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Tham Yuen-C
Wednesday, Jun 18, 2014

Singapore

Most feel S'pore has religious harmony

The Straits Times | Tham Yuen-C | Wednesday, Jun 18, 2014

Madam Tay Bee Yan and her husband S. Raveendran with their sons (from left) Nitesh and Mithran. The couple have been married for eight years, and said both their families have been supportive. They have decided to let their two boys choose their religion when they are older.

A MAJORITY of people in Singapore feel there is a high level of religious harmony here, and are confident that will not be affected by a trend of rising religiosity, a study by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) has found.

Most are also comfortable having friends and neighbours of another faith.

These results, the third set of findings from a large-scale survey on race, religion and language by the think-tank, point to a "healthy level of religious harmony" here, said lead researcher Mathew Mathews.

In the study which polled about 3,000 people and measured self-reported perceptions on religion, six out of 10 people agreed that those of different religions live in harmony here.

Many also said they trust, and indeed want, the Government to play a central role in maintaining this peace.

More than 60 per cent of respondents said they believe they should report offensive actions, such as bigotry or insensitive comments made about a religion, to the authorities.

Dr Mathew sees this as an indication of people's commitment towards maintaining religious harmony, since they themselves are "policing the scene" by reporting incidents.

It also indicates policies on religious harmony put in place over the years have worked, he said.

Among them are hard measures such as laws like the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act that deals with those who attempt to cause ill will between different religious groups, and also soft measures, such as encouraging understanding through groups like the Inter-racial and Religious Confidence Circles.

"We cannot underestimate the role of legislation in informing people about what is acceptable. The rules help people to frame it and over time, it becomes a norm," Dr Mathew said.

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