In the recent interview Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew gave to the National Geographic Magazine he revealed his religious affiliation: “Most Chinese here are Buddhists or Taoists…I am one of them.” No quarrel with that.
But what has raised eyebrows and caused disquiet, especially among our Malay Muslims, are two statements that Mr Lee that were reckless, outrageous and utterly devoid of any sense.
The first was the insinuation that the Malays are self-centred and selfish. Mr Lee had said, “Well, we make them say the national pledge and sing the national anthem but suppose we have a famine, will your Malay neighbour give you the last few grains of rice or will she share it with her family or fellow Muslim or vice versa?”
Why won’t the Malay share his food, either with his neighbour or with a fellow Muslim, during a famine? Does Mr Lee have a special insight as to how Malays will behave in a crisis?
Such a generalisation is deeply offensive to the Malay community.
But this is not the first time Mr Lee has made such racist and provocative remarks. He has made similar disparaging comments against Singaporean Indians.
To set Mr Lee straight, there were numerous instances during the riots when Singaporeans of different races had banded together to safeguard the community’s common well-being against crazy mobs.
If after 50 long years of PAP government the MM still does not have confidence in Singaporeans’ solidarity, whose fault is it? Is he laying the fault on the Malays?
The other statement is, according to SDP CEC member Mr Jufrie Mahmood, a more serious one as it touches on the Malays’ religious beliefs. Mr Lee said in the interview, “The influence from the Middle East has made them have head-dresses for no rhyme or reason.”
For no rhyme or reason?
“The need to dress modestly, which includes the wearing of head-dresses by Muslim women, is a religious obligation stated in the Quran,” Mr Jufrie pointed out. “It has existed for centuries. Is this not reason enough?”
What is even more baffling, says Mr Jufrie, is that there has not been any attempt by the MUIS or the numerous Muslim organisations to correct him.
“For obvious reasons I had not expected the Muslim MPs to do it. But the complete silence from MUIS and other religious leaders is really telling,” the SDP leader said. “This incident reminds me of a somewhat similar incident in the seventies.
“Encik Othman Wok, the then minister-in-charge of Muslim affairs had publicly said that he doubted there is such a thing as the hereafter (life after death), which is one of the pillars of the Islamic faith.
“My late father, who was then the President of MUIS, told me that he had gone to see him to tell him that as a Muslim and minister of Muslim affairs he should not have said such a thing.
“Mr Othman Wok’s reply was that he was only expressing his personal opinion. He was nevertheless told that it was wrong for him to express it publicly and that he should keep his personal opinion to himself.
“Will the current MUIS President seek to correct the MM? I’m not holding my breath?”