Flak Crap

In response to Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew's remarks about Muslims in his recently published book "Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going", several Malaysian leaders said that MM Lee was wrong.

According to The Straits Times, 26 Jan 2011,  in the the article, "MM's remarks on integration draw flak", MM Lee assessing the progress of multiculturalism in Singapore, said in his book:

"I have to speak candidly to be of value, but I do not want to offend the Muslim community."

"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."

"But now, you go to schools with Malays and Chinese, there's a halal and non-halal segment and so too, the universities. And they tend to sit separately so as not to be contaminated. All that becomes a social divide.

When asked what Muslims in Singapore needed to do to integrate, he said:

Be less strict with your Islamic observances and say 'Okay, I'll eat with you.'

I agree with what MM Lee has said on this issue. Content-wise, no disagreements. He certainly was candid with his sentiments - and I am sure some may take issue with how bluntly he has voiced them. But I will defend that point. There is no way one could criticize religion, Islam no less, without "offending sensitivities". But it must happen if we are to make any headway.

Let's move on to the responses the Malaysian leaders had to offer.

De facto Religious Affairs Minister Jamil Khir Baharom, asked to comment on MM Lee's remarks, said he hoped Malaysians would not support views that linked Islam to blocking racial integration and national development. “I am worried such views will spread into Malaysian society, which has many types of ideas,” he said, 

Typical politically-correct response. Meaningless trite. But he follows up with something more telling of his views.

...adding that followers of Islam were taught to be moderate.

Is this more politically-correct nonsense? Or is this his personal, religiously driven response?

If the latter, then the thing to point out is the implicit "my" in front of the word "Islam" - that is, "my Islam taught its followers to be moderate." We have to ask, which Islam? And is it really "moderate" as some would like to claim. As much as some would like to say that the "true Islam" is a "religion of peace", the Qur'an is much like the Bible, the big book of multiple choice - peace is but only one of the available options.

Next we have the Malaysian Islamic Development director-general Wan Mohamad Sheikh Abdul Aziz who said,

MM Lee had failed to take Singaporeans away from the mindset of the 1960s, which was a period of prejudices and suspicions against Muslims.

"1960s" is a reference to the racial riots in Singapore (in 1964 and 1969) - those riots were fuelled in part by racism in general between the Chinese and Malays. Today's Singapore paints a different picture between the said races.

In any case, the issue MM Lee is addressing now is a whole different animal compared to that of the 1960s. So it seems unusual to bring it up - if anything, the director-general is the one still stuck in the 60s.

Right-wing Malay rights group Perkasa slammed Mr Lee, saying he seemed to be adapting the same tactic as non-Muslim opposition leaders in Malaysia who raised sensitive issues without bothering about Muslim sensitivities.

I addressed this previously - criticizing religion however tactfully will come off as being offensive to somebody. But this shouldn't be the issue. These "leaders" should be responding constructively instead of rushing to take offence like lay people.

Perkasa secretary-general Syed Hassan Syed Ali: “Perkasa does not consider [MM Lee] Kuan Yew as being less able to respect other religions, but instead, consider him as a very senile old man.”

A personal attack, how mature. To me, a sign of intellectual defeat.

Parti Islam SeMalaysia Youth chief Nasrudin Hassan said Mr Lee’s comments made him sound like a “racist militant fighter”.

A first glance, it looks like yet another personal attack. But a second look suggests this is more of the "OMG, you're so offensive" bullshit.

On the whole, it seems that the Malaysian leaders mentioned seems to have nothing more to offer than some politically-correct drivel with taking offence as a side. Pitiful.