Was recently involved in an interfaith discussion on the topic of Faith and Violence. The starting point was of course the usual : religious wars, terrorism, in the local and foreign context. So it was fascinating to me of course, when the discussion took an unexpected but yet very relevant turn.
My group expanded the concept of what ‘violence’ was in the course of discussion, when a participant introduced her work engaging religious leaders on the issue of marital rape, and how some people believed marital rape should not be criminalised because religious texts gave the right for spouses to demand/force sex. Another participant then shared, very emotionally, her experience of being abused physically and sexually by her ex-husband in the course of forcing her to go to church (she is a Muslim). Someone spoke from the Hindu faith and using Ghandi as an example, said that the concept of non-violence applies to the ‘strong’ — in that the ‘strong’ should refrain from retaliating against the ‘weak’. He explained that if a ‘weaker’ party did not retaliate against a ‘strong’ party, it was usually because the ‘strong’ party was bullying the weaker one —- this ‘non-violence’ would not be one of choice but simply being a victim. Everyone agreed with this view, and thought that witnesses to such bullying who were apathatic and did not help/stand up against the bully, can be considered being part of the violence as well. This stemmed from teachings of most religions to help the weak and oppressed.
The group viewed violence not in black & white terms — violence or non-violence — but as a continuum where riots/terrorism/physical violence was on the most serious extreme end. On the mildest end, the seed of violence is the belief that one is always right and others are always wrong. Along this continuum would be forced conversions, prevention of family members from practising their faith, incidents eg. AWARE, Rony Tan’s videos, fights over carpark space at places of worship, forcing people to fight in wars people did not agree with, etc
So as you can see, it was very enlightening a discussion for me
I’ll like to hear the rationale for the following contradictions :
21 years old age limit for R(21) movies
21 yrs old age limit for voting
18 yr old age limit to drive
16 yr old age limit for killing someone or being killed in war (NS age limit)
(you can’t vote for the govt you want, even tho’ the govt who comes to power has the authority to send you to war to die)
16 yr old age limit for age of consent to sex
( i can’t understand how people think that we should not lower the R(21) movie age limit, should not let our 16 year olds learn about sex in sch, do not want our 16 year olds having sex, but shoud lower the 16 yr old age of consent)
16 yr old age limit for sentencing someone to death for drug crimes
14 yr old age limit for being given to marriage legally
(even tho’ they have no capacity to vote their govt, or to handle a R(21) movie, they can be allowed to make a lifetime commitment , and have kids at 15yr old??)
Explain this to me, someone, please!
Singapore is 1st-Tier Arms Maker http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_325946.html
Sometimes, I don’t know whether or not to be proud of my country’s achievement. This is one of those times. (Other times being when I know that our high cost of living means that we can afford maids, and human organs, and fancy holidays in the region. Or when I hear that Singapore has one of the highest per capita execution rates in the world — it arguably keeps our country relatively drug-crime free)
There are some political figures, media personalities, or segments of society that hype up the role of religiously-motivated ideology/terrorism in violent conflicts around the world today. There are also those who take a more moderate , rational stand and ask if power struggles and corruption are the puppeteers pulling the strings of irrational fundamentalists. Israel is facing an unpcomming election for example, and Afganistan’s leaders have been implicated in corruption, no matter which party takes over.
One big group that stands to benefit the most from these conflicts are the arms manufacturers. The Bush presidents who presided over 3 of the USA’s most recent major wars were backed strongly by the gun/weapons lobby group & oil lobby group. However, I hardly see any news , editorials and commentaries questioning the moral responsibility that this very powerful lobby group have in the violent conflicts of today. I wonder why. Could it be because Singapore is a 1st-Tier Arms Maker? Could it be that our mainstream media is highly regulated?
Like I said at the beginning, sometimes, some news makes me wonder if I should be happy or sad, proud or ashamed.
I remember more than 10 years ago, reading that singapore was the TOP landmines supplier to the 1st Iraq war. A quick search today reveals that Singapore is one of the 37 countries that are NOT signatories to the Ottawa Treaty, which seeks to ban anti-personnel mines ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_parties_to_the_Ottawa_Treaty ) .
Qouting from http://www.bambooweb.com/articles/l/a/Landmine.html (can’t find the publication date) :
“The legal export of anti-personnel landmines has ceased as of 1999. Anti-personnel landmines continue to be produced in the following countries:
- People’s Republic of China
- North Korea
- South Korea
- Serbia and Montenegro
- United States
- Vietnam “
On one hand, our citizens are signing petitions calling for the end of conflict in the Middle East, for human rights to be respected by Myanmar, for countries to stop using landmines. On the other hand, our citizens are benefitting(?) from the revenue from arms sales, and gem trades. Manufacturing jobs are created. The Straits Times reports that “The UK deal makes it an important ‘reference customer’ that opens the door to similar acquisitions by other First World countries serving in the Afghan theatre.” I ask, do Singaporeans really want the Afghan war to end?
“But the deal is a breakthrough for Singapore’s defence industry in that the Republic is now supplying weapons systems not to Third World countries, but to a First World nation like the United Kingdom. ” I wonder which Third World countries Singapore has been supplying arms to. Do anyone of you readers know and care to share? Or is it confidential, like the way our town-councils invest money is confidential? I wonder which wars were fought with Made-In-Singapores. I also wonder, how many of our neighbour’s citizems, fighting for a better home, where shot with Made-In-Singapores by the very people supposed to protect them? I hope none, but I guess I’ll never know .
Honestly, in the context of arms revenue, I suspect (I’ve yet to ask) that many Singaporeans would support arms manufacture, and may support the ongoing war efforts, even though they may be paiseh to admit. Assuming that this is the case, is it right for Singapore to toe the ethical line, or to respect the decision of the majority, a key tenet of democracy?
I’ve often struggled with this question. When the majority of the population wants to criminalise homosexuality, when the majority of the population wants their maids to be locked at home 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, when minority rights become an act of mercy and charity given at the wimps of the majority, should the democratic principle of respecting the majority’s decisions still hold? Of course I’m pressuming that the democratic principle of respecting the majority’s decisions do hold ………..