Loud events at void decks, burning of religious items could lead to tensions among neighbours: IPS-OnePeople.sg survey

In the latest Institute of Policy Studies-OnePeople.sg survey, at least four in 10 Singaporeans indicated that they sometimes, or more often, encountered and were upset by the burning of religious items in their estate.
In the latest Institute of Policy Studies-OnePeople.sg survey, at least four in 10 Singaporeans indicated that they sometimes, or more often, encountered and were upset by the burning of religious items in their estate.PHOTO: ST FILE

Neighbourhoods are a potential setting for tensions to arise, and they can be over issues like the burning of incense and loud events at void decks.

In the latest Institute of Policy Studies-OnePeople.sg survey, at least four in 10 Singaporeans indicated that they sometimes, or more often, encountered and were upset by the burning of religious items in their estate.

Other top peeves included loud events at void decks or common areas, religious chanting or praying, and neighbours cooking ethnic food.

When broken down to race, the survey found that 67.4 per cent of Malays, 57.6 per cent of Indians and 35.7 per cent of Chinese were at least "sometimes" upset by the burning of religious items.

"This indicates the need for management of these issues to reduce the possibility of ill will between communities," said the researchers behind the survey.

Mr Alvin Tan, chair of the Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle (IRCC), said that deliberate and sustained efforts are critical to minimise interracial and religious tensions.

"We have community ambassadors present to help explain the practices, and encourage everyone to dress in one another's traditional costumes.

"We also visit different places of worship around Chinatown to help our members get a feel of the place and culture."

REACHING OUT

We have community ambassadors present to help explain the practices, and encourage everyone to dress in one another's traditional costumes. We also visit different places of worship around Chinatown to help our members get a feel of the place and culture.

MR ALVIN TAN, chair of the Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle.

The IRCC also helps arbitrate the use of common spaces, such as when religious organisations like mosques or temples need to use them.

One example is when a fire-walking festival uses the area outside a Hindu temple.

"We come in as interlocutors very early in the process and find ways to minimise disruption to residents and businesses," he said.

On the proportion of racial minorities upset with the burning of incense, National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser said it could be due to the nature of certain religious practices, which are louder, more smoky and conducted more often.

"It could also simply be demographics in the sense that minorities are more likely to encounter the majority, and less so in the case of the majority encountering minorities."

National Institute of Education research scientist Teng Siao See said young people want more dialogue on race and religion.

"Some students have raised with us their desire to have more opportunities to talk about issues of inclusion and exclusion.

"They told us they rarely do that with their teachers or parents," she said.

Ultimately, Professor Tan said it is important for Singapo-reans to proactively mingle with one another.

"Once residents interact with one another or even do things together, they would tend to be more understanding and considerate," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 31, 2019, with the headline 'Loud events at void decks, burning of religious items among pet peeves'. Print Edition | Subscribe