Two cabinet ministers have spoken out against an online campaign launched by a religious leader urging Muslims to protest homosexuality and the Pink Dot event at Hong Lim Park by wearing white on June 28.
Very broadly, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said matters regarding religion and personal preference have to be handled with balance and restraint but was optimistic that most Singaporeans are "very moderate people".
On the other hand, Minister for Communications and Information and the Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim said differences of opinion in a multicultural society can be dealt with through quiet consultation and accommodation.
Even though both of them talked about the same issue, they framed it slightly different. Or rather, it is a distinction with a difference.
Tharman talked about the issue from the broad perspective of everyone in Singapore, before zoning in on the Muslim community and addressing them, while Yaacob talked about the Muslim community in particular, before extrapolating out to everyone.
Seen in this light, it appears Yaacob's platitude was more of a cop out. Shouldn't he be the one addressing the fellow Muslims given he is the minister in charge? He is also the ideal person to articulate the concerns of the Muslim community and take the "gentle" approach to be a possible mediator between the two parties.
Read the quotes below and judge for yourself.
“All these matters, we just have to exercise a sense of balance and restraint, especially when it comes to matters that have to do with religion and personal preferences.
"We just have to be a society where you don't go pushing your own beliefs and preferences, but at the same time everyone keeps the balance in society and avoids creating conflict.
“So it's something that requires active management on everyone's part.
"I'm glad that MUIS (Islamic Religious Council of Singapore) has done so and I hope that everyone, certainly the Muslim community I know, is glad that guidance has been given."
"So the approach that MUIS has taken, the advisory, is a right advisory because ultimately, what we want to do is avoid dividing society, dividing the community.
“Let us find the big-heartedness that we have, to accommodate differences that exist in any society.
"That is the approach that we should have taken and I think that is the approach that MUIS has adopted and that's the approach that I'd like to encourage all -- not just Muslims -- in Singapore to deal with differences."