Lee Kuan Yew denies ‘venomous’ remark

I did not say that — thundered Lee Kuan Yew this morning. After having caused much unhappiness among Muslim Malays through his book Hard Truths, he must be acutely aware that a Wikileaked cable from the United States embassy in Singapore risks another firestorm.

The Singapore government has previously taken the position that US diplomatic cables pouring out through Wikileaks are unauthorised releases and refused to comment on them. In this round of releases (end August 2011, unredacted versions) however, Lee Kuan Yew has had to put out a press statement, with the commandment that editors should publish it. That said, Lee Kuan Yew is no longer part of the government, so maybe it doesn’t count as any change to government policy.

But let’s take the story in chronological order.

Hillary Clinton, at the time a US Senator from New York State, and Congressman Charles Rangel visited Singapore in July 2005, and had meetings with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, then-Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, and then-Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew. The US embassy prepared a summary of the meeting, which included these passages:

Islamic Radicalism and Iraq

The problem of Islamic terrorism would not be easily extirpated, observed MM Lee. While Muslims in Southeast Asia were traditionally moderate and tolerant, they had been affected by radicalism emanating from Middle East and the spread of wahhabism from Saudi Arabia. Singapore’s Muslim leaders were rational and educated in English and the GOS kept a limit on madrassah-based education. He stressed that moderate Muslims had to be encouraged to stand up and speak out against radicalism. They needed confidence that they could win. We could get to the tipping point, noted MM Lee, but he didn’t know how long it would take.

MM Lee said Islamic terrorists would continue to use violence until shown that their methods would not succeed. If they were successful in Iraq, they would try to topple secular governments in other countries, such as Indonesia. PM Lee said Singapore supported U.S. efforts in Iraq; it was important to get the Iraqi government working, with a security force that could take over from U.S. forces and fend for itself.

Asked by Rep. Rangel how organized terrorists were internationally, MM Lee responded that orthodox Islam was a powerful force capable of recruiting volunteers for terrorist groups. He noted Singapore’s experience in 2001 and 2002 in dealing with Jemaah Islamiyah’s terrorist plots in Singapore and characterized Islam as a “venomous religion.”

Wikileaks cable. Purportedly produced by the US embassy in Singapore, 7 July 2005.

This morning, Lee Kuan Yew’s government-provided press secretary sent out an email, effectively demanding publication:

Dear Editors

Attached press statement is for your publication, please.

Thank you,

The formal statement was attached:

Wikileaks released a cable by the US Embassy in Singapore reporting on the visit of Senator Hillary Clinton to Singapore in Jul 2005. The cable claimed that in my meeting with Senator Clinton, I had “characterized Islam as a ‘venomous religion’”.

This is false. I looked up MFA’s filenote of the meeting. Nowhere does it record me describing Islam as “venomous”, nor did I say anything which could have given that impression.

I did talk about extremist terrorists like the Jemaah Islamiyah group, and the jihadist preachers who brainwashed them. They are implacable in wanting to put down all who do not agree with them. So their Islam is a perverted version, which the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Singapore do not subscribe to.

I also pointed out that our Muslim leaders are rational, and that the ultimate solution to extremist terrorism was to give moderate Muslims the courage to stand up and speak out against radicals who have hijacked Islam to recruit volunteers for their violent ends.

Mdm Yeong Yoon Ying
Press Secretary to Mr Lee Kuan Yew
On behalf of Mr Lee
5 Sept 2011

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ filenote is hardly conclusive. Perhaps the officer taking notes knew what should or should not be recorded.

It would seem to me that using the word “venomous” would be entirely in character with the man. It would also be unlikely that the US embassy staffer would make a note of a word (in quotation marks too) unless it had been used at some point. However, it is more than possible that even if Lee had used the word, he used it in relation to Islamist extremism, but such detail was omitted from the minutes.

* * * * *

Yet, that doesn’t end the difficulty. Even a highly radical religion is still a religion. Who are you to say that it is not a religion, and therefore something the state, or an official representative of a state, can dismiss as “venomous”?

It may seem very obvious to the uncritical that Islam is what moderates make of it, but why should moderates have the final word on what constitutes Islam?

As food for thought, consider this: In Indonesia, there are Muslim groups that are highly offended by the Ahmadiyah sect. They want it proscribed by law. In the meantime, these groups engage in acts of violence and intimidation against the Ahmadiyah. Yet government officials tend to accept that the anti-Ahmadiyah groups more or less represent mainstream Islamic thinking, even if a bit too aggressively, and in their administrative actions lean towards them and against Ahmadis. The result has been a series of highly discriminatory state actions against the sect.

Who has the final word on what is Islam? Why should the state get involved? If the state shouldn’t get involved in defining Islam and taking sides in the pro- and anti- Ahmadiyah interpretations, why should our state get involved in taking sides on the question of radical jihadist Islam?

Ah, but one side resorts to violence, you may say. Fine, deal with the violence, but stay nothing about its ideology. Don’t take sides in the interpretation of the religion. Don’t use words like “radicals who have hijacked Islam” (vide Lee Kuan Yew’s latest statement) because doing so immediately says that their interpretation of Islam is wrong.

