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.

Of Catholics and Condoms

The Church is rearing its ugly head here in Singapore - this one is about sex, morals and condoms.

According to The Straits Times, 26 Jan 2011, in the article, "Call to tweak sexuality education",

Some Catholic school principals have met Ministry of Education (MOE) officials to discuss how the ministry's sexuality education programme can be tweaked.

Among other things, they had asked for a segment on the use of condoms to be modified so that it better matches Catholic beliefs. The segment includes a video on the use of condoms.

And apparently,

A spokesman said the ministry conducts periodic reviews of its sexuality education programme, and consults parties such as parents, teachers, students, health professionals and religious leaders. [My emphasis added, in italics]

Although, it also said,

'While the presentation of information could be refined, the core messages of the HPB remain relevant and will be retained,' the spokesman said.

Needless to say, I disagree with the pseudo moral ideas of the Church. But more importantly, I think that the MOE should not compromise with religious opinion. Singapore schools, Catholic or not, should not be doling out fantastical conceptions of morality.

Let's take a look at what the religious representatives have said. In a letter to Catholic school leaders, Archbishop Nicholas Chia wrote

He acknowledged that Singapore was "a secular society where no specific religious group has the right to impose its beliefs on others".

He went on to say that "within the context of our Catholic schools, however, I would find it unacceptable if students were given a compromised message on premarital sex. This applies to all students in the school".

It is unfortunate that he thinks that it was "unacceptable" but being a "Catholic school" is not excuse. It is a school - it must teach anything and everything deemed necessary by the ministry. Should there be a conflict of interest, students' welfare and education comes first, religious beliefs second. The secular interests of all students cannot be compromised by religious opinions of one segment.

On the use of condoms, he cited Church literature and teachings

He said that the Church's teaching 'concerns marital acts, since marital acts are the only ethical sexual acts in the eyes of the Church'.

He added: 'If we present to our young people how to use the condom outside marriage, just in case you need it, it would be as though the Church is teaching us how to sin less grievously which makes no sense.'

Indeed, it makes no sense, because the very concept of premarital sex as a sin makes no sense. Granted, they do have the freedom to stick to their pseudo moral views under the pretext that it's their religious dogma.

But we're talking about teenagers here - we know that some of them, like it or not, are definitely going to fuck each others' brains out. If all we're going to give them is essentially "Say No To Sex" and stay a virgin for your future spouse or Jesus, you are going to be a grandparent.

To add insult to injury, the Catholic Church in general is also known for its stance against abortion as well. No to contraception, no to abortion? - it's almost as if the Church wants more teen pregnancies. In this respect, the Church seems uninformed about practical realities or it is grotesquely insensitive about human suffering

This is not surprising given that the Catholic Church's (I am no longer referring to just those in Singapore) involvement in the global child rape scandals and the AIDS pandemic in Africa. This corrupt organization seems more concerned  with itself and its doctrines than the people that they care for - we would be better off treating its "moral" claims with skepticism if not ignoring them completely.

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.

More on Census 2010

Here's some excerpts from The Straits Times, 14 Jan 2011, as well as some of my comments.

The decline in Buddhism over the past decade may be traced to the rise of churches, more people wanting to their own faith or the lack of one, and greater clarity between Buddhism and Taoism, said scholars and faith leaders yesterday. That may explain the increase in the proportion of Christians and people with no religion here.

With 97% of the non-religious being Chinese, an ethnicity traditionally associated with Buddhism/Taoism, this comes as no surprise.

Dr Lai Ah Eng, a researcher who has studied religious trends here, said a reason may be the growing prominence of Pentecostal and Evangelical Christian groups here, which was a "reflection of a larger trend around the world".

Not to mention, worrying trend. Religiosity is one thing we don't want to import from America.

The other group to gain new followers was those with no religion - from 14.8 per cent in 2000 to 17 per cent last year.

What an unusual way to describe the non-religious... followers? of what? no religion?

Sociologist Daniel Goh, an assistant professor at the National University of Singapore, said the increase could have be due to overall higher education levels and the loosening of kinship ties in society. "Higher-educated people are more likely to look to a de-ritualized way of life. They want to be able to choose freely a belief system that works for them."

Yet another unusual phrasing - "choose freely a belief system".

We don't choose beliefs - We believe when we're convinced by the evidence (though evidential standards vary between individuals).

Morals not to be found in a book
Mr Eugene Tay, 23, is used to asking questions. It is something his parents have encouraged him to do since he was little.

"I was encouraged to use basic tools - logic, science - to analyze our world. If something isn't right, we ask why," said the third-year engineering student at Nanyang Technological University.

His spirit of inquiry and his leaning towards logic and science have built in him a non-faith. He calls himself an "atheist-agnostic, secular humanist".

Simply put, he does not believe in God.

About organized religion, he said: "Having a religion to me would seem like I'm forcing myself to a certain dogma that tells me what to do, what is morally correct or incorrect.

"There are ways to think about morals - and they don't all come in a book."

This seems like the first time I've seen, in the news, someone who explicitly identifies as an atheist-agnostic and secular humanist. Looks promising for one who hopes that more people become rational/skeptical atheists.

I take issue with the capitalization of "god" in the article. "God" when capitalized usually refer to God of Abraham - which is not the case here, here it should be "any gods" not "God".

I do love the swipe made against the authority of scripture - and the bookish religions.

2010 Census - Religion in Singapore

The 2010 Population Census of Singapore has just been released. The following is a graph representing the change in religious affiliation over the past decade. Blue represents the percentage of the population in 2000 and orange for 2010.

From the data, it is clear that all religious categories increased in proportion over the decade with the sole exception of Buddhism. Amongst those experiencing an increase, Christianity, Taoism, Hinduism and people who identify with "no religion" show significant growth. Islam and "other religions" remained relatively stable.

Figures tell that the younger generations are more likely to profess "no religion". The non-religious has seen an increase in proportion across alll age groups. Almost one in four university graduates had no religion - although this figure has fallen from 28.9% (2000) to 24.2% (2010).

The ethnicity of the non-religious seems to be almost completely Chinese, accounting for about 97% of those who profess "no religion". This number account for slightly more than one-fifth of the Chinese population.

Although 17% of Singaporeans identify with "no religion", it is not clear what fraction have reached the position because of skepticism. But in general, it is somewhat promising to see some increase in irreligiosity.

Singapore Census of Population 2010
There are no direct links to/quotes of the document in question due to copyright. The data represented here have been drawn from newspaper publications (The Straits Times, 13 Jan 2011) which presumably have been granted permission to publish these results.

While no direct links are allowed, you may visit SingStats by searching "statistics singapore" on Google. At the site, go to Publications", look for the document in question under "Singapore Census of Population 2010".

How Man created God

A lovely addition to Evid3nc3's video uploads - A History of God. This video more or less summarises the development of Judaism from earlier polytheistic religions to its modern monotheistic form.

Now I'm tempted to purchase Karen Armstrong's "A History of God" to learn more.