An Open Letter to Mr Jason Neo, Christian Eliab Ratnam and Donaldson Tan.
In mid-November, the spotlight came onto Mr Jason Neo who had posted a picture of a school bus with Muslim students from Huda Kindergarten with the caption “Bus filled with young terrorist trainees”.
A few days later, Mr Christian Eliab Ratnam posted a picture of text claiming that Islam is not a religion but ‘an authoritarian, political doctrine which imposes itself by force’, among other inflammatory things.
Shortly after, Mr Donaldson Tan reposted a picture of a pig superimposed on the Kaabah – only the most controversial animal in Islam on the most sacred site in Islam.
To the three men, I pray you are well as you read this, if you ever do.
Your actions have not angered me as much as it has saddened me. Having lived alongside and studied with neighbours and classmates of different faiths in Singapore all my life, I grew up believing that my friends accepted my Muslim identity and faith as part of me. With the recent postings, I wonder, do my friends secretly harbour thoughts that I’m an adherent to a violent religion? Do they worry if I may one day harm them, or my country?
In the past five to ten years, as I read articles about the discrimination that Western Muslims had to face by their countrymen post-911, I always counted my blessings that being a Muslim in Singapore had never been an issue. I am now starting to wonder if I had been naive all these while.[divider]
To Mr Jason Neo, in your defence you said that the boys were standing in a manner that looked as if they were pointing guns at each other. Perhaps you thought that it was a funny coincidence that these Muslim kids reminded you of Osama Bin Laden, the Taliban or Mas Selamat even. I guess I cannot really blame you since the media loves to show angry Muslims burning flags and buildings, and not the regular, smiling Muslims that eat at McDonald’s and take the same trains and buses as you do.
It is sad to know that when you saw the Muslim kids, you didn’t think “That may be my neighbour’s kids” or “How cute those boys are with their tiny headgear” but instead, your initial thought process was in flaming red warning letters: Terrorists. Well, I guess a caption such as “Muslim boys in their cute headgear” was just not inspiring or exciting enough for Facebook.
Muslims have had quite enough of being misrepresented in the media and you are just a walking example of how that has had an effect on your impression towards Muslims.[divider]
To Mr Christian Eliab Ratnam, contrary to what you believe, Islam is not “an authoritarian, political doctrine which imposes itself by force”. It’s a pity that you never saw Islam through my eyes. As I grew up and learnt to love my religion, these were the things that I was taught.
Islam Does Not Impose Itself by Force
- ” There is no compulsion in religion.” (Quran 2:256)
- In the Charter of Privileges sent by the Prophet Muhammad to the Christians of Najran, it states:”This is a message from [Prophet] Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them. Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them. No compulsion [in religion] is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries.No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them.”
Islam as a Religion of Mercy, Forgiveness and Honesty
- ” But indeed if any show patience and forgive, that would truly be an exercise of courageous will and resolution in the conduct of affairs. ” ( The Quran 42:43 )
- “Repel evil with that which is best. ” (The Quran 23:96 )
- “Woe to those that deal in fraud ; those who, when they have to receive by measure from men, demands full measure, but when they have to give by measure or weight to men, give less than due. Do they not think that they will be called to account ? ” (The Quran 83:1-4)
- “The best of companions in the sight of Allah is the one who is best to his companions, and the best of neighbours in the sight of Allah is the one who is best to his neighbour.”( Hadith – Narrated by Imam Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad)
- “Worship Allah and join none with Him (in worship); and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, the poor, the neighbour who is near, the neighbour who is far, the companion by your side…”[ The Quran 4 : 36]
According to the celebrated scholar of Islam, Imam Abu ‘Abdullah Muhammad ibn Ahmad Al-Qurthubi (1214-1273 AD ) in his exegesis of the Quran, Tafsir Al-Qurthubi, this verse is clear in its instructions to do good to one’s neighbours, to fulfil their rights, to protect their properties and lives, regardless whether that neighbour is a Muslim or not.
There are many things in Islam that are beautiful. You need only seek it to find it, and you will then see it the way I do.[divider]
To Mr Donaldson Tan, while you refuse to remove the offensive picture by saying that “Islam is not sacrosanct”, here’s what I’ll say:
Islam may not be sacrosanct to you, but religious harmony, love, tolerance and acceptance of other’s beliefs are. You cannot use the “my right to free speech” card and then cry foul when we use our “my right to be offended” card. I don’t need laws or a Sedition Act to chart my actions. I need only listen to my mother’s timeless advice: “If you’re not prepared to face the consequences of your actions, don’t do it.”
Why now? Why provoke when we have tirelessly built our nation to be one of love and acceptance? Everyone has a part to play to ensure that Singapore continues to be a place of peace and harmony. Just look at the unrest and racial/civil strife in other nations and tell me if you’re willing to let what we have go to waste only because of “free speech”.
I love my country and I love the peace that we have enjoyed thus far. And I definitely love my friends regardless of their faith or ethnic background, a thousand times more than I love my right to free speech.
I pray God fill your heart with much more love.[divider]
Together, we need to combat intolerance of any kind and put our nation’s peace above ourselves.
To the three of you, and anyone else who has any doubts or concerns about Islam and Muslims, please feel free to browse our website for the articles that we have, or to drop us an email so that we may address them.
To the Muslim readers, please read this: An Open Letter to All Muslims in Singapore.