By the same token, why does the Singapore state tacitly acknowledge that conservative Christianity (in particular, the anti-gay, anti-nudity, sex-phobic positions) represents Christianity?

This Wikileak-cable incident (and Lee’s denial) is very telling in the way it reveals a serious flaw in the government’s basis for managing the religious landscape. The government tends to pick and choose what versions of religions to acknowledge as legitimate when they go about their “multi-religious” business. They need to do this because in many areas of social policy, they have to find some kind of happy medium (call it what you will: centre of gravity or the lowest common denominator) as anchor for policy. This magic point on the graph cannot be found if the reference points remain nebulous; one has to fix the reference points, before one can compute the centre of gravity or lowest common denominator.

However, the act of fixing the reference points requires a determination of where each religion stands on this and that, and this process then involves the picking and choosing as to which version of each religion to treat as authoritative.

But how else can the state manage social policy, you might ask? It has to find some sort of compromise among various religious beliefs.

No, it doesn’t. We’re going about it all wrong. We shouldn’t be running around trying to find lowest common denominators and coming up with solutions like: If four in five religions (as determined by the state) find homosexuality wrong, therefore the state should find homosexuality wrong. If three in five religions say wives must obey their husbands, therefore the law should provide fewer rights for married women versus married men.

Of course the government is careful never to frame it quite like that; however, each time they say “Singapore is conservative”, or make some reference to “widespread” opinion, they are in effect making reference to religious beliefs — because these views stem from there.

The state should abandon lowest common denominators and instead guide itself by positive secular principles, of which four are particularly crucial:

  • Equality
  • Freedom of expression
  • Freedom of association
  • Freedom of religious conscience

The last says each individual is free to subscribe to whatever religious beliefs and worship practice he wants, but, as mandated by the foregoing principles, in his public and social behaviour, he has to recognise the equal rights and freedoms of others. The state has a duty to protect those freedoms. This is quite different from saying the state has to arrive at and defend some sort of lowest common denominator.

Defending the freedoms of others is a solid-enough basis for the state to act against violent extremism, or religious coercion, or, for that matter, anti-gay pressure. More importantly, it does not require the state to pass judgement as to which version of a religion is the normative one.

Alas, this seems to be a distinction the Singapore government is unable to grasp. Or is it because they don’t want to act against religious coercion and anti-gay pressure? Maybe the People’s Action Party wants organised religions as allies to perpetuate its rule?

64 Responses to “Lee Kuan Yew denies ‘venomous’ remark”

  1. 1 Jonathan 5 September 2011 at 19:21

    I get your point. Your are saying that the Government should only defend the secular principles of the state instead of passing judgments on which religion (or religious sects) to defend on. Be it radicals or moderates, the Government should not interfere in any way as long as they do not break the laws by resorting to violence or restricting the freedom of belief by other people. This principle is same as First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

    I agree with your point of view. Please consider rephrasing the sentence “Even a highly radical religion is still a religion” as it led to a slight confusion on my first reading. I thought that you were implying that even religious sects that are illegal or are actually cults are also considered religions.

    On the whole, a well written piece of article.

    • 2 walkie talkie 6 September 2011 at 11:29

      “I thought that you were implying that even religious sects that are illegal or are actually cults are also considered religions.”

      I would say that even religious sects that are illegal, and even what the mainstream religions labelled as cults (think of Jehovah Witness, Mormons, Ahmadiyyah, Falun Gong) are religions. Christianity was once upon a time an illegal religion under the Roman government. I suspect Alex would agree too and from my reading of Alex’s article, his article did imply that illegal religious sects and also religious cults are also religions.

      As long as a worldview comprises “supernatural” elements (e.g. the belief in rebirth among various realms of existence), it is a religion. Illegality or cultic status are not relevant to whether or not a worldview should be classified as a religion.

      • 3 quirK 6 September 2011 at 23:04

        Christianity was illegal under the Roman government because its practitioners, by virtue of their worship of the resurrected Christ, did not engage in the official state religion: emperor worship.

        They were deemed illegal by a rival religion, one which the Roman state mandated. Hardly the justification for calling every present-day cult and break-away a legitimate alternative religion.

        If an Islamic sect wants to lay claim to and borrow legitimacy from mainstream authority, it has to adhere to the core tenets of Islam as espoused in the original language of the Koran. The same goes for Christian sects: Hebrew OT, Common Greek NT. The same goes for any religion which the state allows to freely prosper with official authority.

      • 4 yawningbread 7 September 2011 at 11:37

        “it has to adhere to the core tenets” — you wrote.

        And the state is going to judge which religion adheres to core tenets? What a minefield. And what for? How does it serve the purposes of a secular state?

        In any case, even “core tenets” are subject to interpretation. One could even argue that no religion today with more then five practitioners would pass your test, since just about everybody picks and chooses what they want to follow.

      • 5 Poker Player 7 September 2011 at 12:21

        “If an Islamic sect wants to lay claim to and borrow legitimacy from mainstream authority, it has to adhere to the core tenets of Islam as espoused in the original language of the Koran.”

        Yeah, that’s the problem with Indonesian govt. If they followed your reasoning the Ahmadiah cult would be banned and the Ahmadiahs wouldn’t be bashed up. Instead they would be safe in jail.

