Singapore Has Always Been Fundamentally Secular

I disagree with the writer’s views in the letter “Don’t let secular fundamentalism be the norm” (May 15). I think Singapore is fundamentally secular.

While I agree that some Singaporeans cannot help it if their religious beliefs colour their contribution to public discourse, the writer is confusing “is” with “ought”. Public discourse should be as secular as possible because to engage in it is to consider the interests of all Singaporeans, and not all believe in the tenets of any one religion.

Consequently, any laws or policies influenced by the tenets of any one religion are liable to be divisive and not representative of the views and interests of all Singaporeans. Thus, since independence, Singapore has pursued a secular approach.

The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew even remarked that religious leaders should “take off (their) clerical robes” before taking on anything political. This is because our founders recognised the partiality and potential divisiveness of religion in public discourse.

Secular fundamentalism has always been the norm: It is simply a steadfast, fundamental adherence to secularism in public discourse. To do away with it is to do away with a core principle on which Singapore is founded.


*This article was written by Benjamin Seet Chong Eng, in Voices, Today, on 18 May 2015.


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