On 23 and 24 March 2021, the Studies in Inter-Religious Relations in Plural Societies (SRP) Programme held the sixth run of its Executive Programme (EP), titled “Religion, Hatred, Law, and the Pandemic”. Thirty-nine participants, ranging from policy makers and public service officers to community and religious leaders, attended the event.
Kicking off the EP was a panel discussion titled “Diversity and Multicultural Tensions in Singapore”. The panellists, RSIS Senior Fellow Dr Norman Vasu, NTU sociologist Dr Laavanya Kathiravelu and senior Singaporean academic Dr Lai Ah Eng spoke on immigration, integration and intra-community tensions. The SRP’s Assoc Prof Paul Hedges then led a session on prejudice and religious bigotry, drawing on research undertaken for his recently published book, Religious Hatred. The racialisation of religious hatred and pathways into violence were among the issues he raised.
On the second day, constitutional law scholar Dr Jaclyn Neo gave a comprehensive rundown of the law regulating religion in Singapore. Participants were invited to offer their own interpretations of “religion” and “secularism” and to guess which of a range of phrases would fall foul of Singapore’s Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act. The session was followed by criminologist and sociologist Dr Leon Moosavi addressing the subject of Islamophobia and inviting participants to consider its relevance to their personal and professional lives.
The EP was wrapped up with a panel discussion on secularism and religious peace in Singapore, involving SRP Head Ambassador Mohammad Alami Musa, Asst Prof Mohamed Ali and Trinity Theological College lecturer Reverend Dr Chiang Ming Shun. Feedback from the participants indicated that the content of the EP was useful and relevant to their professional work.