Countering Fundamentalism: Perspectives from Buddhism and Other Religions
By Nursheila Muez
The Studies in Inter-Religious Relations in Plural Societies (SRP) Programme at RSIS and the Buddhist College of Singapore (BCS) held their second joint seminar at BCS on 17 November 2018. Building on the success of the first seminar, this year’s seminar, themed “Countering Fundamentalism: Perspectives from Buddhism and Other Religions”, was attended by about 60 Buddhist monks and activists of the local Buddhist community. This collaboration is undertaken under the RSIS-BCS MOU signed in 2017.
The keynote lecture was delivered by SRP Visiting Professor and Advisor, Abdullah Saeed. Prof Abdullah commented on the rise of groups and social movements considered to be fundamentalist, situating them in the context of a global religious resurgence. At the same time, he highlighted how the term “fundamentalism” can be problematic, as it may be conflated with other phenomena such as religious conservatism. Nonetheless, Prof Abdullah stressed that it is imperative we counter fundamentalism through two broad approaches: by committing ourselves to upholding human dignity, and by imparting critical thinking skills in religious education.
Our panel of speakers, comprising Dr Lee Foong Ming, Assistant Professor at BCS; Mr S Ravenderan, former Vice President of the Hindu Centre; Assoc Prof Paul Hedges and Dr Mohamed Ali of SRP, elaborated on the brief history of fundamentalism in the Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, and Muslim traditions respectively. A common thread that ran through these four presentations was the need to re-evaluate our interpretations of our sacred texts and religious traditions in order to reject fundamentalist ideologies.
The lecture ended with a lively Q&A session. The questions covered a range of topics including strategies to counter the pervasiveness of fundamentalist narratives on social media, the role of religious authority and faith adherents in reading and interpreting sacred texts, and efforts that can be undertaken to promote greater inter-religious interaction and understanding in society.
Related SRP Events:
- SRP 4th Executive Programme 2018
- Certificate in Islamic Thought in Contemporary Plural Societies
- CTIS-SRP Joint Workshop on Dialogue Skills and Theories
Last updated on 23/01/2019