      • 6 Poker Player 7 September 2011 at 12:27

        “Christianity was illegal under the Roman government because its practitioners, by virtue of their worship of the resurrected Christ, did not engage in the official state religion: emperor worship.”

        So the principle that justifies making certain religions illegal in Singapore was already in operation in Roman times.

        I have a hard time contemplating the cognitive dissonance required of the sort of modern day Christian that subscribes to your views.

        I hope I don’t have to spell it out.

      • 7 Poker Player 7 September 2011 at 12:33

        BTW, to a Jew in say 50 AD, what was Christianity?

        And to a Christian in say 640 AD, what was Islam?

        To a staunch Brahmin in 400BC, what was a Buddhist?

        In all 3 cases, any govt of the day would be justified in making banning them?

        And today, somehow, they become legitimate and any persecution would be considered a violation of the freedom of religion?

      • 8 Poker Player 7 September 2011 at 13:39

        I could resist this. The sort of people who want most to regulate religion are most likely anti-secularists. They want religion in the public space. But not competition.

        Lions would have had to be fed by other means had liberal secularists been running the Roman empire. Don’t understand why some Christians see us as adversaries.

    • 9 Wenty 6 September 2011 at 14:47

      “I thought that you were implying that even religious sects that are illegal or are actually cults are also considered religions.”

      But that was exactly what he was saying!

      • 10 Poker Player 7 September 2011 at 13:28

        Some people are new to the idea that distinctions can be questioned.

      • 11 Rajiv Chaudhry 8 September 2011 at 13:21

        “If an Islamic sect wants to lay claim to and borrow legitimacy from mainstream authority, it has to adhere to the core tenets of Islam as espoused in the original language of the Koran”.

        If Martin Luther and Henry VIII had believed this, we wouldn’t today have Protestantism and the Church of England. Northern Europe and England would still be paying obeisance to the Pope.

        Better to stay away from the minefield of religion. Religion needs to be kept out of the sphere of public policy and fenced strictly within the private domain.

  2. 12 Ben 5 September 2011 at 19:48

    I cannot understand your rational. Do you mean that extreme religion can be tolerated as long as it does not cause harm to others? Do you expect the government to tolerate extremism to the extent that it does not pre-empt any occurrence of violence? Then I think the government would have a very difficult job to maintain peace and stability.

    • 13 walkie talkie 6 September 2011 at 11:38

      Hi Ben, what do u mean by “extreme religions” when such “extreme religions” do not promote violence and do not cause harm to others? If you try to put yourself in their shoes, would u see that the “extreme” is seen not as “extreme” but rather “faithfulness” while the “moderate version of that religion”is seen as a compromised position (in other words, the unfaithfuls who refused to suffer for what is right but instead compromised their faith for worldly benefit)?

      Perhaps one can ask oneself before one label a religious sect as “extreme religion”: what criteria should one use in labeling a religious belief as “extreme” or wrong? What reasons are there to say that those criteria are the correct criteria to use?

      • 14 Ben 6 September 2011 at 20:13

        For example, a religious text says, “there can only be one God and those who do not worship this God are traitors who do not deserve to live in this world.” Nowhere does the text contain any directive to command followers to kill non-believers. Do you allow such a religion to flourish on the rationale that no harm or violence is promoted?

      • 15 Poker Player 7 September 2011 at 10:42

        What is a Pope? What are crusades?

    • 16 walkie talkie 7 September 2011 at 21:45

      Hi Ben,

      you said: “For example, a religious text says, “there can only be one God and those who do not worship this God are traitors who do not deserve to live in this world.” Nowhere does the text contain any directive to command followers to kill non-believers. Do you allow such a religion to flourish on the rationale that no harm or violence is promoted?”

      We already have at least one major world religion with such holy text (but bare in mind that how these text are to be interpreted is another matter and these text can be interpreted in a way that is different from the initial impression we get).

      I quote some translated Qur’anic verses here:

      “Kill disbelievers wherever you find them. If they attack you, then kil them. Such is the reward of disbelievers. (But if they desist in their unbelief, then don’t kill them.)” 2:191-2

      “Have no unbelieving friends. Kill the unbelievers wherever you find them.” 4:89

      “The disbelievers are an open enemy to you.” 4:101

      What is your suggestion? :p

      • 17 Ben 8 September 2011 at 00:50

        If the text is written in an unambiguous way in which there could only be one interpretation which is a directive for followers to kill non-believers, then it should be ban outright. I think the paternalistic way in which government handles the religion issue helps protect people from harm in a way that it pre-empt violence. The same can be said of gun ownership. The United States give people the freedom to carry guns and expect them to use responsibly. But there will always be a few black sheeps in the society. The society has to decide what is the greater good: more freedom for the individual or greater safety for the community. There is no way to have the best of both worlds.

      • 18 walkie talkie 8 September 2011 at 16:45

        If my thinking is not wrong, religions that contains unambiguous instructions for followers to cause physical harm or violence against other human beings (to keep things simple, I am ignoring animals for the time being) just because other human beings either do not obey (e.g. unfaithful followers) in whatever context, or do not believe (e.g. the infidels/non-believers) that religion’s teachings in whatever context, ought to be banned even in liberal democracies.

