Originally published on Sayoni.
“Fridae has been told that a total of 85 people including filmmakers Sun Koh and Royston Tan have lodged police reports over the long Chinese New Year weekend about pastor Rony Tan’s offensive comments concerning gay men and lesbians in an online video.”
Read the rest of the article here.
Freedom of religion is a tricky thing. Take it too far and you can justify theocracy, give it too little and you have oppression. When freedom of religion and freedom of speech attempts to go together, it becomes even more of an unnavigable thicket.
Did Pastor Rony Tan make a mistake? Of course he did. He said things that were both ignorant and arrogant, as well as extremely bigoted. He acted in a way that no religious leader should have, in openly disparaging another religion, especially without much basis. Very few people would say that what he said was completely acceptable. And he has been reprimanded for it, by the ISD no less. The implications on this being considered a national security issue are for another author to debate thoroughly, but this author believes the use of the ISD to be heavy-handed and to send a chilling effect on political discourse and legitimate criticism of religion.
The ground gets more slippery when one considers his remarks against the queer community. I watched the video and found myself rolling my eyes at his ignorance. But what’s new? He is only echoing what every other pastor says, when they might choose to speak on the issue. I am not sure he has had the opportunity to know better, and even if he hasn’t, whether he even realises the damage he is doing. After all, he is doing what a lot of religious leaders do: latch on to one issue of moral significance and use it to gain popularity and following.
A lot of things have clearly been pushing my buttons lately, so when this ridiculous letter came out, I just had to say something. Here’s another edition of a mangled letter to the forum which looks nothing like what I initially wrote. But at least the point is made.
MR GEORGE Lim in Monday’s Forum Online letter (“Let’s reinforce unity of purpose in fighting terrorism”) sayswe are not a morally relativist society, and argues that only good, absolute values exist in Singapore. How is that so when different religions have different ideas of morality and what is “good”?
Moral absolutism and religious tolerance cannot co-exist. If we are to be morally absolute, then there is no room for diversity or tolerance. For example, Mr Lim states that polygamy is wrong. Well, polygamy is allowed for Muslims in Singapore.
Also, religious freedom includes a person’s right not to be religious as well. If Mr Lim’s argument is to be upheld, what do we teach the children of parents who do not subscribe to a major religion? To describe a person who is non-religious as a heathen is wrong, and such a view has no place in a secular Singapore. It also contradicts Mr Lim’s calls for religious tolerance.
Indulekshmi Rajeswari (Miss)
And here’s the original:
I refer to George Lim’s letter “Let’s reinforce unity of purpose in fighting terrorism” on 20th July.
We can never overemphasise the need to remain vigilant against the threat of people who claim moral superiority over everyone else.
Firstly, George Lim says we are not a morally relativist society, and only good, absolute values exist in Singapore. I do not accept his unproven and extreme argument that we thrive on absolute morals. The fact is that different religions have a different ideas of morality and what is “good”. If we learn from our religious leaders, and since we are all learning different things, how do we draw the line between good and evil? Sure there are some overlaps, but there are differences. Moral absolutism and religious tolerance cannot co-exist. If we are to be morally absolute, then there is no room for diversity or tolerance. For example, he says polygamy is a wrongdoing – whether or not he is right, he seems to be forgetting that polygamy is allowed in Singapore for Muslim men.
Secondly, religious freedom includes the right of the person to not believe in anything. What do we teach the children of parents who do not subscribe to a major religion? I take offence to his description of me as a “heathen”, just because I am not religious. He is creating dangerous boundaries between the religious and non-religious, setting this up as a war between the two sides. This is clearly against the Prime Minister’s objective to create a more harmonious society. Also, there is only one step from considering the non-religious as heathen, to considering everyone outside your religion as heathen. This attitude goes against his own calls for religious tolerance.
Thirdly, if I could remind George Lim teaching our children “values” through religion was already tried once in Singapore, through the Religious Knowledge program. This was wisely removed by the government after 6 years, as they acknowledged that the program was creating disharmony in a global and national climate of increased religious fervour.
Fourthly, abuse of human rights usually starts when one person or group starts considering themselves the morally superior group, and starts imposing their ideas on the rest. Do I need to bring up Nazis to make my point? I am pretty sure they thought they were being righteous, and exalting their nation.
This is possibly my first letter to the forum that has been published – albeit on the online edition. It has been soooooo edited down, it is not even funny.
See Forum letter “Supporting gay rights does not make one gay“
I REFER to Dr Thio Su Mien’s letter on Monday, “Gay activists a key constituency of Aware”.
I was at the Association of Women for Action and Research’s extraordinary general meeting from start to end.
