fallen prey to ISIS' propaganda.
"One common characteristic that has been observed among radicalised individuals that we have investigated in Singapore is that they possess weak religious grounding. This made them more susceptible to believing wholesale the radical exhortations that distort religious concepts to give their message of violence an aura of divine sanction," he said.
MILITARY RESPONSE NOT ENOUGH
He said a purely military response to such threats is insufficient. He cited the work of Singapore's Religious Rehabilitation Group, which provides counselling to radicalised individuals and their families.
"In addition to counter-ideology, we also look into re-integrating rehabilitated terrorists into society," added Mr Teo.
He said social integration is an important component of the holistic effort to neutralise the terror threat, for the long term.
The two-day symposium brings together experts and practitioners in the field of terrorist rehabilitation and counter-ideology from more than 30 countries.