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Call for secularism to prevail in Singapore

Image - screen capture from The Telegraph
Image - screen capture from The Telegraph

By Singapore Muslims for Secular Democracy

For the past few decades, the world had seen the emergence of religious movements that predicate upon a rejection of secularism and democratic pluralism as the basis of modern nation-states.

Among the Muslims, the rejection of secularism went along with a call for "Islamization", which took the form of advocating for an Islamic state, including full implementation of Shari'a laws on Muslims, which often translates into the need for hudud and greater policing of religious beliefs and practices using state instruments.

Singaporean Muslims are not immune to these developments. But being a minority religious community, the realisation of an Islamic state or the full implementation of Shari'a will be impossible. Most Muslims in Singapore had accepted the reality of living in a secular state that accords religious freedom without having to feel less of a being Muslim.

Yet, there have been voices in recent times that call this into question by casting doubts on Muslims' acceptance of secularism as a political reality. These fringe voices are capturing attention on social media by latching onto a growing conservative mood in the region. Secularism, democratic pluralism and liberal values that accord individual rights and freedom as equal citizens, are being cast as "anti-Islam".

Using the argument of "respecting Muslim beliefs" and state's recognition of "Muslim exceptionalism" through AMLA, these voices seek to further dominate Muslim thought and life by obliterating diversity within the Muslim community and drawing Muslims into an all-too-familiar "us versus them" siege mentality where "them" refers to all those whom are conveniently labelled as "secularists", "liberals" and "Westernised".

We in Singapore Muslims for Secular Democracy refuse to get dragged into this diatribe. We believe that the only viable political arrangement in a plural society such as Singapore is that of secularism. We uphold that religion and state must be separate to uphold the sanctity of religion and freedom of conscience. We strongly call for the framework of equal citizens to be upheld, with equal access to justice. This includes equal rights for women and minorities, and the right to religious freedom.

We affirm the right of every citizen to live a fulfilling life, regardless of race, language, religion or non-religion, origin, gender, and sexual orientation. Singapore Muslims for Secular Democracy calls for a broad-base alliance - Muslims and non-Muslims - to take a stand against attempts to undermine the secular basis of Singapore society.

We call for values of freedom and choice, equality and justice to be the basis of interactions. We call for reason to triumph over unreason, and for diversity to prevail.

This article was submitted by Singapore Muslims for Secular Democracy, in reflection of the Charlie Hebdo shooting in France.