        I won’t use “extreme” to describe such religions (as what is “extreme” to some is actually “faithfulness” to others), but would call them violent-religions or religions that promotes or encourages the use of violence on account of others’ unfaithfulness or disbelief or other circumstances (such as burning the women when their husbands are cremated). Such religions ought to be banned even within liberal societies.

        This type of physically-violent intolerance ought not to be tolerated even in liberal society.

      • 19 walkie talkie 8 September 2011 at 16:50

        To add on to my previous comment: those violent-religions can be given legitimacy as long as it is possible for us to ban the violent parts and if most of the followers can agree to discard the violent parts (or at least to be able to creatively re-interpret away the violent parts) while keeping to the non-violent parts (this may be very difficult though).

      • 20 aserialnumberonmyvote 9 September 2011 at 14:00

        How does one choose to ‘ban’ the violent parts? Does that not amount to ‘cherry-picking’ what is acceptable or unacceptable?

        Secularism rejects all religion in principle, or is then not true secularism?
        [where be the moral roots of such a society drawn from, religionists then will moan? What be the universal ‘truth’ of being human?]

        When the tide of a new religion’s fresh adherents number more than the old majority religion, the state must then bend, or break. And so, change continues. Yesterday Judaism, then Christianity, then Islamism; tomorrow, secularism and atheism? Who knows?

        Though, one could argue most major modern religions were born from bloodshed – convert or die, as their zealots had wont about the world doing.

        Religion: True Belief, or just a useful tool for the application of societal power?

        [’tis all relative; – whose relatives are in power, that is.]

  3. 21 KMT 5 September 2011 at 19:55

    Sometimes it is a matter of he talking too much and expressing his opinion on too many sensitive subjects to the wrong people. That’s the hard truths.

  4. 22 Daniel Ho 5 September 2011 at 21:30

    I think this kind of centre of gravity style of governance is characteristic of the ultra-pragmatic PAP. They are a party built on practicality and expediency. Not one founded on any ideology in particular. Whatever works is the order of the day, so there are no sacred cows.

    As one might remember, it was also LKY who said that the pledge is aspirational.

  5. 25 Anonymous 5 September 2011 at 22:16

    What happens when it is impossible to divorce violence from ideology/ beliefs, as it is the same for the relationship between peace and ideology/ beliefs? Whether we are violent, peaceful or anything-can-also/neutral, its all based on a belief system, isn’t it? It does not have to be a coporate belief system, but it is a logic nonetheless. So of course violence has to stem from some collective brains…

    Also; a freedom built on respect of someone else’s freedom – agreeable.

    But, er… freedom to do what?

    If I say “I respect my freedom to do whatever I want, including my right to express myself. I’ll respect your freedom for the same too.”

    Sounds good… until one experience a situation when all speakers are angry and cursing.

    How about a “I respect my freedom to do whatever I want, including my fascination with fire. I’ll respect your freedom for the same too.”

    Umm… you get my point…

    Even in this understanding of personal and reciprocal freedom, there must be another element at work – principles or value system: the concept or judgement of right and wrong, good and bad, healthy and detrimental.

    Freedom is only unadulterated if it is exercised, personnally and reciprocally, within the parameter of uprightness and goodness.

    Fine, fine… humanity still needs to trash out what “uprightness” and “goodness” is… (and it should!) but it does not invalidate the persisting realism of absolutisms that our postmodern society tends to pretend do not exist.

    You talk about religious conscience… well, according to conscience, some things just should not be! And conscience says one should speak up to defend what one believe is right, even if others don’t like hearing it!

    So how?

    • 26 Jonathan 6 September 2011 at 00:08

      2 points to note.

      1) On your case of “fascination with fire”, I believe that’s when social contract formally set into laws comes into play. While freedom has a broader definition, what we are going after is actually liberty. The progress of society may be gleaned by looking at how well its citizens abide by the laws and vice versa, how well the laws suit the national characteristics of its citizens.

      2) Moral intuitionism is intuitive, but hard to formalize. What comes to you as intuitive according to conscience may differ drastically from another person. For example, it is not obvious whether pornography is bad or whether power concentration of a government is good.

      I subscribe to the social contract theory of ethics. Thus, it is important for me to have a democratic system that ensures political opinions can be represented equitably. I also believe in Mill’s theory that fundamental rights must be protected from the tyranny of majority.

    • 27 walkie talkie 6 September 2011 at 11:50

      “So how?”

      Very simple.

      There is no need for conscience which is subjective and there is no need of “judgement of right and wrong, good and bad, healthy and detrimental” which is also subjective (e.g. why should person A’s judgement that having casinos in Singapore here is immoral be superior than person B’s judgement that there is nothing immoral about having casinos in Singapore?)

      All we need is the concept of empirical harm.

      That means, freedom of expression is to be restricted only by the empirical harm factor. With that, I would modify your words to become:

      “You should respect my freedom to do whatever I want, including my fascination with fire as long as I do not cause others any empirical harm. I’ll respect your freedom for the same too as long as you do not cause empirical harm to others.”

