Dear All Singapore Stuff
Before the furore from a turban incident of Mr Parvitar Singh has yet to simmer, another similar controversy has arisen to reignite the whole issue on racial and religious equality in a predominantly Chinese multi racial setting.
This episode should suffice to further educate the already learned Mdm Ho Ching on the difference between Racism and Xenophobia, with the latter being more about mass retrenchments and unemployment in a pandemic situation where host countries should never accommodate foreigners at the expense of their own populace.
Now being a minority of minorities in Singapore, I was shocked when a lady friend of mine and myself witnessed a Chinese security at Cantonment Complex querying me on “what’s that thing on my head” and it apparently bothered her on whether I should remove my Kippah and be allowed in the premises to retrieve some electronics which the CID seized on impulse and had to return when Mr Eugene Thuraisingam wrote in.
One of the hallmarks of a Developed and Civilised Country is dependent on how the minorities are treated in its midst. For our Country, there appears to be two sets of practices, one for the commoner and the other for top cats as evident in the ability of our embattled President and ruling party politicians to don their Hijabs while discrimination continues to exist from their detached ground, albeit subtly!
A Muslim woman of puberty age should never be rendered a choice or ultimatum to study at a public school or Madrasah if she so chooses to don the Hijab on her own accord. Preparations should be made to accommodate that rather than compulsion to conform to what MOE or other agencies decide, is the right image! The same goes for a Sikh gentleman or other religious minorities who decide to don their religious attire while being mindful of the secular society at large which should never oppress them.
It could perhaps be due to the failure of our education system when we scrapped Civics and Moral education in favour of business and the sciences, to properly school society on why certain groups don religious attire. My mother covers her hair as do most married Orthodox and Conservative Jewish women for morality sake and fidelity to their husbands. This is what we term “Tznius” and such decision should never be left to a government or organisation to decide!
We are drifting further and further apart from the ideals of our pledge since the time the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew (may he rest in peace) handed power over to Mr Goh and subsequently, to his own son. We have become intolerant in the name of tolerance and enacted more legislations curtailing public discourse on critical and contentious issues facing the Nation, with threats of detention and legal action. As Tactius puts it: “The more corrupt the State, the more numerous the laws”.
If we are indeed serious about combating religious extremism and “nurturing” a multi cultural society, we should begin by allowing people to practice their religion freely, all the while keeping in mind our non religious neighbours instead of suppression that will give rise to all sorts of doubts and conspiracy theories. It will also compel religious minorities into the arms of religious extremists, seeking to convince them on the “evils” of a secular society.
I end this note by wishing Peace to all out there who believe in it, strive for it and freedom is never more than one generation away where we can imagine all the people living life in peace. It’s not too difficult to achieve, start dreaming!
Daniel De Costa