12 May 2017
The crossing of swords in Parliament last month between Minister Masagos Zulkifli and opposition MP Faisal Manap on a religious issue (wearing of tudung by nurses and uniformed officers) provides an opportunity to reflect on the appropriateness of bringing religion into parliamentary debates.
“Mr Masagos pointed to his (Mr Faisal’s) practice of subtly and frequently bringing issues that are sensitive to the community, knowing (they are) not easy to resolve and cleverly turning them into state-versus-religion issues… He (Mr Faisal) disagreed he was sowing discord and said that as an elected MP, he had the right to voice the concerns of his community in Parliament.” (The Straits Times, April 5).
The question to deal with is whether issues of religion can be raised in Parliament, which is the apex political institution that defends the secular nature of the Singapore state.
The above question seems easy to answer but it is not so. This is due to the complexities of Singaporean society that is religious in character. Eighty-three per cent of the populace have religious affiliations and the remaining 17 per cent have moral sensibilities, although they do not profess any religion. Religion is central in the lives of a majority of Singaporeans; it is intertwined with many aspects of life and cannot be ignored even within the secular setting.
… Mohammad Alami Musa is Head of Studies in the Interreligious Relations in Plural Societies Programme, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University.
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Last updated on 16/05/2017