Walid J. Abdullah: Singapore Needs To Re-Examine Ideas Of ‘Tolerance’, ‘Harmony’ And ‘Extremism’

We really need to think through the idea of ‘tolerance’ and ‘harmony’, and ‘extremism’.

Is a person intolerant because (s)he refuses to say merry christmas to someone else? Does one turn into an extremist for having the belief that religious practices should be exclusive to one’s own faith? And if we start here, i wonder where do we draw the line: what do we make of a person who refuses to marry outside his/her faith? Is that person an ‘extremist’?

Personally, i know of a couple of elderly Muslims who do not attend events at churches or temples (it’s a personal preference, as they would mostly acknowledge), but no one in the right mind would ever make the claim that they are ‘distant’ or ‘intolerant’: they are probably some of the nicest neighbours one could have. They give food to their neighbours (yes, non-Muslims too), always strike a conversation with strangers in the block, and never fail to smile at anyone.

At the same time, i have many non-Muslim neighbours who have never wished me ‘Selamat Hari Raya’ or ‘Eid Mubarak’ (for whatever reasons): but of course, no one bats an eyelid when that happens. When a Muslim does/does not do the same thing, it is suddenly problematic. Unfortunately, Islam is always on trial.

One of the ways that we should not make a community feel ‘distant’, is to stop viewing the world in false binaries. We should not be too quick to accuse and ‘advise’ a particular group, based on our own worldviews and understandings of the world.


Source: Walid J. Abdullah

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