Cyber Terrorism: National Service and its Significance to Singapore’s Safety

The dreaded Covid-19, that plagued the world in early 2020 has seen its time and is slowly becoming adapted to. National service was one of the many things affected by the virus, with heavy safety measures implemented, and crucial activities halted. 

Amidst the chaos of the pandemic, it was crucial to note that there were other real threats that are becoming more prevalent against Singapore, such as terrorism acts. With digitalisation rapidly ascending in the world, communication of such acts has become more accessible to people of all ages, from all parts of the globe. National service had to carry on protecting Singapore from such menaces. 

Digitalisation and Terrorism

Violent extremism and acts of terrorism is not restricted to any one race, religion, or belief. Cyberspace has become a new threat frontier in relation to hostile intelligence activities. As a highly digitalised society, Singapore is particularly vulnerable to cyber threats. People are now able to communicate and orchestrate dangerous plans against the nation from the comfort of their homes.

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With digitalisation swiftly taking over the world, new risks arise, such as the possibility of cyber terrorism.

Terrorist Act Planned Against Singapore

In December 2020, a 16-year-old Singaporean boy was detained under Singapore’s Internal Security Act (ISA) after he made detailed plans and preparations to conduct terrorist attacks against Muslims. He had planned to use a machete to attack Muslims at two mosques, the Assyafaah Mosque, and Yusof Ishak Mosque in Woodlands on March 15, which is the second anniversary of New Zealand’s Christchurch terrorism attacks. The teenage boy, unable to be named, is a Protestant Christian of Indian race. He was a secondary 4 student at the time of his arrest and was inspired by far-right extremist ideology, according to the Internal Security Department of Singapore (ISD). ISD added that the teen was influenced by the 2019 terrorist attacks against two mosques in Christchurch. 

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Assyafaah Mosque and Yusof Ishak Mosque, the 2 mosques that the teen had planned to attack. (Photos: Google Street View)

ISD said, “He was self-radicalised, motivated by a strong antipathy towards Islam and a fascination with violence,

“He watched the livestreamed video of the terrorist attack on the two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on Mar 15, 2019, and read the manifesto of the Christchurch attacker, Brenton Tarrant.

“He had also watched Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) propaganda videos and came to the erroneous conclusion that ISIS represented Islam, and that Islam called on its followers to kill non-believers.”

Simply from watching videos, and careless research done by the teen through his digital devices, he was able to conclude a wrongful opinion about a certain religion, which led him to meticulously plan a callous attack. A teen as young as age 16 was capable of such heinous ideas which were planted through cyber means. This served as a huge warning sign for Singapore, on the very real threat of terrorism be it in this nation through internal attacks, or against it through external attacks. 

National service to protect Singapore

Three in four Singaporeans believe that it is only a matter of time before the country experiences a terror attack, a poll by the local newspaper Sunday Times showed.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, “Terrorism threats are not going to disappear for quite a long time, and we must expect the terrorists to continue to attack and to plan attacks on Singapore. They are targeting not just our physical safety, but the fabric of our society… It will happen, but we will be ready when it happens,”. 

National Service (NS) has been the foundation of Singapore’s defence and security since independence in 1965. With increasing threats in the ever-changing world, servicemen roles have evolved from armed conflicts, to countering terrorism. The uniformed services, The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), and the Singapore Police Force (SPF), serve as the backbone of Singapore’s defence to keep it safe and secure. 

21-year-old Jawad Khan, a current section commander in training for the SCDF, said, “National service has taught me a great deal on the importance of defending our nation. It is unfortunate that we live in a world where we need to anticipate the worst, but it has to be done for the sake of our homeland’s safety and peace.”.

As mentioned by PM Lee, it is not a matter of if, but when a terror attack happens in Singapore. The existence of these uniformed services in Singapore is hence crucial for the protection of this nation. Each uniformed service trains their NS men tirelessly to ensure they are trained and equipped for such an occurrence in the nation.

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Without the adequate preparations, Singapore would not stand a chance in the case of a terrorist attack. With the instilled requirement for National Service, and contributions of individuals involved in it in Singapore, terrorists in turn would not stand a chance against our little red dot.

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