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Handle matters on religion, personal preference with restraint: Tharman

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said matters that have to do with religion and personal preference have to be handled with balance and restraint.

SINGAPORE: Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said matters that have to do with religion and personal preference have to be handled with balance and restraint.

He was responding to questions from the media about an online campaign launched by a religious leader urging fellow Muslims to wear white on June 28, to protest homosexuality and the Pink Dot event at Hong Lim Park on the same day.

Mr Tharman, who is also the finance minister, said most Singaporeans are "very moderate people" and he does not think the situation will escalate.

He said: “All these matters, we just have to exercise a sense of balance and restraint, especially when it comes to matters that have to do with religion and personal preferences.

"We just have to be a society where you don't go pushing your own beliefs and preferences, but at the same time everyone keeps the balance in society and avoids creating conflict.

“So it's something that requires active management on everyone's part.

"I'm glad that MUIS (Islamic Religious Council of Singapore) has done so and I hope that everyone, certainly the Muslim community I know, is glad that guidance has been given." 

Mr Tharman also said that while Singaporeans want a vibrant civil society and political discourse, society must also avoid xenophobia and racism.

He was responding to questions about a recent blog post that targeted Filipinos in Singapore.

"We have a fringe of people, actually all societies have this fringe. In fact, this fringe is getting larger in some other parts of the world, and we've got to make sure that it doesn't get larger in Singapore.

"A fringe of people that acts far more irresponsibly when it's anonymous and it's on social media, than I suspect they do in real life -- we've got to make sure that fringe remains minuscule, and in fact it knows that it's not supported by the rest of Singapore because Singaporeans don't like this, it's not our style.

"And I'm glad that each time this happens, the majority of Singaporeans say they don't like it."  

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