Why I value Singapore’s secular state even more, after comparison with Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia.

“Singapore practises a separation of religion and state in which no political party that is religion-based is allowed, and religious leaders who wish to participate in electoral politics must first “remove their religious garb..no community can use its religious stance to dictate affairs of the state, be it in the formulation of public policies, making of decisions or enactment of laws.”

Mohammad Alami Musa (4 Feb 2016)

“We have a government that is secular but not secularised, as it recognises the important role that religions can play in the moral development of our peoples. We are truly grateful to her for championing religious harmony, which is especially crucial at a time when religious extremism is threatening the peaceful coexistence of peoples.”

PM Lee (2015)

Picture credit: CNA


Some points brought up by PM Lee’s 2009 National Rally speech is something I find very relevant in our current socio-religious-political landscape:

  • Many faiths share this island. Rules which only apply to one group cannot become laws which are enforced on everyone.
  • We have to keep religion separate from politics. Bring a multiracial, multi-religious group of supporters..represent the interests of all your constituents, not just your religious group in Parliament.
  • The government has to remain secular. The laws are passed by Parliament elected by the people. They do not come from a sacred book. The government has to be neutral, fair… all groups can practice their faiths freely without colliding with one another in Singapore.
  • Public debate cannot be on whose religion is right and whose religion is wrong. It has to be on secular rational considerations, public interests – what makes sense for Singapore.



The Declaration on Religious Harmony  was developed in 2003 in consultation with the main religious groups in Singapore. Though it is not a legal document, it serves as a basis for Singaporeans to regularly reflect on the state of religious harmony from time to time, and the steps we can take to deepen our ties and understanding with other communities:

We, the people in Singapore, declare that religious harmony is vital for peace, progress and prosperity in our multi-racial and multi-religious Nation.

We resolve to strengthen religious harmony through mutual tolerance, confidence, respect, and understanding.

We shall always

Recognise the secular nature of our State,

Promote cohesion within our society,

Respect each other’s freedom of religion,

Grow our common space while respecting our diversity,

Foster inter-religious communications,

and thereby ensure that religion will not be abused to create conflict and disharmony in Singapore.



The separation between state and religion should always remain. The extent to which we choose to follow or carry out our religious obligations should always be a personal choice, and penalties / punishments for not following any aspect of any religious practices should NEVER be put inplaced into secular laws or moral policing.

Likewise, the general public SHOULD NEVER play morality police and harass individuals from their respective religious community for not following aspects of their religion.

Also, anyone should be able to leave and join any religious / secular community without any repercussions from the law, or ostracisation/harassment from their former community.

1Case Study 1# Malaysia


  • Hudud debate

10 things about: Siti Kasim, lawyer and activist (2016)

MCA: Limb amputation is a barbaric act

Amputation of limbs not cruel if it saves society, says Kelantan PAS leader

MMA says would seek axe for docs who amputate under hudud (MMO, 24 Apr 2014)

Doctors in Malaysia offer to perform hudud amputations (AsiaOne, 3 Apr 2015)

Hudud will drive rape survivors deeper into shadows, say women’s groups (2014)

SIS: Hudud contradicts Federal Constitution on women’s rights (2015)

Hudud Bill will ‘divide Malaysia along religious lines’: MCA deputy chief Wee Ka Siong (2016)

Don’t exempt non-Muslims from hudud, Muslim scholars suggest … (2014)

‘UnIslamic to sneak Shariah punishments into legal system’ (2016)

Scholar: Who says rejecting hudud is a sin? (2016)

‘Secular laws more Islamic’ (2016)

Dr Mahathir: PAS implementing un-Islamic hudud for political gain (2015)

Hudud: No turning back if amendments passed, says activist (2016)

PAS wrong, hudud will affect non-Muslims, says MCA | Free Malaysia … (2016)

Hudud: There will be chaos if non-Muslims are victims, says MCA man … (2016)

Hadi cannot ignore anti-hudud noise, DAP MP says (2016)

Why non-Muslims have the right to ask about Islam, hudud (2016)


  • Religious tensions, and attacks on places of worship 

In 2007, Malaysia banned Christian churches from using “Allah” in its publications. But the Catholic Church successfully sued in High Court to undo the ban. The government appealed to reinstate the ban and won the appeal in 2013. The Church’s attempts to get the ban reviewed failed in 2015.

Is there any international outcry to stop demolishing Hindu temples in Malaysia? (NriNews, 2 Dec 2007)

2010 attacks against places of worship in Malaysia (Wikipedia, 2016)

Described as a “blunt violation” and “unconstitutional curtailment” of religious right, the government’s recent seizure of 30,000 copies of the Malay version of the bible could (FMT, 15 Mar 2011)

 Perkasa’s plan to burn the Malay edition of the Bible, which carries the word “Allah” to refer to God, is equivalent to burning churches, the Pentecostal Churches of Malaysia representative Robert Judah Paul said today. (FMT, 24 Jan 2013)

Centuries-old temple ruins in Bujang Valley furtively destroyed (malaymailonline, 1 Dec 2013) 

Hindu temple in Penang desecrated, statues destroyed (FMT, 2 June 2014)

Christians are “extremely disappointed” with the ruling of the Federal Court in dismissing the Catholic Church’s application for leave to appeal the ban on the use of the word “Allah” in its weekly publication, The Herald. (FMT, 23 June 2014)

Putrajaya must act against Ibrahim Ali’s bible-burning threat to nip extremism in the bud, says Sabah church (malaymailonline, 31 Oct 2014)

