SINGAPORE, 7th November, 2018 (WAM) — The law that safeguards Singapore’s religious harmony has to be kept up to date to deal with new threats that seek to incite enmity and hatred between religious groups, said Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday.
Loong made the statements while delivering the keynote address of the two-day international conference ‘Future of Faith: Religious Values in a Plural World’, organised by the Abu Dhabi-based Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies in partnership with the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) on the occasion of the council’s 50th anniversary celebrations this year.
Even though the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act has been in force for three decades without the Government having to invoke its powers, Lee said it “has made an important contribution to our religious harmony” by setting out the ground rules on the “give and take” that is essential in a multi-religious society, so that all faiths can coexist peacefully.
It also allows the Government to take prompt action against anyone whose actions or words cause feelings of enmity and hatred between religious groups, added the Prime Minister.
Stressing the importance of fostering good interfaith relations, “by its very existence”, Loong noted that the law has made an important contribution to our religious harmony, and has to be kept up-to-date to “deal with new threats to our religious harmony that will emerge from time to time.”
In his speech on Wednesday to 350 interfaith religious leaders and scholars, including Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, President of the Forum, Loong also reiterated the need for different races and religions to adopt a “give and take” approach, given that different communities live side by side, with places of worship coexisting in close proximity with one another. He said that Singapore has established social norms of compromise and accommodation “through a long period of sustained effort and socialisation.”
Maintaining religious harmony, said Lee, requires “unremitting conscious effort and attention”. He added: “It also requires religious leaders who under the broader social context, support the Government’s efforts to build common ground and guide their followers on the right path.” ‘ ‘The conference brings together religious leaders with public officers, community leaders, and students, to exchange ideas on how to do this in a practical way.” “By creating opportunities for interfaith interaction and strengthening interfaith ties, we protect ourselves against forces which might otherwise one day, tear our society asunder.”
Singapore will hold an international conference next year, to bring together prominent thinkers, policy-makers and practitioners too, in order to exchange views on the theme of social cohesion, with a central focus on building inter-faith relations.