So this is a sight that I’m quite familiar with.

The popular anti-Singapore government Facebook page Wake Up, Singapore rightfully highlights the ridiculous calls for execution to a woman in Saudi Arabia after not wearing a Hijab. Many Muslims in Singapore then responded by accusing the admins of the page for ‘inciting hatred against Islam’ and some even threatened to call the police on them.

Now it is very tempting for people who value human rights and people’s lives to treat such comments by Muslims with overt hostility, and call these Muslims ‘stupid’ or ‘retarded’ (I should know). However, I have grown more sympathetic to these kinds of comments and I think all of you should too.

Right now all over the world people are Islamophobic largely due to terrorist attacks by ISIS and human rights abuses in the Middle East. The discrimination against Muslims is now seen by many as justifiable for ‘survival’ to the extent that an alarming number have been receptive to Donald Trump’s call to ‘ban all Muslims’.

Now, imagine being a typical Muslim who practices your religion peacefully, and just wants to live harmoniously with the people around you, yet you are in a climate where both online and in real life, the people you’re close with who practices your religion are considered a threat without harming anyone, and you have to face being feared and tolerate looks of discomfort whenever you’re around others. I don’t think that would be a very nice environment to live in.

So when Malays see an article which condemns Muslim extremists in the Middle East that could further perpetuate the impression that muslims should be feared, I can see why they would react defensively. Of course I don’t think muslims should threaten to send someone to prison for calling out Islamic extremists (and despite the perhaps good intentions that really doesn’t help Islam’s reputation concerning treating humans with decency), but from understanding this context, it does make you feel less willing to rudely condemn a Muslim for responding this way doesn’t it?

I think Muslims in Singapore (and everywhere else) should understand that calling out human rights abuses in pro-islamic middle eastern countries does not at all mean we’re trying to incite hate against Islam, in fact I would say Muslims have an even greater reason to call these atrocious acts out if they want to separate themselves from the violent, human rights abuse that many people consider their religion as. And I also think that people who aren’t Muslim should seek to better understand the hostile climate that Muslims are currently living in, and feelings of undeserved fear and possibly hate they might have been living with all their lives. And then who knows? Perhaps you would opt to be nicer when responding to these overly-enthusiastic muslims who call for your arrest, and less likely to demonise such behaviour by calling them ‘stupid’, and respond with comments like ‘maybe you should feed them pork to keep them happy’.

Now I know many of you are probably absolutely shocked that I’m saying this, since I am the person who got arrested in Singapore for humping the quran. Well… I guess my views have developed from then. But don’t worry friends I’m still an Atheist. I don’t agree that Allah exists, but I think we should strive to coexist with Muslims peacefully and foster a better understanding of their situation and how they’re feeling, so we can communicate and foster relationships with them more effectively

Amos Yee

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