Diversity, social justice can be purist ideologies too

I agree with Mr S. Ratnakumar's assertion that a political party with "purist" ideology may cause contention among minorities ("Diversity, social justice vital to unity"; Nov 23).

However, it is just as likely that such a political party may cause contention among the majority.

The rise in assertion of "cultural" values in the West and the politicisation of religious beliefs in Asia that are of concern to Mr Ratnakumar are a reaction to certain factions in the West turning diversity into a purist ideology of anti-discrimination.

In the recent United States presidential election, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton campaigned very strongly to be the first female president.

This notion that the only valid president is a woman or a member of a minority belongs to a purist ideology of anti-misogyny.

Some months before the election, President Barack Obama was pushing for a law allowing men identifying as women to use ladies toilets throughout America. Again, this is a purist policy to enforce anti-discrimination of transgender.

After the election, Clinton supporters complained that Trump voters were too concerned that they were about to become a minority in the changing face of America.

This is actually a purist strand of the philosophy of the Global Village, where every city, village, hamlet and building must consist of people of different races, religions and sexual orientations and proclivities.

It is understandable that the reaction to this imposition of a global village was a gut-level extreme nationalist reflex from the majority.

The politicisation of religious beliefs in Asia is a similar reflex to this purist ideology being imposed by Western diplomats on Asia at platforms such as the United Nations.

Religious conservatives in Asia see the recent policies advanced by the West as a direct threat to the cultural traditions of their religions, and are responding as a result. The formation and growing appeal of terrorist groups may have been a result of this as well.

We must safeguard ourselves against exclusionary purist policies, even if they come under the banners of "diversity" and "social justice", lest they promote the sectarianism the concept of diversity is supposed to prevent.

Clement Wee Hong En

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2016, with the headline 'Diversity, social justice can be purist ideologies too'. Print Edition | Subscribe