Religion and culture are distinct

That religion is often embedded in culture is incontrovertible, but religion is not the soul of culture and, very often, they can be distinct and disparate (Time to rethink Thaipusam music ban, by Mr Michael Lum Yan Meng; March 29).

And this is particularly true of Chinese festivals if one is to find a corollary of Thaipusam, the Hindu festival at the core of the debate.

Chinese people of all religious denominations celebrate Chinese New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival and Dragon Boat Festival, rejoicing in their cultural roots without any thoughts of their religion because these cultural festivals are devoid of overt religious connotations.

I am not altogether conversant with Malay or Indian culture but, on the national level, Singapore has its own culture and it neutrally encompasses universal religious beliefs.

The cultures of Chinese, Indians, Malays and all minor ethnic groups are entwined into the national one, which is secular and religion tolerant.

Mr Lum poses the question of whether lion dance, with cymbals clashing and drums beating, bears religious connotations.

It does not.

People of all races and religions partake in it both as performers and spectators.

Finally, music and revelry are not the peace disruptors.

People are, especially inebriated ones who have taken leave of their senses.

Yik Keng Yeong (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 03, 2018, with the headline 'Religion and culture are distinct'. Print Edition | Subscribe