Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew issued a statement last night and said he stands corrected on how well-integrated Malay-Muslims are in Singapore, according to a Straits Times report.
He referred to the comments he made in the new book, Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going.
He said: "Hard Truths was a book based on 32 hours of interviews over a period of two years.
"I made this one comment on the Muslims integrating with other communities probably two or three years ago. Ministers and MPs, both Malay and non-Malay, have since told me that Singapore Malays have indeed made special efforts to integrate with the other communities, especially since 9/11, and that my call is out of date.
"I stand corrected. I hope that this trend will continue in the future."
Since the book was published, reactions from some Muslim groups were negative. Some said his remarks were unfounded while others called for him to apologise.
But Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that his perspective differed from MM Lee's, which were the latter's personal opinions.
During a breakfast session at the Yio Chu Kang Community Club on Jan 30, PM Lee said: "Muslims are a valued and respected community, who have done a good deal to strengthen our harmony and social cohesion."
PM Lee added that his own views were that of the Government's.
|What MM Lee said in the book:||
What PM Lee said on Jan 30:
“I have to speak candidly to be of value, but I do not want to offend the Muslim community... I think we were progressing very nicely until the surge of Islam came, and if you asked me for my observations, the other communities have easier integration – friends, inter-marriages and so on – than Muslims... I would say, today, we can integrate all religions and races,
When asked what Muslims could do to integrate, he said: “Be less strict on Islamic observances and say, ‘Okay, I’ll eat with you’.”
|“Muslims are a valued and respected community, who have done a good deal to strengthen our harmony and social cohesion.
“And I would encourage our Muslim community leaders, Muslim religious leaders, to continue to do the good work. The work is not done. I think it will never be done, but we have to keep on doing it, and we can keep on making progress.”
“We recognise these changing norms. But at the same time, we ought to be careful not to let them evolve so that differences in food, dress, customs and so on keep us apart or reduce our common space."
“Singapore Muslims have been conscious of this and have made that special effort to try and bridge the links between them and the other communities.”
|“I am worried such views will spread into Malaysian society, which has many types of ideas.&rdquo
Datuk Jamil Khir Baharom, Malaysia’s de facto Religious Affairs Minister
|“It is not wise to zoom into the religion or belief that these Malays hold.
Asking them to be less strict (with) their religionis seen as a dubious idea which may create hatred.”
A reader on the Jakarta Globe site
|"As a native-born Muslim Singaporean, I am baffled by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew’s remarks about my community’s eating habits (‘MM’s remarks on integration draw flak’; Wednesday). We may buy food from different stalls at hawker centres but we eat at the same table when eating out with non-Muslim Singaporeans and friends.”
Mr Syed Ahmad
|"I agree with Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew's view that Singapore’s Muslims tend to be 'distinct and separate' ('MM's remarks on integration draw flak'; Wednesday). It takes courage for a leader to speak the truth for the benefit of his country.
Especially significant is a truism he voiced which, in my view, is shared by other races that Muslims were progressing well within Singapore's multiracial context until the Islamic surge arrived from the Middle East.
Because he is forthright, he is Singapore's prized possession."
Mr Pavithran Vidyadharan
|"Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew's remarks about 'Malay Muslims triggered several questions for me as a young Malay Muslim Singaporean. How far off are Malay Muslims in improving integration and the nationbuilding
process? What does MM Lee mean by asking the community to be less rigid about its Islamic observances? How are we distinct and separate from other communities? Finally, how do we soften this hard truth?"
Ms Siti Aishah Mohamed Selamat