03 September 2017
Singapore’s brand of multiracialism is now in the spotlight with the coming presidential election reserved for Malay candidates.
According to a IPS survey last year, there are no serious or pressing problems among the races, though racial biases and prejudices exist and may never go away.
Seen in this context, the Government’s move to introduce reserved elections for the presidency might seem perplexing.
If it ain’t broke, why fix it?
I think there are two developments in the future which might upset the delicate balance.
First, the growing influence of Islamic teachings from the Middle East and the ideological battle there between Sunnis and Shi’ites.
It is uncertain what the outcome of those wars will be but you can be sure Muslims in South-east Asia, including Singapore, will be pulled in different directions.
Will some of these pressures widen the gap between them and the other races?
It is telling that most of the home-grown terrorists in Europe who have been radicalised are young men in their 20s and 30s, many of whom are well-educated with jobs.
Singapore will not be immune to the problem.
Second, China’s growing strength will greatly influence Singapore’s Chinese population and their language environment.
It isn’t hard to foresee a future in which Chinese commercial and soft power dominates – in entertainment, fashion, food and literature – changing the multiracial character of Singapore society and making the minority races feel even more alienated from the majority.
The confluence of these two developments – growing Middle East influence and China’s rise – can sharpen the differences among the races here.
Every survey, including the one by IPS cited above, has found that young people are much more open-minded about race than older ones.
These are sharp differences between young and old, shaped by their life experiences.
That is reason to be more hopeful about the future.
… Han Fook Kwang is also a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University.
RSIS / Online / Print
Last updated on 04/09/2017