Food can unite or divide in multiracial and multicultural Singapore: Desmond Choo

Due to fallacies and fake news, food can cause inter-faith friction, said Mayor of North East District Desmond Choo.
Due to fallacies and fake news, food can cause inter-faith friction, said Mayor of North East District Desmond Choo.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - While food can draw Singaporeans together, it can also divide people of different beliefs.

Mr Desmond Choo, Mayor of North East District, said food can cause inter-faith friction, due to fallacies and fake news.

Speaking at an inter-faith dialogue on Saturday (Sept 8) at Our Tampines Hub, Mr Choo highlighted a case earlier this year when fast-food chain Subway announced that it was applying for halal certification and would stop selling pork.

However, the popular sandwich chain was criticised by some netizens for removing pork from its menu. Some even threatened to boycott Subway over the move.

Subway outlets here have since been officially certified halal by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis).

Mr Choo said more platforms are needed for frank conversations to take place so that Singaporeans of various beliefs "can understand our similarities and differences".

"There is a need for a bigger common space where we can all participate in frank discussions, but at the same time being able to practise our faiths freely without fear," he added.

"When we do that, we realise that we are a lot more similar than we are dissimilar."

Organised by the North East Community Development Council, the dialogue is part of the Common Senses for Common Spaces series, which seeks to identify and emphasise commonalities across faiths.

Four individuals of different faiths talked about their dietary observances and sharing table with others who do not have the same dietary restrictions.

They also discussed ways to make sure that children learn about certain religious practices. They shared that respect for other faiths can be inculcated from young by teaching children to appreciate Singapore's diversity.

Physiotherapist Thilaga Govindasamy, a Hindu who was on the panel, said parents have to set a good example at home.

"It is what you practise at home," she added. "It is important to educate adults on what is right and what is wrong, because the children will follow what they say and how they behave."