Dr Yaacob says Muslim/Malay group must respect diversity
Dr Yaacob Ibrahim says Malay/Muslim community must be open and accepting
The importance of respecting diversity and condemning views that denigrate other cultures was stressed by Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim yesterday at a meeting of religious affairs ministers from neighbouring countries.
At the biennial meeting to discuss the administration of Muslim issues in the region, he said that a country's development can be hampered without social cohesion.
The meeting was held in Kuala Lumpur, with ministers from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.
Dr Yaacob noted that the Malay/Muslim community has long been seen as a group that is open and accepting of diversity.
"I agree that as challenges grow more complex today, it has become harder for us to balance the varying views and interests in a pluralistic society," he said, speaking in Malay.
"But as a mature community, we must keep striving to instil respect for diversity."
As a mature community, we must keep striving to instil respect for diversity.Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim
His remarks come amid a wave of rising extremism and divisiveness in the region.
He noted that social cohesion does not come naturally - it needs constant tending.
In Singapore, it took a deep commitment and continued efforts to foster understanding among the various communities. But such harmony can come under attack.
"Various acts of terror in the name of religion can give rise to misunderstandings and anxiety," said Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister for Communications and Information, and Minister-in-charge of Cyber Security.
"Comments on social media too may trigger unease and threaten this unity."
He called for the rejection of views that belittle the culture of other communities, saying they not only sow discord, but refuse to acknowledge the differences among communities.
"If you don't know, you can't love.
"That's why we should build bridges of understanding to strengthen social cohesion," he added.
The ministers launched a five-year plan for Mabims, an initiative among the Muslim authorities of Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Singapore.
Dr Yaacob later said in a Facebook post that Singapore will share its experience in enhancing harmony amid diversity.
The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore will conduct workshops and dialogues on it for these countries.
On the digital front, a particular concern was the spreading of untruths on social media.
"We agreed on the importance of attaining clarification and verification from reliable sources," he said.
Dr Yaacob also suggested they look at optimising the potential of youth in using information and communications technology, and social media to do good.