A large majority of Singaporeans are aware of the seriousness of race and religious issues, and believe that the Government has done enough to manage these divisions. However, fault lines have emerged on class, immigration and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights, where more Singaporeans, especially those who are younger, want to see greater state involvement and public discourse. These emerging issues, if mismanaged, are also seen to affect Singaporeans' trust in the Government the most, compared with race and religion. These and other findings from a study of public opinion on fault lines in Singapore, carried out by the Institute of Policy Studies, were released earlier this week.
It is undeniable that Singapore has come a long way by legislating against racial and religious discord. This was an essential but relatively painless effort because the vast majority of Singaporeans want to live in peace and harmony. A combination of legislation and softer measures and community- level initiatives - including the Internal Security Act, Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act, and Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles - has succeeded in preventing potential discord and wider conflict. Importantly, deterrent laws and inclusive community platforms have worked together to create a broad and deep mainstream of public opinion. This mainstream rejects not only racial bigotry and religious violence and extremism, but also any attempt to dilute the secular character of the Singapore state by mixing religion and politics. A sturdy public consensus on racial and religious harmony underpins Singapore's social fabric.