Tuesday, November 20, 2007

No religion in my politics please, I'm Singaporean

(Unpublished - Nov 16, 2007)

No religion in my politics please, I'm Singaporean

Dear Editor,

I refer to Chua Mui Hoong's article "Rules of engagement for God and politics" (ST, Nov 16).

I believe that religion will have a role to play in society, provided everyone is of the same religion. In that sense, religion's contribution to society will be a constructive one.

Given a diverse society like that of Singapore's, where there are many religions co-existing, along with the non-religious, there are conflicting interests and opinions. We should also be critical of some religious institutions that strive to discover a common set of beliefs among other institutions to justify a political cause, for example, the call to collectively condemn homosexuality. While it may be true most religions share certain values, such rallies have ethical implications.

Though the non-religious, including free-thinkers and atheists, may not actively form communities, be as organised as most religious institutions, or even receive funding and allocated space to 'practise' their beliefs, we cannot come to the conclusion their contributions to law and politics are invalid. In fact, the non-religious are the ones who have to put up with all the religiously-charged debates and opinions based on faith. The non-religious people are under-represented and should receive equal amount of protection as the religious people.

Chua and Tan Seow Hon have cited John Rawls in discussing the desirable situation for Singapore society. Let me cite John Rawls too.

Rawls believes that social allocation rules should not "injure" the most disadvantaged in society, that inequalities in distributive justice are permissible so long as they benefit the least well-off. Unfortunately, we have an inequality that underprivileges sexual minorities and neither does it benefit them. Benefitted instead is the heterosexist and homophobic dominance of a majority people, or at least those who claim to be the majority. That in my opinion constitutes greater harm to the under-represented and the minorities, but not many, given their privileged positions, will consider it to be "harm" at all.

Is it fair to nationally decide what is right and wrong based on a religious value? What about the non-religious? If so, are the non-religious less moral? Is the non-religious person's conceptualisation of "harm" less valid in contrast with that of a religious person's?

I believe there are a lot more issues we have to examine and we cannot take diversity in Singapore for granted.

Ho Chi Sam

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