Letter of the week: Not every incident involving race stems from malicious intent

Ms Sarah Bagharib's wedding photo had been used for Hari Raya decorations. PHOTO: SARAH BAGHARIB/INSTAGRAM

I read with concern the allegations of racism linked to the People's Association (PA), which came in the wake of the inappropriate use of Ms Sarah Bagharib's wedding photograph as a standee for Hari Raya decorations (People's Association withdraws offer to meet couple, June 15).

Similar incidents have occurred in Singapore, be they inaccurate Malay, Tamil or Chinese translations, or misrepresentation of cultures and traditions.

In this case, it is a clear mistake that PA needs to be held accountable for.

It has apologised, and is establishing a resource panel to guide and advise its staff on cultural matters to prevent a repeat of such a mistake.

But I also find it unsettling that Ms Bagharib has gone on to share and make comments on social media about the incident, and make references to racism.

Not every incident that involves a race or culture equates to an incident with malicious intent; it may genuinely be one caused by sheer ignorance.

As much as cultural ignorance should not be perpetuated, it is just as important that we distinguish it from malicious racist intent.

Such a practice of being too quick to make allegations of racism is troubling, especially in a country like Singapore.

It may trivialise real examples of racism that exist in our society that should be looked at.

It is also divisive, and stokes emotions and sentiments which could hurt our social fabric.

No one will benefit from this development in the long run.

Hanafi Ahmad

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