Hard Truths of Race and Religion…Again

I know this news is somewhat dated, but yet the whole episode reminds me of how race and religion continue to exist as a social fault line in Singapore society. Yes, I’m referring to MM Lee’s remarks on Malays in his recently released book ‘Hard Truths’ (comprising compiled interviews with ST journalists). Key bits of contention concerned the following phrases from the man himself:

“I think we were progressing very nicely until the surge of Islam came, and if you asked me for my observations, the other communities have easier integration – friends, intermarriages and so on, Indians with Chinese, Chinese with Indians – than Muslims. That’s the result of the surge from the Arab states.”

“I would say today, we can integrate all religions and races except Islam.”

“I think the Muslims socially do not cause any trouble, but they are distinct and separate.”

Not surprisingly, this drew criticism from the prominent Muslim bodies who felt that his comments were potentially divisive and misrepresented the Muslim community. This of course turn drew swift responses from key government leaders, such as Yaacob Ibrahim and PM Lee no less. Both who defended MM Lee, on grounds that he was merely speaking from his own experience of Singapore’s tumultuous early history, but qualified that they felt his remarks did not really capture how far our current multicultural society has progressed and integrated thus far.

What are your own responses to MM Lee’s comments above?

Do you think race and religion should continue to be key concerns of our government and people? Or are we just being paranoid and overreacting?

To draw some parallel, while our government leaders have been fervently defending our multicultural policies, British PM David Cameron recently called UK’s one a failure–evidenced by weakening British identity and increasing terrorist activities. He emphatically argued how

“(Under the)…doctrine of state multiculturalism, different cultures have been encouraged to live separate lives…We have failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong. We have even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run counter to our values.”

Do you agree with his views? Is the terrorist problem simply a result of faulty multicultural policy?

Do you see a similar problem possibly germinating in Singapore?


3 thoughts on “Hard Truths of Race and Religion…Again

  1. Do you think race and religion should continue to be key concerns of our government and people? Or are we just being paranoid and overreacting?

    Singapore is potentially a melting pot for racial and religious tensions especially since we are surrounded by islamic majority countreis such as malaysia and indonesia. Being a predominantl;y Chinese country, we should be oh so careful with what we gotta say

  2. I think that the comments are very prejudice. Fully blaming Muslims for not integrating into the society is unfair. I believe that the false impression conceived by people of various religions prevents Muslims from integrating fully into the multi racial society.

  3. I believe that the comments were very much unnecessary especially since it is regarding a very sensitive issue. He is a well-respected influential leader that has contributed a lot to the country’s development. However by publishing such prejudice comments, i think that he has just ruined his own reputation as a leader. All this while, the emphasis on racial harmony is just a waste of time if the minister mentor himself gives racist remarks and publishes it in a book. In his book, he started of with, “I have to speak candidly to be of value, but I do not wish to offend the Muslim community” and than followed by the quoted words above. This is, i believe a very non-intellectual comment. By just starting of with, ‘i do not wish to offend the muslims’ and than later do exactly that doesn’t make his statement any acceptable. Lets just say that, if someone were to say that the surge of christianity has hindered the integration of the christians with other races, how do you think the christians were to react? Even if he is a free-thinker, i think that he should respect other religions and their beliefs and that he should be extra careful when it comes to commenting on such issues. Furthermore, blaming a religion for hindering the progress of the particular community doesn’t create awareness but instead only leads to unnecessary tensions.

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