During my trip to The Hague in the Netherlands, I met a group of young people whose vision was to "build a world free from fear of violence or oppression". Operating under the name The Hague Peace Projects, these activists are working to build trust between communities. Their efforts include initiating dialogues between opposing groups from conflict zones in the world.
It was the first time I was meeting any of them, but I felt so close to them. Though we were from different parts of the world, we bonded through the universal mission seeking peace and harmony. Speaking to them inspired me. Their energy boosted my determination to do what I was doing in Singapore. It deepened my conviction that youths need to be working to cultivate the culture of peacekeeping.
(Selfie with the Hague Peace Project Team)
In 2015, I was appointed as Muslim Youth Ambassador for Peace by Jamiyah Missionary in Singapore. Mr Amrin Amin, Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of Home Affairs, felicitated the ceremony. Since then, it became my responsibility to combat the growth of terrorist ideology in Singapore. I am not subject matter expert, so I studied and sought guidance. Over the years I undertook various initiatives to raise awareness about the spread of extremism and self-radicalisation among youths. I created the hash.peace movement.
The work has been challenging. Terrorism and radical ideology as topics are naturally unwelcomed in conversations. Firstly, it is uncomfortable to talk about Islamic State and its affiliate terror groups with a Muslim woman (myself). Next, very few see the relevance of these discussions, in Singapore. Some critics feel that it is as absurd to have peace activists in a country that is globally known for achieving racial/religious harmony. We are not a country damaged civil war, so such a title is entirely a facade. Thanks to the photo my with Prince Harry, some feel that my efforts are merely a leap for fame.
I wake up every day asking myself, ‘What am I doing? Why am I doing it?”. The self-doubts have been useful because they motivate me to seek answers. I have been speaking to different people about my hash.peace movement. The conversations have helped me to study sentiments and gaps on the ground. Through these, I have developed the objectives of my peace mission.
Youth-led NGOs like the Hague Peace Project are working to ease existing tensions between conflicting communities. In Singapore, volunteers like myself are working to avoid such conflicts in our country. As counter-terrorism expert Dr Kumar Ramakrishna from S Rajaratnam School of International Studies says, there is much need to ramp-up the systematic involvement of youth in crafting counter-narratives against the appeal of terror groups. Along these lines, I am doing what I can.
Indeed, the operations of my hash.peace mission cannot be a one-woman show. It relies on a support system that includes my family, local government, community leaders, fellow social activists, citizens and residents in Singapore and the surrounding Asian countries. In this regard, the Women in Asia community has helped me a lot. I am gaining access to a network that enables me to spread my peace movement further.
With all these support, I am confident that my efforts will become significant to maintain peace and harmony around me. As a woman, a Singaporean, and a global citizen, I think it is my responsibility to do so.