Sunday, January 30, 2011

In the book, Hard Truth to Keep Singapore Going, MM Lee made the following comments when asked to assess the progress of multiracialism in Singapore.

“I have to speak candidly to be of value, but I do not want to offend the Muslim community,” said MM Lee.

“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,” said the former Prime Minister of Singapore.

“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,” he added.

Well at risk of making any generalization, allow me to bring up one counter example. I have great Muslim friends in my work place. We have worked together, went on several field trips, took part in cooking competition, cried together, did high five and basically doing what friends would do to help each other.

In the course of my working with them, I have learn to accommodate our activities so that they are free to worship and practice their religion. For example, during overseas field trips, I ensure that all the food are Halal, that Muslim teachers and students are given time to pray at the required time and every possible effort is made to ensure that they can worship in a mosque on Friday.

Once, when I was organizing the opening of a school, the Guest of Honour requested some private time for him to pray. Although we have to make some changes to the programme, we took it as an opportunity to learn to respect each other cultural and religious values.

Yes my Muslim friends are distinct and separate yet these distinctions do not prevent them from integrating with us. All it takes is for us to find space in our heart to welcome them.

After all I am sure that as human being, our hearts are big enough to accommodate all human being regardless of race language or religion.

Or have our heart began to shrink as we grow older?