      I used “empiritcal” so as to exclude very subjective stuff like “spiritual harm”.

    • 29 Anders 6 September 2011 at 16:24

      “Sounds good… until one experience a situation when all speakers are angry and cursing.”

      So what’s the great harm? Making someone angry has never been and should never be illegal. On the contrary, that’s the entire point with freedom of speech, it guarantees you the right to say that which others (governments in particular) may take offense with. Even the greatest dictators have seldom seen any need in restricting uncontroversial speech that doesn’t offend anyone. The right to say harmless pleasantries is seldom threatened and it’s not really what we need freedom of speech for.

      Basically, right to criticize is much more important than protecting you from the discomfort or harm of being offended.

  6. 30 ThePasserby 5 September 2011 at 22:24

    The government’s stand has always been consistent: it promotes values and enacts policies that engender social cohesion, even if it comes at the expense of the rights of some minorities.

    The government’s interest in picking sides in intra-religion battles extends only to how much it can maintain social harmony. The government seems loathe to wade into religious controversies unless Singapore’s harmony between its racial and religious communities is at stake. In other words, driven by pragmatism.

    • 31 Rajiv Chaudhry 6 September 2011 at 10:37

      I believe the government has fallen behind society and pragmatism is but a smokescreen behind which it hides.

      There was a time when the PAP was not afraid to lead public opinion, even at the expense of some temporary unpopularity, whether it was promoting the two-child policy, banning chewing gum or razing kampongs (remember, it legalised abortion: can you imagine it doing that today, against Christian right-wing opposition?).

      The problem with the current PAP government is that there is an absence of clear and decisive leadership and a willingness to lead public opinion (this, of course, presupposes that the leaders themselves hold clear and visionary views which clearly they don’t). Thus, there are many areas in which the government needs to demonstrate leadership but is failing to do so. These include Section 377A, promoting open-source software and most importantly, holding all religions and religious views at arms length and not passing any judgement, favourable or unfavourable on them. I suggest the “silent majority” that the government is so fond of citing is either a myth (no empirical studies have been done) or merely an excuse for inaction. C’est la vie.

    • 32 Poker Player 6 September 2011 at 12:44

      “The government’s stand has always been consistent: it promotes values and enacts policies that engender social cohesion, even if it comes at the expense of the rights of some minorities.”

      In the same sentence you see “social cohesion” **AND** “at the expense of the rights of some minorities”. Sounds almost reasonable until you try to figure out how you decide which minority. The social cohesion could as well refer to gays, Hindus, Buddhists and atheists united and the marginalized ones the Christians – as a pre-emptive measure against what is happening in South Korea.

  7. 34 Sha 5 September 2011 at 22:46

    the light bulb lit only when I read the last line. Spot on Mr Au!

  8. 35 yuen 5 September 2011 at 22:50

    freedom to believe is not identical to freedom to practise, e.g., a few years ago in US there was a number of arrests of leaders of a Christian sect that advocate polygamy and underage marriage – that may be part of their religious belief, but its practice is still illegal

    in Malaysia there are religious police that catch and fine people for breaking fast during ramadan and for “proximity”; obviously, the particular version of belief enforced by the religious police is the “official” version endorsed by the state

    while few would argue against your four “secular principles”, the interplay between religious beliefs, community standards, legal sanctions and administrative attitudes is complex and history dependent; e.g., muslims can practise polygamy but christians cannot, but you should not use this as evidence that the government and the legal system violate equality

    • 36 walkie talkie 6 September 2011 at 11:56

      “muslims can practise polygamy but christians cannot, but you should not use this as evidence that the government and the legal system violate equality”

      I think it does violates equality. If I start a religion or religious sect today (or I bring “traditional mormonism” to Singapore) and my religious sect views nothing immoral with polygamy as long as honesty and mutual informed consensus are present, then why is my religion or religious sect not given the same treatment as that given to the Muslims with regard to the freedom to practise polygamy?

  9. 37 LOKE SOON CHOO 5 September 2011 at 23:25

    MFA did not comment on WikiLeaks in the past. Now LKY refered to MFA filenotes and denied what he was porported to have said. Isn’t it one and the same? MFA does not comment on WikiLeaks, but LKY referenced MFA filenotes as testimony to deny what he said?

  10. 39 astro 6 September 2011 at 01:31

    though i’m pro-opposition, I believe in Mr LKY to be innocent for this current mis-interpretation of the Wikileaks cables. Unless he had become slightly senile in 2005, it is not quite possible for him to utter such strong blasphemous words on the Islamic religion on the whole.

  11. 40 sam 6 September 2011 at 01:42

    “Maybe the People’s Action Party wants organised religions as allies to perpetuate its rule?”

    A typical strategy of the PAP. Just like how it needed the communists in the 60s to consolidate its Chinese votes.

  12. 41 AnT 6 September 2011 at 02:16

    A more valuable assessment is now that the denial is officially out, does that make the Americans big liars? I don’t think so.

    A lot of people including moi too thinks it is in line with his character and not very sparing of a character to even call the people of this country daft etc.. which, unfortunately the oft insulted becomes insulated, while praising foreigners to skyscraper high.

