Find common space between religion and secularism

I agree that Singapore's brand of secularism is "religion friendly" ("Enhancing Singapore's secularism"; Thursday).

But, can religion synergise the common space?

The common space is an environment conducive to public discussions that include moral issues - such as human dignity, sexuality, euthanasia, equal rights and inclusiveness - and have a bearing on policymaking and lawmaking.

In Singapore, to all intents and purposes, the national pledge clearly defines the common space.

And this common space is well protected by a variety of laws the Government can invoke.

While our common space is, as it should remain, "religion friendly", there is no single religion that can adequately represent all the religions.

And, the root of all confrontations and unpleasantness in the common space involving moral issues can be traced to conflicting religious ideologies.

A practical case closer to our hearts today is the demand by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) people for equal rights.

To some religious groups, the LGBTQ community is taboo, while some other religious groups worship deities depicting LGBTQs.

The secularists, on the other hand, adopt a live-and-let-live attitude.

And, in this type of situation, the common space is under severe pressure.

But, the Government's approach of equitable treatment and recognition given to all religious communities, while maintaining public order and civic relations among citizens, is exemplary.

As a result, we have become accustomed to looking at religious diversity not as confrontation, but as an opportunity for meaningful integration, and, at the same time, refraining from invoking religious ideologies to support public arguments.

Can Singapore's model of secularism evolve to accommodate religious views on matters of public interest?

Religion is, after all, for peace and mindfulness.

History reveals that religion continues to evolve.

And, there exist religious views and interpretations that embrace secularism - compassion, kindness, spirituality, and so on.

Such interpretations need to be highlighted, popularised and adopted.

It would be much easier and more practical to find those religious interpretations that can be synchronised with secularism than to attempt to modify Singapore's brand of secularism that has helped maintain religious harmony for the past five decades.

S. Ratnakumar

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 06, 2016, with the headline 'Find common space between religion and secularism'. Print Edition | Subscribe