Lee’s Hard Truths Hard Talk


Is a certain retired Singapore leader dated, or prescient, in his views of Muslims and their supposed destabilising role in cohesion and security in Singapore? The government has stepped in to stress that MM Lee’s views are his own and not representative of the regime’s. Smart political pre-election move considering that the Association of Muslim Professionals and Perdaus voiced displeasure at the former PM’s politically incorrect, or is the term “frank”, views on the Arabisation of Muslims in Singapore.

We can all be politically correct that Muslims are integrated and despite 911 and Mas Selamat and his gang, terrorists are not Muslims and vice versa. However, we all also might have quietly questioned why being Muslim for some Muslims in Singapore means being Arabised.For example, some local Muslim men wear the jubba or women even the burqa. It’s like some insecure local Christians years ago or even now who think that being Western means being more Christian. MM Lee used the example of Muslims not eating with non-Muslims, or is it vice versa which has implications on the finger pointing in majority-minority relations in Singapore.

Going on a tangent more, people have different dietary preferences for personal, health or religious reasons, that is common. I know of  people who don’t take seafood, or beef, or mutton, or pork, or don’t drink but we all can eat at the same table. But how many Muslim friends, and I presume the reader has some, only insists on halal food and not even vegetarian food? Or might feel offended if the non-Muslims in the same table wish to drink wine or beer? Ever thought of BYO wine to a Malay friend’s wedding to celebrate with fellow non-Muslim friends. Think it is wise to do so? Why not? And maybe that is why we all don’t interact enough. Some non-Muslims and some Muslims don’t want to give and take, live and let live. And all we need are these few to set off a powder keg. Hard truths, hard talk, hard times for Singapore ahead. But good that this debate is out in the open. Again.

MM Lee was describing “worst-case scenario”: Dr Yaacob
By Hoe Yeen Nie | Posted: 29 January 2011 1700 hrs
SINGAPORE: The Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs said Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew was describing a “worst-case scenario” when he recently spoke about the Malay Muslim community.

Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, who was at a cheque presentation ceremony at Yayasan Mendaki, was responding to media queries regarding Mr Lee’s comments in his latest book, titled “Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going”.

Mr Lee had said that multi-racialism in Singapore was “progressing very nicely until the surge of Islam came”.

Dr Yaacob said the rise in religiosity in almost all faith communities has been described as a reaction to modernisation and noted that Mr Lee believed these reactions can be divisive and saw it as his responsibility to warn Singaporeans about the possible risks in society.

Dr Yaacob added that Singapore is a secular country that respects and protects the rights of Muslims to practise their own religion, and this is fundamental to Singapore’s identity.

“Many Muslims and non-Muslims in Singapore have commented on MM’s remarks about Muslims…They have told me, and told us, that the scenario painted by MM is not the reality that they face in the day-to-day lives that they experience here in Singapore.

“To me, that is a very good sign. I would be personally very worried if Singaporeans agree with the scenario that MM has painted, because it means that for us to be a committed Muslim or of any other faith, is incompatible with being a loyal citizen.”

Dr Yaacob urged Muslims to take Mr Lee’s comments in perspective.

“Let’s look at this rationally, read the book and understand where he’s coming from. And don’t just read one book, see MM in his whole lifespan and the struggles he has gone through.

“At the end of the day, he has a certain perspective. That perspective may not be accurate now, maybe 40 years ago. So that’s where I disagree with him, as I mentioned, in the book. That the reality on the ground is people are working together side by side.”

Dr Yaacob declined to speculate on the impact the issue might have during the general election, but said: “At the end of the day, as far as the government policy is concerned, we want to integrate everybody, irrespective of your race and religion…so let’s put this in perspective.”

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