More Muslims respond to MM Lee

After the initial responses to MM Lee Kuan Yew by the Malaysian leaders, reported on 26 Jan 2011, more responses continued to appear in newspapers. Not surprisingly, a majority of those responses are from Muslims. In my observations, these responses can be grouped into 3 categories.

The first, and possibly the most common response, is to take offence at the MM's comments. Such was typical of the responses offered by the Malaysian leaders in the first article in response to the MM. Responses along these lines is typified by claims that Muslims sensitivities were ignored and that the comments have caused the community hurt. Occasionally, a good old personal attack is thrown in as well.

Here's a nice example

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.

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.”

MM's remarks on integration draw flak
(The Straits Times, 26 Jan 2011)

Such responses do not warrant any response other than "Sorry, deal with it." Unless they're going to actually address what the MM is saying, there's really nothing to respond to.

The second kind of response are those of the "defence of the faith" variety. These responses usually say that the MM is simply wrong because Islam teaches religious harmony as well and is therefore do not hinder integration. Here's one such response from Singapore Muslims organisations reported by TODAY:

On Thursday, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) had said that Islamic teachings do not hinder Muslims from integration in Singapore society. AMP echoed these views and said that "a good Muslim is duty bound, in Islam, to be a good Singaporean".

Muslim bodies irked by MM's remarks
(TODAY, 29 Jan 2011)

Well, good for you. I am glad that that is what your version of Islam teaches although I do hope that you embrace reality soon. Arguments about "true Islam" holds no water with me and are not of my concern.

The third response tend to be more rational/measured. The counter claim that they offer is that Singapore Muslims are integrating with the rest of Singapore and therefore the MM is either simply wrong or overstating the case. Here's an example:

But Perdaus feels that the level of integration "has significantly progressed" and "a better understanding and appreciation" of Singapore's cultures now exist between Muslims and non-Muslims here. It cited the community's participation in Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles and contributions by humanitarian relief organisation Mercy Relief as examples.

Muslim bodies irked by MM's remarks
(TODAY, 29 Jan 2011)

I think that such responses kinda missed MM Lee's point. He is not claiming that Singapore Muslims are not integrating - he is claiming that the integrations was poorer when compared to other races/religions. Here is the relevant comment by the MM.

"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."

MM's remarks on integration draw flak
(The Straits Times, 26 Jan 2011)

Religions, in general, are divisive so it might seem unfair to pick on Islam. But it does seem obvious that Islam has less buffers to tribal behaviours. Christianity has a huge emphasis on proselytizing and thus appears friendlier to people. Buddhism and Taoism behave more like life philosophies in general and thus create less/no threat to religious harmony. Smaller religious groups exert less influences by virtue of being small. Islam, well, other than claiming it teaches religious harmony, has no such "buffers". This might be the reason why MM made his claim.

So that's my take on the responses so far.

As I was doing research for this entry, I found something disturbing. PKMS, the Singapore Malay National Organization, has called for MM Lee to be investigated for sedition. According to their press statement, it said,

Is it not that Mr Lee Kuan Yew's statements are distorting and inciting racial and religious disharmony? Does it not fall under the Internal Security Act? Mr Lee championed the Internal Security Act (ISA), is it not Mr Lee himself breached the act openly and disrespectfully? Can the book 'HARD TRUTH' be a subversive document and should be classified under the Sedition Act (Cap 290) and shall fall under The Internal Security Act Chapter 3 (Special Powers Relating to Subversive Publication etc.)?

In addition to that, the statement also said,

We urged MUIS, as the highest Islamic authority in Singapore, advise Mr Lee Kuan Yew of the true teaching of Islam. Does Mr Lee's statements incite sentiments of protest among our Muslim brothers and may cause religious disharmony? We have also heard echoes of agreement from followers of other religion, who agree to Mr Lee's statements and they had even suggested for eradication of the Muslim in Singapore. Is Mr Lee's book subversive and cause of hatred and excite disaffection against Islam?
We demand Mr Lee Kuan Yew to apologize to the Singapore Muslim community and the Muslim world in general. We demand the book 'HARD TRUTH' be strictly banned and condemned.

This is religious lunacy. MM Lee's statements cannot be regarded as seditious under the law if the law is to be meaningful at all. Granted, I am no lawyer, they might be right to the letter of the law but this is clearly not the spirit of the law. The Sedition Act is intended to prevent religions from turning onto each other. But in this case, it is being used to essentially censor any form of speech critical of religions.

If Singapore, and the world, is to make any progress, then such speech must be permitted. If people take offence at such discussions then clearly that is their issue - people do not have the right not to be offended.

Nobody is disparaging anybody's religion with thoughtless remarks. It should be clear that there is a difference between

Muslims are [Insert vulgarity or insult here].


Muslims are integrating less smoothly than the other religions/races.

The MM's statements were essentially arguments for his point - a rational person should engage his arguments in a reasoned discussion. We should not be shutting down people simply for holding a difference in opinion - that should not be what we want or should do.

PKMS' suggestion is obscene to anybody who still respects the freedom of speech.

I urge all Singaporeans to be rational here. Please think.


thumbelina said...

my take!

Atheozoa said...

Hi, there. I see that you might be called a liberal Muslim.

It's nice to see that there are responses from your community that do not fall into the 3 categories I mentioned. I hope that there are more of your likes to change the minds of those more conservative ones.

Anonymous said...

Just food for thought:

Since when is integration a Muslim problem? Shouldn't it be a national problem? Why are Muslims being highlighted as the ONLY factor that impedes integration in Singapore? This is THE ACTUAL issue.

Muslims are marginalised and put in the limelight for something that should have been EVERYONE'S responsibility to shoulder.

Atheozoa said...

Where has been indicated that integration was solely a Muslim issue? Please show me, thanks.

Look back at MM Lee's comments. He does not say nor imply that integration was a Muslim problem. He was making a comparison that Muslims seems to have more difficulty in integration compared to the other races/religions. This merely points out that Muslims are having more issues with integration NOT that they are the ONLY ones with issues. There is a huge difference there.

Indeed, it is a national problem and it is everyone's responsibility. It doesn't help if we stay silent about issues. If Muslims have more impediments to integration then it can and should be discussed instead of shoving it under the rug in order not to "offend sensibilities".