Singapore

S'pore a harmonious society because each community made sacrifices: Masagos

S'pore a harmonious society because each community made sacrifices: Masagos
TODAY file photo.
Published: 8:30 PM, February 11, 2016
Updated: 12:41 AM, February 12, 2016

SINGAPORE — The Republic remains a harmonious society because each community has sacrificed something precious to them for the sake of that harmony, and the country needs to be careful about any social change, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli.

In an interview with Malay current affairs programme Bicara, Mr Masagos, who was responding to a question on recent comments made by Member of Parliament Zaqy Mohamed on the Government’s handling of issues concerning Muslims — such as the wearing of the tudung — said: “In any social change that affects a particular community, we must be careful because it not only impacts that community but also society’s perception of that community.”

He noted that this is not unique to the tudung issue. “We can also look at how the Government views the gay rights issue, for instance. The Government did not budge on this matter,” he pointed out.

During the parliamentary debate on the President’s Address last month, Mr Zaqy had said how the Government manages increased religiosity must take into account the “new normal”, including the use of hijabs in civilian spaces.

In the Bicara interview, which aired on Suria tonight (Feb 11), Mr Masagos said while every community wants its rights to be met, Singapore has remained as a harmonious society “not because every community is given its rights, but because each community has sacrificed something that is very precious to them for the sake of that harmony”.

He added: “In all these matters, we must be wise, we must think long and hard, we must go with those who are learned in these matters.”

While Mr Zaqy and Workers’ Party MP Faisal Abdul Manap had also called for the authorities to provide more space for the discussion of identity and religion, Mr Masagos said it can also “easily lead us to open old wounds that can instigate riots”.

Religious matters, he said, belong in the domain of scholars who “not only possess deep knowledge, but they also practice and impart religion wisely”.

Noting that “some people like to interfere in such matters, especially if they can politicise it”, Mr Masagos added: “This will make a particular issue turn into something more complicated than what it was initially.”