Archive for the 'religion' Category

When the powerful plead fragility, we’re done for

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Bear with me, I will talk about Donald Trump further down.

Just as the Administration of Justice (Protection) Bill was passed by our legislators — not that there was ever any doubt that it would be — a tiny social media post crossed my line of sight. It was a news snippet about how some small shopkeepers in Kota Baru, Malaysia, were ordered to remove all advertising posters that featured women whose heads were not covered with a scarf. There would be fines for disobeying the order.  Continue reading ‘When the powerful plead fragility, we’re done for’

Holy murder of freedom of expression

When Manny Pacquiao, reversing his apology, approvingly cited the Old Testament’s sanction for the killing of gay people, there followed considerable condemnation. But nowhere did I see anyone calling for him to be prosecuted or censored by the state, either for hate speech or for inciting murder.

When the Catholic Church voiced its discomfort with a performance by Madonna, the organisers quickly removed a song segment from the programme, no doubt with state censors leaning on them. Continue reading ‘Holy murder of freedom of expression’

Musings from the general election campaign: race, language and religion

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At one of the election rallies, I met an American who moved to Singapore only a year earlier. Of course he didn’t have the vote, but he was curious what election rallies were like. I had met him before, and so went up to him to say, hi.

He was glad to see me as he had a question he didn’t know whom to ask. “Will they ever speak in English?” was the question.

I laughed. “Why do you ask? What’s been happening since you got here?” Continue reading ‘Musings from the general election campaign: race, language and religion’

Behind the brat looms an oppressor still

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It’s a terrible pity that Amos Yee’s thoughtless, groundless and hurtful accusation against Vincent Law has taken centre-stage. Vincent had extended a magnanimous gesture of support when Amos needed a bailor. For the boy to make false accusations against him is completely inexcusable.

It’s a terrible pity because it distracts us from examining the political implications of the state laying charges against Amos in the first place. However, even though he has soiled whatever sympathy he deserved (from being a victim of the government’s panicked rush to slay him), we should still be able to put it aside and focus on what happened at the beginning.  Continue reading ‘Behind the brat looms an oppressor still’

A second republic

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Right up to the last moment, I wasn’t sure if I should use the preamble I had prepared. The point I wanted to make in the preamble was that I believed Singaporeans were going to be instinctively resistant to the idea of constitutional redrafting. Our aversion to taking risks, our long indoctrination in the idea that political experimentation would be extremely dangerous for a small, vulnerable city-state with no natural resources or strategic depth to rely on (yes, a habit of mind formulated by the ruling People’s Action Party, but today espoused by many as almost biblical truth), would likely mean that the idea I was about to float would be dismissed as a foolish, hazardous pipe-dream. Continue reading ‘A second republic’

Ourselves through Istanbul

Galata Bridge

Galata Bridge over the Golden Horn

This spot on planet Earth has been inhabited for well over two thousand years — as Byzantium, Constantinople, then Istanbul — and was a great cosmopolitan capital city for 1,500 of those. Merchants and scholars from all over the then-known world flocked to it.

I can’t say, however, that it is cosmopolitan any more, certainly not by the standards of London, New York, Paris or Sydney today. Or even Singapore. Istanbul has a cultural homogeneity that our more nostalgic romantics might wish we had. Continue reading ‘Ourselves through Istanbul’

Haram to speak of ham

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In a rare smackdown of a reader, the Straits Times dismissed a reader’s demand (link) that it tailor its editorial content to suit his sensibilities. The incident flashed across social media for a day or two, with approving comments, then disappeared.

This is what the reader, Idris, wrote:

I think it’s worthy to note that there are many Muslims who are readers of The Sunday Times. I was quite disturbed by the fact that the paper’s edition on Oct 5 which falls on Hari Raya Haji featured a distasteful article in the Sunday Life! section (“Cheat Sheet: Ham”). The Sunday Life! food critics could have been more sensitive to the events that unfolded for some Muslims on this religiously auspicious occasion such as the sacrifice of cows or sheep. They could have chosen a food-related theme and perhaps discussed lamb cuts. At the very least, avoid discussing non-halal food (food that Islam sanctions against consumption such as ham). Local journalists should practise more sensitivity and respect local cultures, at least for the most important races in Singapore.

Continue reading ‘Haram to speak of ham’

So now, the constitution’s the problem?

pic_201410_16Bad news this morning. The Court of Appeal, Singapore’s highest court since we abolished appeals to Britain’s Privy Council, has ruled that Section 377A of the Penal Code is not unconstitutional. Section 377A criminalises sex between men, and is the key piece of legislation that justifies a plethora of other rules and regulations that discriminate against gay people.

I haven’t had time to read the 100-page judgement — thus a short post today — but snippets reported in the press this morning, such as this below, suggest that it is going to be a screamer, crying out for deconstruction. Continue reading ‘So now, the constitution’s the problem?’

On academic responsibility

Guest essay by Liew Kai Khiun

In May 2013, Harvard Professor Niall Ferguson caused a storm by attributing the limitations of the premises of the theories of the prominent economist John M. Keynes to his sexuality where:

Speaking at the Tenth Annual Altegris Conference in Carlsbad, Calif., in front of a group of more than 500 financial advisors and investors, Ferguson responded to a question about Keynes’ famous philosophy of self-interest versus the economic philosophy of Edmund Burke, who believed there was a social contract among the living, as well as the dead. Ferguson asked the audience how many children Keynes had. He explained that Keynes had none because he was a homosexual and was married to a ballerina, with whom he likely talked of “poetry” rather than procreated. The audience went quiet at the remark. Some attendees later said they found the remarks offensive.[i]

Continue reading ‘On academic responsibility’

Lesbians dance before NUS professor’s eyes

When the story first broke, what struck me most was the focus on lesbians. It is far more common in anti-LGBT speech for the reference to be either directed at gay males or framed with reference to gay male sex, at least in Singapore and the West. But coming from a lecturer in Malay Studies, I wasn’t surprised.

Continue reading ‘Lesbians dance before NUS professor’s eyes’



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