Be big-hearted, avoid dividing society: Yaacob

Be big-hearted, avoid dividing society: Yaacob

Minister in charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim yesterday urged Singaporeans to be big-hearted and to accommodate differences in opinions and choices to avoid dividing society.

His comments came after an Islamic religious teacher launched a Wear White campaign to protest against homosexuality and the annual Pink Dot event, and the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) issued guidelines to mosque officials on how to address lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues.

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam also spoke on the issue, saying that in matters of religion and personal preferences, people have to "exercise a sense of balance and restraint". He said: "I think we just have to be a society where you don't go pushing your own beliefs and preferences, but at the same time, everyone else keeps the balance in society and avoids creating conflict."

Dr Yaacob said Muslims had always supported the institution of the family and this was something they would want to continue doing.

"Yet, we also recognise that we live in a multicultural society where there are bound to be differences in opinion and people have their own choices," he said. "We respect that."

Speaking to reporters at the annual Muis Awards ceremony, held at the Orchard Hotel, he preferred taking a "gentle" approach in dealing with differences, through consultation and accommodation.

"Ultimately, what we want to do is to avoid dividing society or dividing the community," said Dr Yaacob, who is Minister for Communications and Information. "Let us find the big-heartedness that we have to accommodate differences that exist in any society."

Muis has advised mosque officials not to get caught in the crossfire between the Wear White campaign and the Pink Dot event to be held on Saturday.

The event, organised to promote "freedom to love" regardless of sexual orientation, has been held on the last Saturday of June for the past three years. A spokesman for the organisers said they went ahead after checking that the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan would begin the next day.

But Wear White campaign leader Ustaz Noor Deros is unhappy because the first evening prayer for Ramadan takes place on Saturday. He has urged Muslims to protest by dressing in white next weekend to "defend the sanctity of family".

His campaign has drawn support from Reverend Lawrence Khong of the Faith Community Baptist Church, who said the LoveSingapore network of churches would ask their congregants to wear white on June 28 and 29 too.

Muis said it disagreed with moves to promote the LGBT lifestyle, but advised mosque staff against being confrontational or vilifying those who lead the LGBT lifestyle or attend the Pink Dot event.

Dr Yaacob said yesterday: "The approach that Muis has adopted is the approach I'd like to encourage all in Singapore, not just Muslims, to take to deal with differences."

Mr Tharman, who is also Finance Minister, told reporters at the Jurong Lake Run yesterday he was glad Muis stepped in because this was a matter that required "active management on everyone's part". He added: "I don't think this is going to escalate. Most Singaporeans are basically very moderate people."

This article was first published on June 22, 2014.
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