Shanmugam demands tolerance

Feelings are running high around the globe about Donald Trump. Source: Vimeo

Amid growing Islamophobia and religious extremism, Singapore must never allow xenophobia and mob rule to override the guarantees of minority rights, said the city-state’s home affairs minister K Shanmugam.

“We are all Singaporeans. We guarantee the safety, security and freedom of religion to all, including the Muslim community,” he said at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

Around 74 per cent of Singaporeans are Chinese, which meant “majoritarianism” could easily take hold, he argued, but ensuring equal opportunities, guaranteed religious freedom and clamping down on hate speech were essential. The Lion City’s 15-per-cent Muslim minority could be targeted amid growing anti-Islamic sentiment, the minister told the gathering.

“Post-US election, there has been a scramble, to predict the policies of the new administration and what it means for the world,” Shanmugam said. “We now have had a preview of what might happen… The country whose actions possibly have the greatest importance on the world seeks to change course, and seeks to change course suddenly.”

In reference to ditching the Trans-Pacific Partnership and banning citizens from seven apparently randomly selected Muslim-majority states within a week of Donald Trump assuming office, he said: “When a superpower moves this fast, the rest of us have to avoid being caught in the slipstream.

Home affairs minister K Shanmugam. Source: Wikimedia

“There are many consequences to perceptions of the US, its leadership role in the world, and the role the rule of law plays and is valued in the US,” Shanmugam told the gathering. “One of the consequences… is that it could lead some Muslims around the world to become anti-American, believing that the US has become more Islamophobic.”

Shanmugam said he there was a feeling that minorities and immigrants were taking advantage of welfare safety nets and that political correctness and weak leaders had failed to protect indigenous rights.

“The feelings amongst host populations is that law and order has deteriorated, that welfare systems are being abused, that their rice bowls are threatened. In fact, that their entire way of life, culture, conventions, are all being threatened, uprooted,” the minister said. “Politicians who advocate tolerance are seen as out of touch.”

“This has serious risks for a lot of people including us… The far right in France, Netherlands, Germany are gaining significant support and one can no longer simply dismiss it. It is a groundswell fuelled by fear and a substantial element of racism… Anti-Islamic rhetoric is gaining ground.”