Monday, August 17, 2009

Harmony Singapore!

The segment that stood out for myself, from Prime Minister Lee's 2009 National Day Rally,

"Let me share a recent article in an Indian newspaper, The Asian Age (picked up by Straits Times). Story of a young Muslim Gujarati, Mohammed Sheikh (pseudonym), who decided to come to Singapore after the Hindu-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002 .

Train carrying Hindu pilgrims was stopped and set on fire in Ahmadebad, burning 58 men, women and children alive. Hindus rioted in retaliation, and at least a thousand people were killed, mostly Muslims.

Quote article: "During the bloody clashes, he watched three of his family members, including his father, getting butchered… His family had to pay for being Muslim. Besides losing his family and home, Mohammed lost confidence and faith in the civil society. He did not want to spend the rest of his life cursing his destiny… He wanted to move on."

So seven years ago, Mohammed came to Singapore to get a diploma in hospitality management. He is now working in an eatery and hopes to open his own eatery business.

He told the interviewer that if he had stayed in Gujarat, "I would have been hating all Hindus and baying for their blood, perhaps."

Now "he loves when his children bring home Hindu friends and share snacks. He told the interviewer proudly: "My children have Christian, Buddhist, Hindu friends."

He even hopes to bring his mother to Singapore so that she can "see for herself that people of different faiths can be friends and can co-exist peacefully".

Asked what Muslim sect he belonged to, and which mosque he went to in India, he said: "I don't want to get into all that. Now I am just a Singaporean. And I am proud of it."

This story reminds us that while we must not neglect to strengthen our harmonious society, we are in fact in a good position. The Grand Mufti of Syria as well as many overseas visitors and diplomats have made the same point.

Let us rejoice in our harmony, but let us also never forget what being a Singaporean means. Not just tolerating other groups, but opening our hearts to all Singaporeans."

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