Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Governing Of Muslims In Singapore

Singapore is a fairly diverse place. Not as diverse as Los Angeles, but more diverse than many. Occasionally we get a look at how they manage this diversity. Bear in mind that the government of Singapore has always been very, very concerned with controlling every aspect of everything in the city-state, so the management of the various ethnic groups is typically hands-on. 

For example, there is something called the Ministry of Muslim Affairs, which appears to work closely with some kind of sweetheart non-governmental association of local Muslims. I was in a hotel recently that had Channel News Asia (based in Singapore) on the cable, and they showed a long article about a recent concern shared by the ministry and the association: the need for a government run program for the certification of teachers of Muslim studies.

This was in response to a large number of foreigners coming to Singapore and working as teachers of Muslim studies. The government’s concern is that these foreigners may not sufficiently understand the nature of Islam in Singapore, which is evidently different from Islam in other places.

Someone from the Ministry of Muslim Affairs was interviewed for the article. He stressed that Singapore was a very inclusive place, and that all that the ministry sought to do was to insure that that inclusivity remained strong. “We just need to know,” he said, “that what is being taught matches the way that Islam is practiced in Singapore.”

The new plan will be for the local Muslim association to oversee the certification process. (Sorry, I neglected to note the name of the association.) Foreigners will also be required to take course-work before even being considered for certification.

I wondered how this matched up with the treatment of teachers of other religions. There are large numbers of Muslims in Singapore, but there are also large numbers of Christians, Hindus and Buddhists, and many other religions are represented as well. Was there something about the foreign teachers of Muslim studies? Were there certain countries whose Islam they disapproved of? Perhaps they would not fear an Anglo-Saxon Christian missionary from Kansas, or a Hindu holy man from India, or even a Muslim teacher from Malaysia, while wishing to add an extra level of vetting for Saudi Arabian practitioners of Wahhabism.

Could you single out Muslims for special treatment like that in America? I’m not sure how that would line up with our concept of Equal Protection under the law. It does appear to be a governmental action that classifies.

We’re on the hooks of a similar dilemma right now in America. You know, the “Muslim ban.” I would hate to think that our country could share such a dilemma with Singapore. America considers itself to be a functioning democracy; that is the status that America claims for the entire world to see. Singapore cannot begin to make such a claim. Singapore is more like a wolf of a police state dressed in the democratic clothing of a sheep.

So I hope that we’re not sharing behaviors with Singapore these days. That would not be a good sign. 

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