“The uneven state and societal tolerance towards religious and cultural matters of minorities is deeply disappointing,” said social activist Kokila Annamalai in a Facebook post on Sunday (19 July).
She said this in reference to an internal message that was sent to residents staying near the Holy Tree Sri Balasubramaniar Temple at Sembawang.
According to the message circulated, which was shared by Ms Annamalai in her post, it appears that the temple community has decided to make some adjustments to the timing of the prayers in the temple. This is done after complaints surfaced due to the loud music played by the temple.
“The temple will take a few concrete steps to address concerns from residents that music from the temple is disturbing them,” the message read.
Some of the adjustments that the temple plans to make include stopping the music at 5.30am, shortening the duration of the music being played to only 15 minutes, setting up canvas sound barriers and more.
The message also highlighted that it seeks for the residents’ understanding as well because “The Holy Tree Temple is a long-standing religious institutions in Sembawang”, and only recently residential areas were built in the area.
In response to this, Ms Annamalai said that she had heard many stories from her Indian friends on how they have accepted many religious and cultural events of the Chinese community in their neighbourhoods while growing up.
“I’ve heard many Indian friends say how growing up, they always accepted lion dance, paper burning, Chinese opera and other phenomena in their neighbourhood as part of our community-scapes – endearing quirks of living alongside each other in Singapore,” the activist wrote.
However, the same treatment is not received by the Indian community when it comes to their religious celebrations and culinary differences, making them feel like they are “second-class citizens” in Singapore.
“But with the growing restrictions and complaints over the years about things like cooking curry, Thaipusam music and temple rituals, this affection for the familiar sounds and smells of Chinese cultural activities, which aren’t put on trial or suffocated in the same way, is tinged with the resentment they feel towards the hypocrisy, the double standards, and the knowledge that they are second-class citizens,” she concluded.