    But if the notes are true, then what lies in store for a megalomaniac who has stirred the hornet’s nest of arousing the ire of Muslims internationally. I shudder to think of his or his family’s consequence.But he certainly deserves to be taught a lesson given his past misdeeds. Now which family is going to shelter him? Mr Istana?

    But all’s well ends well. Karma is finally showing its true colours.

  13. 42 ricardo 6 September 2011 at 06:48

    I’m saddened that has become a discussion about religious & other tolerance or its lack. LKY demonises Islam and we demonise him and so on.

    Among the various “Freedoms” that are “Human Rights”, how about “Freedom from having your schools & hospitals bombed by the 2nd largest of fleet of F16s in the world” (from before 1982 in Gaza and the camps in Lebanon), “Freedom from your childrens’ bones being broken by occupying troops” (from 1st Intifada, 1 in 22 Palestinian children) and “Freedom from being shot by helicopter gunships as you leave your place of worship on a feast day” (Hari Raya Puasa 1988, Gaza)

    I respectfully suggest these are more fundamental than some of the other (important) “Rights” under discussion.

    “Freedom from Terrorism” is also a “Right” but LKY, the Western powers and Press and most Singaporeans, … even this august body … see terrorism as a result of fundamentalist religious ideologies.

    The true root of Terrorism is much simpler. When the “Great” Powers and Western aligned nations like SG ignore your plight and openly support naked aggression against defenseless women & children, do you wonder why people strap bombs to themselves & walk into army checkpoints? What other recourse have they against tanks & F16s?

    If Gaza was in Bosnia, there would be NATO peacekeeping troops there. If we really wanted to stop Terrorism, we would press for United Nations peacekeeping troops in Gaza and the West Bank.

    While we turn a blind eye to War Crimes against civilians by rich & powerful nations with modern weapons, we can expect more “terrorists” which we conveniently (but incorrectly label) “fundamentalist religious fanatics”.

    For a fundamentalist Christian and uniquely Singaporean view of this by someone who actually went to see for herself

    BTW, if you think this is all Ancient History, it is happening NOW in Gaza. There is an Israeli blockade and International Aid Agencies have to grovel to the IDF to get food & medical supplies into Gaza. What else can they do if the Western Press put their unique slant to the truth?

    • 43 yawningbread 6 September 2011 at 13:30

      You seem to be using this opportunity to turn the discussion to a different subject. However worthy that subject is, I don’t encourage hijacking.

      • 44 ricardo 7 September 2011 at 03:47

        Mr Au, your article covers many issues. Terrorism, LKY’s venom, Religious (in)tolerance, state support for religion(s) and sashays onto (dare I say it) anti-gay issues.

        I was merely pointing out that such high falutin ideas often pale into insignificance against more fundamental rights.

        What I found most offensive was the assumption by LKY (and I suspect many of this august company) that Terrorism is the result of Fundamentalist Religion.

        But PAP support is very similar to a State-supported Fundamentalist Religion. There is little difference between Confessions extracted under the ISA … and … enforced Conversions by the Inquisition.

        There are the Articles of Faith: Vote Lightning else Bad Things will happen. Tithes: CPF. Dieties; Dignify our Lord LKY.

        Even saints: check out the (face)Book of St. George. I particularly like the Prayers of the Faithful for Enlightenment when he said, “.. We need a President with a clear mind and a heart which beats as one with ours.” during the PE.

        (I know George from well before his beatification and this is just the sort of word game he delights in.)

        So we shouldn’t be surprised at PAP manipulation of religion.

        So guilty MiLord, this was a small Terrorist Hijack attempt. Please don’t send in the ISD. And I thank you for not adopting a Straits Times editorial policy.

        BTW, (and I hope my Muslim friends will correct me if I’m wrong) I believe Islam is the only major religion with Religious Tolerance (mentioning Christians & Jews) explicitly written into the Holy Book.

  14. 45 Tan Tai Wei 6 September 2011 at 09:59

    True, it’s none of the state’s business to legislate on which branch of a religion is orthodox or not, acceptable or not. But this presupposes the prior identification of that religion, an issue the state should define well in order to precisely protect its “freedom”. It is a fact that religion can be abused, and so they say, for instance, that “politicised Confucianism” in ancient China should be distinguished from true Confucianism. So, too, with regard to politicised Islam? And saying it is “venomous” isn’t saying a true Islamic branch is venomous, but only that terrorists abusing Islam are?

    • 46 walkie talkie 7 September 2011 at 09:54

      In the case of Islam, political Islam is true Islam, or at least a valid version of true Islam.

      To a lesser extent, it is also true that true Christianity, or at least a valid version of true Christianity, is political (in the case of Christianity political does not mean trying to become the government, but rather to actively participate in the influence and transformation of society in accordance to Christian visions of how a society should be and this usually involves competing with other influences that are also seeking to transform society in a different way).

  15. 47 Poker Player 6 September 2011 at 11:01

    “while few would argue against your four “secular principles”, the interplay between religious beliefs, community standards, legal sanctions and administrative attitudes is complex and history dependent; e.g., muslims can practise polygamy but christians cannot, but you should not use this as evidence that the government and the legal system violate equality”

    This sentence is an example of a “non-sequitur”.

