A Yishun Innova Junior College (YIJC) student has been jeered online, after his antics on video showing him throwing a black bag while dressed in a keffiyeh and robe, was widely circulated on the internet.
The incident is believed to have taken place in the school on July 21, which is Racial Harmony Day -- one day a year when students are allowed to show up to class dressed in clothing that reflect the major ethnicities of Singapore to commemorate the event.
The male student involved is assisting police who are looking into the incident, according to Today.
In response, the Ministry of Education said it is aware of a video depicting a “misbehaving student” from YIJC.
MOE added: “YIJC has spoken to the student to help him understand that his actions were inappropriate, and that care and sensitivity must be exercised in Singapore’s multiracial and multireligious context.”
“The student is currently cooperating with police investigations.”
How video spread
The video was believed to have been originally posted or reshared publicly on TikTok, which was subsequently removed and is no longer accessible.
Copies of it still exist on other social media platforms though.
What video showed
The student dressed in a keffiyeh and robe was seen with two other students with black bags over their heads, and they carried out actions that resembled mock executions.
In one scene, the student in the keffiyeh and robe was seen bringing a student with a black bag over his head into a classroom.
The student with the bag over his head was made to kneel down, and the other student pretended to slit his throat.
In another scene, another student with a black bag over his head was led into a classroom and a black haversack bag was thrown onto the ground, before the student in the keffiyeh and robe ran out in an exaggerated manner.
Those who found the actions offensive said the students trivialised the gravity of terrorism, as well as demonstrated their lack of awareness of the September 11 attacks in 2001, and the real world consequences of groups, such as Al Qaeda and ISIS, in the Middle East.
Others who did not find the antics original, highlighted that the actions of the JC students were borrowed from a wildly viral prank from years ago, which saw a prankster overseas hurling a bag at strangers while dressed in a keffiyeh and robe, causing panic in public, and recording the reactions of those pranked.
Still others who commented relegated the actions of the students to a desperate but harmless attempt to gain short-term fame, at the expense of political correctness.
Others who were less charitable in their reading of the students' actions, said those who participated were well aware they were subverting the tenets of Racial Harmony Day by doing what they did publicly and for posterity by making recordings with a likely view of disseminating the clips subsequently.
National importance of Racial Harmony Day
The annual Racial Harmony Day on July 21 every year is regarded as a day of national importance, where Singapore leaders commemorate the day publicly.
This year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wrote on Facebook that the effort to maintain racial and religious harmony is constant and never-ending.
“Each generation has a different perspective on racial harmony. Mine was shaped by the 1964 racial riots,” he wrote.
“Today’s youth are more concerned about issues like casual racism and microaggressions. There is a gap that we as a society have to bridge and resolve, not through argument but empathy and understanding.”
He added: “Our racial harmony is not perfect, and we are still learning and growing as a nation. As long as we do not take this peace for granted and work together to protect our common space, we will get there.”
President Halimah Yacob also wrote in a Facebook post that Racial Harmony Day is about celebrating differences and reaffirming the commitment to go beyond them.
She added that Singapore must constantly strive to maintain important skills such as being able to reach across cultural boundaries.
She said: “We are in a better place than before because of our commitment to building an inclusive society regardless of race, language, or religion. Singapore benefits when we make room for differences.”
Education Minister Chan Chun Sing visited Kranji Secondary School on Thursday and took part in a dialogue on race, which involved about 1,000 students and 30 teachers, according to The Straits Times.
It touched on issues such as people judging others based on their skin colour, racial stereotypes and how to deal with such situations.
According to ST, schools in Singapore mark Racial Harmony Day every year by holding activities aimed at educating students on race and values like respecting differences.
Students now have more opportunities to hold in-depth discussions on racism and stereotypes during (character and citizenship education) CCE lessons since the syllabus was refreshed in 2021, ST reported, according to the syllabus found on the MOE website.
The updated syllabus includes topics such as bullying, online media, and race and religion.
It was rolled out to lower secondary students in 2021 and extended to upper secondary students in 2022.
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