I refer to Mr Walid Jumblatt’s letter, “Don’t let secular fundamentalism be the norm” (May 15), which was a reply to Mr Hairol Salim’s letter, “Efforts of Pink Dot ambassadors should be lauded, not condemned” (May 13).
Secular fundamentalism connotes scorn of religion and its adherents, and is usually accompanied by attempts to exclude and limit religious expressions in public. The burqa ban in France is an example.
Secular fundamentalism seeks to trivialise the persecution faced by adherents of a certain religion who are confronted by structural disempowerment. This is, however, not the case in this debate.
Mr Hairol’s point about “religious-driven emotions” was addressed to a particular group of “activists and individuals from certain religious communities”. It was not a sweeping statement against the legitimacy of religious voices.
Indeed, he stated that “views of all faiths and belief systems should be given fair consideration”, which echoes Mr Walid’s sentiments.
It is illogical to construe this willingness to provide fair consideration for all perspectives, religious or otherwise, as an expression of secular fundamentalism.
If we are serious about being inclusive, then Mr Hairol’s appraisal of those who voice the concerns of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community should hold no controversy.
Claims of respecting the democracy of dialogue have no legitimacy if we are unwilling to allow the people we disagree with the space to speak on their own terms.
To me, there is much common ground between both writers. For dialogue to work in a reasonable, respectful and empathetic manner, however, interlocutors should be charitable and avoid misrepresenting the positions of their counterpart.
*Article written by Diana Abdul Rahim was published in Voices, Today, on 22 May 2015