Protect public domain so it remains inclusive

I agree that the public domain is something that we need to share together ("Faith in the public domain", March 19).

Since Singapore's independence in 1965, neither religion nor atheism has been a barrier to the country's multiculturalism.

While all religions have equal opportunity to thrive in Singapore, religious liberty does not authorise any act contrary to any general law related to public order, public health or morality.

Associate Professor Farish A. Noor's observation that "suddenly the Asian region has become witness to all kinds of communal demands in the public domain that are exclusive in nature, and this has become worrisome in many parts of Asia in particular" is worth taking note of.

Indeed, in the context of Singapore, it would be worrisome if someone's exclusive religious demand - that either short-changes another's rights or gives preferential treatment over someone else's religion - is acceded to.

The Government's stance on the recent outbursts by some religious leaders and their followers against Madonna's concert is clear evidence of the Government's seriousness in enforcing the laws that have protected Singapore's multiculturalism.

Unlike in many parts of Asia, where sectarian identity politics led by communitarian leaders predominates, there is no state religion in Singapore.

The Government, while refraining from judging the merits of any religion, ensures that religion and politics do not mix.

And religious leaders, while refraining from interfering in the activities of the Government, do their part to ensure the behaviour of their followers does not cause disharmony between different religions.

The entry ban on foreign preachers and religious leaders who spread divisive messages and the enforcement that views on sensitive issues are aired responsibly show that Singapore is unique.

The Studies in Inter-Religious Relations in Plural Societies programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies shows that reasoned public dialogue on a host of religious demands in the public domain is less problematic in Singapore than in many other Asian countries today.

Needless to say, Singapore's public domain must remain inclusive and we should protect it together.

S. Ratnakumar

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 01, 2016, with the headline 'Protect public domain so it remains inclusive'. Print Edition | Subscribe