Forum: Are we mature enough to hold open discussions?

People with mobile phones at Bugis MRT on Aug 19, 2020.
People with mobile phones at Bugis MRT on Aug 19, 2020.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Recently, there have been calls to be "more open" and to have a better framework to discuss politics, race and religion in Singapore (Opportunities to give views without being shouted down to be created, Aug 29).

In one sense, this is a positive development for the nation. But we should not forget what is unique to Singapore.

This uniqueness is something that has made the city state a multiracial, multi-religious and multicultural nation that is admired by other nations, some of which have even viewed Singapore as a mini-United Nations.

At the same time, this uniqueness can put the city in a fragile, vulnerable state if the discussion of race, religion and other sensitive issues is not done in a wise and mature manner.

We have seen such issues causing riots, anger, deep misunderstandings and polarisation in many societies and countries, and much of such damage is not easily reparable.

If citizens do not approach such issues as Singaporeans, and instead do so as members of different races, religions and cultures, the possibility of things going drastically wrong is not far-fetched.

I am concerned whenever I browse social media and notice the angst in the language used, whenever I perceive xenophobia on the rise especially when one's own affairs are threatened, and whenever I notice a lack of understanding of the beliefs, culture and peculiarities of those who are different.

I feel rather disturbed by what I have read on social media, and realise that we may still be far from a situation where we can debate and discuss such issues in a calm and positive manner.

Quek Koh Choon (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2020, with the headline 'Are we mature enough to hold open discussions?'. Print Edition | Subscribe