  16. 48 yuen 6 September 2011 at 12:43

    as I already said, such issues are “complex and history dependent”; I will just cite the issue of schoolgirls wearing tudon; is this comparable to sikh schoolboys wearing turban? logically it might be so, but one has history and the other does not

    • 49 Anonymous 6 September 2011 at 22:34

      Slavery in the South. Slavery in the North. One has history, the other doesn’t. A non-sequitur is a non-sequitur.

      • 50 yuen 7 September 2011 at 05:22

        actually slavery in northern or southern USA, like USA itself, has a relatively short history

        in any case, sikh school boys are allowed to wear turnban, but muslim schoolgirls are not allowed to wear tudon, because of difference in history, whether you like it or not

      • 51 Poker Player 7 September 2011 at 11:35

        And Singapore, which is what we are talking about, has a far shorter history than the USA. You really need to find out what non-sequitur means.

  17. 52 georgeyeo -not that guy 6 September 2011 at 19:17

    The difficult but perhaps only way to resolve whether lky did or didn’t utter that word is to find the author of that US note. Identifying that person cannot be too difficult, but getting him to face of with lky is another matter altogether!

    Someone said that he did, but he is denying it.

    At the end of the day, any observer is entitled to form his own opinion on it, as Alex has done in this article. I tend to agree with Alex, the old man’s chicken are all coming back to roost, one/a few at a time! And he thoroughly deserves it. He who made the bed, deserve to sleep in it. There was a story in the bible about someone who made a gibbet to hang an enemy, but the story end with him being the one who was finally hung from it. Poetic justice? Anyone?

  18. 53 K Das 6 September 2011 at 23:51

    Any person who lives by religion and is subsumed by it is always a threat to others, no matter whatever religion it may be.

    I admire LKY for often saying unpleasant but hard truths.

    • 54 aserialnumberonmyvote 9 September 2011 at 14:10

      Agreed. There are many facets to any issue. There is no final answer on whether religion is a force for societal good or societal bad.
      [save the needy, help the poor, be a good samaritian = good? Fight a holy war, burn the enemy in a god’s name = bad?]

      LKY’s just the cold-turkey facet.

      “Venomous” in emphasis is something that we can all believe he would say. And something we believe diplomats would ‘record’ in trying to understand a power-broker’s worldviews.

      The only issue is what EXACTLY was he referring to as “venomous”. And what people have chose to ‘hear’. [or in the poor MFA minutes-taker, what he felt he had to censor or ‘dress-up’.]


  19. 55 Anonymous 7 September 2011 at 02:43

    Why does MM Lee even need to “[look] up MFA’s filenote of the meeting” to confirm that he had not described “Islam as ‘venomous’”? Did he think there might have been a possibility of him having said that?

    • 56 Tan Tai Wei 8 September 2011 at 07:42

      Probably he checked hoping it hadn’t been recorded, and so he could deny having said that, supporting it with the records. Would be more credible had he not denied but clarified that he had meant terrorist perverted Islam that was venomous, and apologise for his sloppy speaking at private talk over cocktail.

  20. 57 richardwkc 8 September 2011 at 12:41

    The majority [supposedly around 85% at one time] of the population of Singapore may be said to be theistic/religious. The Singapore govt, however, is reportedly “secular” in its administration of public policies. Singapore, according to a declaration made by PM Lee Hsien Loong, is an “open society.” If there is an opportunity, I would like to ask the PM to elaborate on what he meant by “open society.” Is the Singapore govt being secular? Let’s evaluate.

    I think the govt is biased in favor of certain religious institutions in Singapore by restricting publications that appear to be critical of certain religious beliefs or of the object of their worship – God, for instance. The fact is, whether God exists or does not exist is not a question or matter of fact but faith; there are no logical arguments for the existence of God or any god, apart from wishy-washy propositions that say little or nothing.

    I have received, via emails, notifications from the Singapore National Library Board [NLB] advising of the “unsuitability” of including these publications in their collection [in response to my requests for acquisition]:
    1.NOMAD: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations Author: Ayaan Hirsi Ali
    2. Does God hate women? Authors: Ophelia Benson & Jeremy Stangroom
    3. The Atheist Camel Chronicles Devate Themes & Arguments for the Non-Believer [and those who think they might be] Author: Dromedary Hump
    4. God Hates You, Hate Him Back: Making Sense of The Bible Author: C J Werleman
    5. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Author: Edward Gibbons
    6. The Sword of the Prophet: Islam, History, Theology, Impact on the World Author: Serge Trifkovic
    7. Understanding Muhammad Author: Ali Sina
    8. Jesus Never Existed Author: Kenneth Humphreys
    9. Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled Author: Archarya S [aka D M Murdoch]
    10. Who was Jesus? Fingerprints of The Christ Author: Archarya S [aka D M Murdoch]
    11.Adam, Eve and the Serpent: Sex and Politics in Early Christianity Author: Elaine Pagels
    12. Pagan Christs Author: John M Robertson
    13. The Case Against Christianity Author: Michael Martin.