Gays did not comprise a numerical majority at the meeting. Being a supporter of rights for gay people doesn’t make one a homosexual, lesbian or homosexual activist.
I support the Palestinians’ right to live their lives without a wall dividing their communities, but that does not mean that I am a Palestinian. Nor am I a Palestinian rights activist.
I am not sure why Dr Thio calls the supporters of the old guard “sexually challenged”. Does she mean they are somehow physically or psychologically sexually impaired?
Just because I was a “vocal and vociferous supporter of the old guard”, does that make me sexually challenged?
Indulekshmi Rajeswari (Miss)”
I refer to Dr Thio Su Mien’s letter on 18th May 2009.I was at the AWARE EGM from start to end. Firstly, possessing a much better “gaydar” than Dr Thio Su Mien and being much more familiar than her with those people who call themselves gay activists, I can confirm that the hall was not full of them. They were definitely present, but they were nowhere near the numerical majority nor a chief constituency.Secondly, being a supporter of rights for gay people neither make one homosexual/lesbian nor a homosexual (rights) activist. I personally support rights of the Palestinians to live their lives without a wall dividing their communities – a somewhat controversial position (depending on who you ask) that makes me neither Palestinian (unless my parents have lied to me all my life) nor a Palestinian Rights Activist.Thirdly, there is a line between “gay-neutral” and “promoting homosexuality”. A dictionary can easily help divine the line between the two, should anyone be confused.Fourthly, I am not sure why Dr Thio calls the supporters of the old guard “sexually challenged”. Does she mean they are somehow physically or psychologically sexually impaired? Is Dr Thio secretly the physician for all these “vocal and vociferous” women, in order to know this intimately personal information about them? I was a “vocal and vociferous supporter of the old guard” – have I been sexually challenged all this while and did not know about this until a lawyer mass-diagnosed me through a forum letter? I am very confused, and somewhat insulted.Fifthly, anal sex per se is not against the law – the old s377 of the Penal Code was repealed in February 2008. Unless there is a top-secret statute that makes it illegal (which only Dr Thio seems to know of), I believe consensual heterosexual anal sex is very much legal now. Perhaps Dr Thio refers to s377A – that would refer to all sexual contact between men, not just anal sex.
A lot has happened over the AWARE saga, and because of exams, I have not been able to do a commentary on it. Not that there would be a lot for me to say, every possible angle has been thoroughly canvassed by the bloggosphere and media. It is really quite clear that I do not support the new exco after them using such shady methods and knowing their background. I do not find my confidence in them bolstered after the revelation that Dr Thio Su-Mien is behind it. I have already had a run-in with her daughter, Dr Thio Li-Ann before, as some people would remember – and while I disagreed with her and found her remarks in parliament insulting, I was one of the first ones to stand up and say that she should not be fired or receive death threats because of what she said. My principles, or stance, have not changed. I believe, and still believe, in civil, dignified debate, not name-calling or personal attacks.
So, whoever send that death threat to the new exco – cut it out. You are making us look bad. While I have strong doubts about the veracity of the said death threat, or even any real intention, I am going to treat it as real for the purposes of this discussion, and repeat, once again, that no one, NO ONE, should be doing anything remotely despicable. Having said that (and this is directed at you, new exco) receiving death threats does not make your cause a noble one (Harvey Milk got death threats on a regular basis, and I doubt you are going to agree his cause is noble).
Secondly, as to Josie Lau’s job. I have absolutely no idea what DBS is doing to her position, and frankly, I don’t care. While the revelation that she is the one who led DBS-FOTF linkup is infuriating but not surprising, I believe that issue has already been dealt with and buried. DBS has learned its lesson. But this new saga really has nothing to do with them. I know some of us already cancelled our DBS accounts after the FOTF saga – and now there is a new call from Mr Wang to cancel our DBS cards so that Josie can get fired.
I have to say, this is not a strategy I am comfortable with, or will ever endorse. Boycotting a business that might support an anti-gay cause is one thing, but trying to target it at a person is not acceptable unless she’s a mass murderer/fraudster etc.
Josie is as much as human being as the rest of us, and she has a family to support too – two kids, in fact. She has the full right to have a career and do things outside this career, and express her own views. As do any of us. How would any of you like to be fired because you supported a gay cause? What if all the fundies called in and boycotted the business/company you worked for, just to get you fired? Her job performance has nothing to do with her beliefs – DBS can decide whether to keep her on or not.
I will not, and cannot, endorse such a blunt tool tactic. That’s going too far. Not to mention it will only backfire on us, because we are going to look petty and undignified. Let’s try to do justice to YawningBread’s assertion that we are a mature bunch on this issue.
Not to mention I do not want to hear the new exco play the victim again. It is kind of getting tiring, really. Morever, when they play the victim, they avoid the real issues and hard questions. They are already good at that, lets not give them more opportunities.
