SINGAPORE: With the viral nature of social media, it is important for the public to verify the truth behind news stories and online posts, Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman said on Saturday (Sat 4), when asked about the case of an imam who allegedly encouraged violence against Christians and Jews.
Speaking to reporters at an interfaith dialogue, Dr Maliki said the nature of social media in a society like Singapore's could result in a story being distorted in many ways. Therefore, it is important for the public to know how they can verify the truth behind a news piece and how it should then be handled.
“Sometimes there could be smoke without fire – meaning that news could actually not be true, may be half true, or totally untrue,” said Dr Maliki. “So where do you authenticate, where do you find the sources? If it’s religiously-motivated, then go to the right source. Go to the source - the authority of that religion - to find out the truth if ever there is that truth.
“Once you know the facts of the case, then decide what it is and how is it you want to disseminate that information – to who and for what purpose. I think these are all the basic principles of managing news in a space that is very challenging for all of us today.”
Dr Maliki, who is also the Mayor of South East District, was attending the third of South East Community Development Council's interfaith dialogue series titled "Common Senses for Common Spaces".
The third session, named “Holy Smoke!”, discussed the senses and spirituality of incense burning and offerings across the different faiths of Singapore society – where incense can be seen as a purifying and soothing spiritual elements by some, but a source of discomfort and pollution by others.
Three main speakers representing the Taoist, Hindu and Muslim faiths shared their religion's use and understanding of incense and perfumery on spirituality and society – as well as the similarities between the practices.
Understanding these similarities allows people to better accept each other’s practices, said Dr Maliki. However, he added that in Singapore’s context where space is at a premium and has to be shared, compromises are similarly important so that everyone can find common ground.
“The challenge to compromises is what it means to the individual who is practising that religion. Some people might say that ‘Am I compromising my own spirituality, my own individual ability to practice my religion?’ and that is where I think it’s important again for the religious leaders to come forward and advise and provide guidance as to what it really means, so that the psychological space that we talked about, the spiritual space, is somewhat individualised, and at the same time (addresses how) that individual’s space manifests itself in the common space,” he said.
The event was attended by about 200 professionals, youths, activists and dignitaries from various embassies including Oman, the United States, Kazakhstan, Indonesia and the Philippines.