Monday, August 17, 2009

National Day Rally 2009 -- Was PM Lee preaching to the converted?

I suppose most, if not all, of you all would be aware of the fact that Prime Minister (PM) Lee Hsien Loong delivered his National Day Rally Speech 2009 yesterday night.

While PM Lee discussed several issues, ranging from the state of Singapore's economy to healthcare issues, in this speech of his, he perhaps devoted the most amount of time and attention to the segment in which he discussed the state of religious harmony in Singapore. And this was the segment which I was most interested in.

In this segment of his speech, PM Lee reiterated the importance of religious harmony and the four basic principles that have to be adhered to in order to preserve such harmony in Singapore.

Yet, while I appreciate and agree with what PM Lee said during this segment of his speech, I nonetheless cannot help but wonder: is PM Lee preaching to the converted? As a friend implied in his comments about this segment of PM Lee's speech on my Facebook page, would the minds and behaviour of the religiously fervent change after listening to the words of PM Lee, if they were listening to him speak yesterday night?

Indeed, in my opinion, while the top echelon of religious leadership and most religious believers may generally agree with the points discussed by PM Lee, there is nonetheless a significant minority (or at least I think and hope it's a minority) of individuals, as the recent AWARE saga has shown, who believe that their religiously-based beliefs and opinions should hold sway in Singapore. In fact, without divulging any names and if I am not wrong, it is the aim of a particular local religious grouping/institution to "transform the nation" (i.e. Singapore) so as to enable it to fulfil God's agenda for it (to become the "Antioch of Asia").

[aside: to add on, I must confess to having raised an eyebrow when following the AWARE saga, the religious leader of the abovementioned religious grouping/institution, citing a particular religious text, preached about how those in his religion should be more discreet (covert?) in the way they propagate their religious beliefs and values; I have developed the habit of listening to the religious teachings this particular religious grouping/institution uploads onto their website even though I remain an agnostic free-thinker, in case any of you all are wondering]

Hence, in light of the above, I cannot help wonder if PM Lee, with his speech last night, will change the minds and behaviour of those who make up this significant minority. Or would he be preaching to the converted and this significant minority will still persist in their mindset and practices?

And just as a final disclaimer, although what I have said above seem to targeted against a particular religion (or a particular variant of it), I bear no animus towards this religion or other religions. In the end, in my opinion, extremism, fundamentalism and exclusivity are not unique to any particular religion.

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