    NLB told me that they are guided by the guidelines issued by MDA for all publications but it appears they have been interpreting these guidelines in an irrational or skewed manner; while these three books [and there are many others of the same ilk] are in their bookshelves, no doubt considered as “suitable” for public readership:

    The God Delusion
    God is Not Great
    End of Faith

    “Does God hate women?” and “God Hates You, Hate Him Back: Making Sense of The Bible” are considered as “unsuitable.” Unbelievable!

    And guess what? When I offered a recommendation to acquire “Oh! What God Can Do!” NLB replied “We find that the title is suitable for our collections and have placed an order for it.”

    Only people with a skewed mentality or who cannot see the forest for the trees would think of Edward Gibbons “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” as being unsuitable for review by the public. NLB appears unable to distinguish that writing about a history of violence and advocating violence are entirely different things.

    Criticizing is not the same as restricting – if the criticism is valid/coherent/logical, then accept it; if not, then rebut or reject it. No one is deprived of his/her freedom to believe as he/she deems fit.

    And of course acquiring items 6 and 7 for their bookshelves may mean exposing certain “truths” or facts in the public square and may mean antagonizing people in the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore [MUIS]; but why should anyone hide from truths or facts?

    While the “The case for Christianity” [C.S. Lewis] is available in NLB’s bookshelves, NLB considers “The Case Against Christianity” [Michael Martin] as unsuitable; NLB, where did you learn your logic?

    According to a speech made recently by LKY, the religious divide in Singapore is not between those who are religious and those who are not; it is between competing religions. If that’s the case, why is NLB prohibiting books/publications written ostensibly by non-religious people, for instance, atheists, agnostics or secular humanists?

    NLB and I are still communicating with regard to these matters; the person I am holding talks with appears to be someone with a doctorate degree but from my observation has displayed an inability to respond to simple questions expressed in simple English.

    I have recently referred the matter to the Media Development Authority of Singapore [MDA] but I am leery of the situation, considering that NLB and MDA are branches of the same tree.

    • 58 Poker Player 8 September 2011 at 13:48

      I am theorizing that

      1) There is a fixed budget for books
      2) A fixed number of librarians decide on recommendations
      3) Each of these librarians have an upper limit on the number of books he/she can approve
      4) “Unsuitable” is the best word they can think of when their quota of books is reached.

    • 62 aserialnumberonmyvote 9 September 2011 at 14:17

      There is the ‘state’.
      Then there are the agents of the state. [c’vil servants]

      Can a secular state truly police all that is c’vil servants do in the name of ensuring secularism? An “OPEN” society? [no terrorists, no people with AIDS, no…. and so forth, selective portalism?]

      If the state believes that there is a right way to think, should we then think less of its c’vil servants attempting what they believe to be their senior c’vil servants’ views? When is currying flavour bad?
      [whose curry are they trying to flavour anyway?! The state? a senior agent?]

      Only the light of ‘evidence’ be brought forth for all to determine if the flavours are bad or good. Since our fourth estate is less than forthcoming on so many of such issues, the question becomes “who” will take over?

      If good man do nothing, then c’vil wins?


  21. 63 ricardo 10 September 2011 at 07:53


    EoM, this is a very perceptive view of the PAP but the real picture may be even more horrific.

    I suggested here on 7sep that support for PAP is very like a Govt. Supported Fundamentalist Religion quoting several examples. The original intention was tongue-in-cheek to sooth Mr. Au.

    However, recent events show that this may indeed be the truth.

    Deification of the PAP & HoLee Family includes a clergy, the Civil Service, and a vast hierarchy of lay preachers, the PA, dedicated to ensuring false gods & their prophets (Socialist Ideas and the Opposition) are confounded.

    Along with Saints (see 7sep post) there are also Fundamentalist Fanatics who would not only confound the unfaithful … but stamp them into the earth. eg the PAP supporters on


    Diehard PAP supporters fall into 2 categories. Many equate the Democratic Process to choosing an expensive present from their rich Dad.


    This applies to new PAP MPs like Ms Tin & Mr. Lim WK. Their real God is Dignity. Support of the PAP lends them a HoLee Family blessing.

    But the real strength of the PAP is their Crusading Fundamentalist Fanatics; numerous, indoctrinated, organised and trained to war and to obey without question.

    The Lord LKY, is wise and will make treaties, e’en with Venomous Other Faiths and Foreign Devils if greater Dignity for His Ministers results. But let it never be forgotten that false gods & religions are venomous.

    To move from Reality back to the lofty heights of this discussion … surely there are enough precedents for religious tolerance in fair and moral societies (including Muslim governments eg the Ayyubid Dynasty under Saladin) that the task of enacting such legislation should be straightforward?

    In the end, evil men with a 81/87 majority can circumvent and change the best legislation. The Democratic Process is how we ensure evil men never get there in the first place.

    (Here I open myself to attacks for my naive & nebulous, obviously heretical, ideas of fair, moral & evil.)

  22. 64 richardwkc 16 September 2011 at 13:33

    Hi, Mr Au,

    My post of 10 Sep. Pl tell me what are the issues, if any.

    Did I say anything that is not factual? Is the post too long, or what?

    What moderation is required?

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