Be mindful of racial and religious issues

A passenger accused Gojek driver Kamaruzzaman Abdul Latiff of kidnapping her on their trip from Bishan to the city. Footage of the incident went viral on Facebook.
A passenger accused Gojek driver Kamaruzzaman Abdul Latiff of kidnapping her on their trip from Bishan to the city. Footage of the incident went viral on Facebook.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/KAMARUZZAMAN BIN ABDUL LATIFF

During the heated exchange in the recent incident involving a Gojek rider and driver, the passenger made a racial remark that might possibly provoke some quarters of society (Gojek rider's dispute with driver goes viral; Feb 2).

As a former chairman of one of the committees in the Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles, I have learnt that racial and religious beliefs are visceral parts of the human psyche, and they can be sensitive and fragile.

Therefore, an undue comment about race or religion, even if said with good intentions, can result in unintended backlash, open up old wounds and create new fault lines in our multicultural society.

We have observed how racial and religious controversies and conflicts have caused deep divisions in communities and polarised their people.

When the social fabric is torn, it is hard to return the fabric back to its original values, strengths and functional conditions.

Like glass, once harmony is broken, it is hard to put the pieces back together again.

Everyone should exercise due care in his words and actions so that we can continue to develop a more stable, secure and sustainable level of racial and religious harmony.

That is why our people, including leaders and people of influence, should be mindful of the vulnerabilities of our racial and religious fabric.

Everyone should exercise due care in his words and actions so that we can continue to develop a more stable, secure and sustainable level of racial and religious harmony.

The law must send a strong message to the public that there is no place for any word or action that is prejudicial to the maintenance of racial and religious harmony here.

Patrick Liew Siow Gian (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2019, with the headline 'Be mindful of racial and religious issues'. Print Edition | Subscribe