Need for Singapore to be vigilant against foreign influences

Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman said crises overseas are often driven by political causes and tribal or sectarian differences.
Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman said crises overseas are often driven by political causes and tribal or sectarian differences. PHOTO: MFA

SINGAPORE - Singaporeans must be vigilant and not allow foreign issues or cultures to drive a wedge into its social fabric.

Crises overseas are often driven by political causes and tribal or sectarian differences, rather than a religious cause, said Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman.

Speaking at an interfaith dialogue organised by South East CDC on Saturday (Jan 21), Dr Maliki noted that the spread of new and social media has made it easier to ignite racial and religious discord in any place at any time. "No country or society is immune," he added.

And that is why interfaith cohesion is more critical than ever in these turbulent times, he said.

Dr Maliki also said Singapore has to be more than just a colour-blind society - it needs to learn to embrace its diversity, by "recognising all creeds and cultures".

"Diversity is strength when properly cultivated and coordinated.But if left unattended, taken for granted or left to be manipulated, it would be disastrous," he said.

Dr Maliki was speaking at the second of three interfaith dialogues titled "Common Senses for Common Spaces". The first was held last June.

Saturday's dialogue, held at the SPH News Centre, centred on what different colours meant to people of different races and religions.

Participants pointed out that the colour purple, for instance, represented penance to Catholics. The colour red on the other hand was lucky and auspicious to the Chinese.

But ambassador-at-large Ong Keng Yong, executive deputy chairman of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, also pointed out at the dialogue that certain political factions have used different colours to divide societies.

"Today some colours are associated with certain political movement or politics," he said, citing the example of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which has a distinctive black flag.

"Colours are naturally harmonious, but colours can also be used to be a divide among us."