On 25 May 2021, Dr Paul Hedges of the Studies in Inter-Religious Relation in Plural Societies (SRP) Programme launched his book, Religious Hatred: Prejudice, Islamophobia, and Antisemitism in Global Context, via a webinar with an esteemed panel of speakers. The well-attended event included participants from the academic, interfaith, and government sectors.
Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, Executive Deputy Chairman of RSIS, opened the webinar with introductory remarks highlighting the timeliness of Dr Hedges’ book and the relevance of issues like prejudice, Islamophobia, and antisemitism to Singapore. Dr Hedges then introduced the book and his motivations behind writing it before three scholars offered their analyses of the book.
First, Dr Irm Haleem provided a conceptual framing of hate and prejudice, drawing upon the first two chapters of the book, and in her slides provided helpful diagrammatic representations of the arguments made by Dr Hedges. Second, Professor Ari Kohen of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln spoke on antisemitism in the United States and discussed antisemitic chanting at the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally in 2017 as well as the growing prominence of the “great replacement” conspiracy theory. Third, Dr Mohamed Bin Ali related the material in Dr Hedges’ book to the Islamic doctrine of Al-Wala’ wal Bara’ (loyalty and disavowal), but he also noted the possibility of people of different faiths coming together to overcome Islamophobia and other prejudices.
Following the panellists’ comments, there was an engaging question and answer session which allowed Dr Hedges to address in greater detail some of the thinking behind writing Religious Hatred. The closing speech was given by SRP Programme Head Ambassador Mohammad Alami Musa who noted that the pathways into religious hatred are all too easily travelled, and emphasised the importance of the ongoing task of containing and mitigating prejudice.