I went to watch this last night with a few of the Sayoni girls. It would be a crime for me to miss this when it is finally playing in Singapore. Eve Ensler’s celebrated groundbreaking play was given a local flavour by director Loretta Chen, produced by Zebra Crossing.
And this time, I am referring to the real JBJ, not the president of a fictional environmental organisation. But then, if I were to write a completely unauthorised sequel to Eleanor Wong’s play, I might be referring to a fictional character after all.
As most of you will be aware, JBJ passed away yesterday morning of a heart attack, in his sleep, quiet and swift. It is of course, a great loss to Singapore. Thus, my Campaign to have a State Funeral for the man who, even though you don’t know it, contributed greatly to the Singapore political landscape.
He is the reason we no longer have appeal to Privy Councils, the reason why our judiciary is so independent of foreign interference. He is the reason we no longer have an Anson constituency, and indirectly responsible for the wonderful GRC System we have today, which makes it easy for young people to join the PAP and get an easy victory. He showed our glorious leaders that defamation suits were the way to go in order to protect their reputations – where would Singapore be today, if our leaders did not sue dissidents? How could we possibly respect them, if they did not win these suits? He is the man who showed Singapore it was not right to discharge bankrupts early.
Most of all, through all these years, he is the man who showed us that it is pointless to speak up, pointless to resist, if you wanted a normal life, if you did not want to be sued left and right, if you did not want to be bankrupted. He is the man who showed us that there is no use joining opposition political parties, and if you wanted to contribute to Singapore at all, the only recourse was to join the PAP.
Yes, people, he was a great man. Without him, would we have learned all these important lessons? Would Singapore be what it was today? No, not at all.
So, if you want a State Funeral for our beloved JBJ, say aye!
Singapore’s 4th annual Pride Season is coming again – in August 2008
There are talks and forums, art and literature, and of course, fun social and outdoor events – for learning, celebrating and building bridges with those outside our communities. So please keep your evenings free in August and come to as many as you can.
All events are free of charge unless otherwise stated.
Sayoni will also be hosting our own events during Indignation. Please check out the full list of events HERE.
This won’t be so much as a review as a fan-girl gush-session about KT Tunstall’s concert on 27th March. First of all, I have to thank Pirate for the tickets, without which my student wallet would not have made it to the concert.
There was a mile-long queue outside the hall before the concert started, Pirate and I couldn’t believe that this many people had turned up to see her. Half of the attendees seemed to be Caucasians, which was a pity, because really, more locals need to know her. Read more »
I’ve been a fan of the work Action Theatre productions for a while now, especially since Hitting (on) Women, so when I received the publicity for THEATREiDOLS again this year, I was naturally excited. After all, Hitting (on) Women by Ovidia Yu was born out of THEATREiDOLS, and I was hoping something for a similarly wonderful experience. Of course, it helps that the dramatised readings are free, hence, extremely friendly to my student pocket.
Pirate wanted to go for both nights, and I decided to humour her even though they were on weeknights, this being her virgin Singapore theatre experience. We had a great time there, and before you ask, the finalists are Numb by Christine Sim, and Catching Adam Cheng by Jacke. All the plays were directed by our dear Loretta Chen, and the event was MCed by Annabelle Francis, who, in my opinion, did a really bad job, and traumatised Pirate forever with her high socks and stilleto open shoes.
So… on to the reviews:
Official synposis: Jacke Chye’s Catching Adam Cheng is a hilarious and heartwarming play about four elderly women who decide to run away from their nursing home to catch Adam Cheng’s concert!
My take: It IS as hilarious as it sounds. The actors were wonderful, especially, and tried their best to turn a script which could be a little draggy sometimes into a fun ride. It is at once both introspective and funny, and heartwarming, with well-developed, lovable, but sometimes rather predictable characters. The main character, Siew Lin, felt too much some kind of Martha Stewart, too perfect and too noble, with not a weakness except her fatal brain tumour. The play itself was just too damn long, highly reminiscent of Harry’s long traipse through the woods in Deathly Hallows, or Frodo’s extra-long journey across Middle Earth.
Please try to spread this around to your friends and support this concert if you can.
This was previously banned by the MDA back in 2005, and that’s what first propelled me into HIV/AIDS work, with AFA. Now they have issued a restricted license for this. I would understand why a play such as Happy Endings: Asian Boys Vol 3 would have an R18 rating, but not why an innocent concert like this, which features no nudity/semi-nudity or sexual references, no mature themes, no references to homosexuality deserves the same. The reason given by the MDA is that performers are a gay couple, and this also means that they are not allowed to advertise in mainstream media. Read more »