The National Fatwa Council has decreed on 2005 that Muslims are prohibited from attending Christmas celebrations if there are “Christian symbols” on display, such as Christmas trees, Santa Claus-like red attires and Christmas carols. Two years later in 2007, the same council decreed that Muslims cannot greet non-Muslims during their festivities if the greetings involve issues of faith or recognise that other religions are of equal position with Islam. (MalayMailOnline, 19 Dec 2014)

The Selangor government had given the greenlight to the church to put back the cross on the shoplot facade. The cross was taken down after a group of residents protested outside the church. (2015)

Malaysian Muslim group demands Catholic Church to stop using Malay in newspaper (TODAY, 23 Jan 2015)

Callous bid to destroy church at night (2016)

‘Kafir harbi’ remark wasn’t licence to kill non-Muslims, Pahang mufti now says (MMO, 30 Jun 2016)



  • Fatwas, Haram, and religious advice

Women must give husbands sex ‘even on camels’, Islamic scholar says

Men can only beat wives with handkerchiefs … – Malay Mail Online

Criticised by Muslims, filmmaker to remove Facebook post on airport …

Zaid: Health Ministry wrong to follow fetish of ‘holy men’ | Free … (FMT, 2016)

‘Female-only childbirth doctors’ remark is extremist speak, Guan Eng says (MMO, 5 July 2016)

‘Huge’ Hindu, Buddhist statues against Islam, ex-judge says (malaymailonline, 16 Apr 2014)

Muslim preacher warns against dangers of ‘Jediism’, Star Wars fans strike back (malaymailonline, 25 dec 2015)

Malaysia tourism group, netizens defend Langkawi’s iconic eagle statue amid claim sculpture is ‘un-Islamic‘ (ST, 5 Sept 2016)

Stop making excuses, caning women is a crime! ― Syerleena Abdul Rashid (MMO, 29 Jan 2015)

Selena Gomez too ‘sexy’ for M’sia, says PAS Youth (FMT, 18 Jul 2016)

S’gor exco member orders special prayers to cancel Selena Gomez concert (malaysiakini, 22 July 2016)



  • Punishments/Critcism for not following religious obligations

Malaysia spares woman from caning for drinking beer (Theguardian, 1 Apr 2010)

Malaysia: Muslims accuse organizer of dog-petting event of apostasy, threaten to kill him (Jihadwatch, 22 Oct 2014)

Law on ‘khalwat’ to prevent illicit sex, says Mais chairman (malaymailonline, 19 Dec 2015)

What happens during khalwat raids? UK broadcaster joins Malaysia’s religious police in a show-all (VIDEO) (malaymailonline, 18 Mar 2016)

In Terengganu, Muslims who skip Friday prayers to ride in hearses as penalty (MMO, 25 Feb 2015)

Fine or jail for skipping Friday prayer in Kedah from June 1 (MMO, 11 May 2015)

Jais: Six Muslims nabbed in Selangor for not fasting (MMO, 13 Jul 2015) 

Harassed for being seen eating during Ramadan (FMT, 26 Jun 2016)

Dept warns Muslims not to skip fasting (The Star, 28 Mar 2016):

“There were 154 cases of Muslims eating in public during Ramadan and were charged under Section 15 of the Penang Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment last year.

Abdul Malik warned in a press conference yesterday that Muslims would be charged for not respecting Ramadan by eating, drinking and smoking in public.

Kota Baru pharmacy faces fine over poster of ‘uncovered’ mod (TheStar, 10 Aug 2016)

No touching, this is Malaysia (The Heat Malaysia, 19 Oct 2016)1

  • Kelantan

Kelantan plans to ban unmarried people from riding motorcycle together (AsiaOne, 4 Mar 2016)

Kelantan bans bright lipstick and high heels (AsiaOne, 25 Jun 2008)

Kelantan PAS government bans males from watching female sports (AsiaOne, 21 Aug 2014)

New Kelantan dress code: Women working in places like markets, food outlets must wear tudung (ST, Oct 31 2014)

Kelantan issues 1,000 fines for Islamic dress code violations (malaymailonline, March 9 2015)

Concerns over implementation of hudud in Kelantan (AsiaOne, 13 July 2015)

MCA laughs at rules imposed for Kelantan cinemas (FMT, 31 May 2016)

Life in Malaysia’s Kelantan amid a push for Islamic law (TODAY, 9 June 2016)

Kelantan’s Ramadan etiquette for non-Muslims (FMT, 11 Jun 2016)

‘Cover-up’, female Muslim workers in Kelantan told (FMT, 11 July 2016)

Watch shop in Kelantan fined for ‘sexy’ posters, one featuring actress Aishwarya Rai (ST, 27 Jul 2016)

Kelantan’s Friday prayer by-law treats Muslims like ‘hardened criminals’, legal activists claim (malaymailonline, 20 Oct 2014)

After criticism, Kelantan MB tells non-Muslims to ‘respect’ Friday prayer by-law (malaymailonline, 22 Oct 2014)

Cover up during Ramadan, Kelantan mufti tells non-Muslims (MMO, 11 Jun 2016)

Kelantan mufti no right to police non-Muslim dressing, Gerakan says (MMO, 12 Jun 2016)

Kelantan’s call on non-Muslim women to stop wearing ‘sexy’ clothes causes public concern (ST, 12 Jun 2016)

Kelantan’s hauling up of Muslim women raising public worry (thestar, 12 Jun 2016)


Photo credit: Malaymailonline1

  • Religious policing

Malaysia arrests Muslims in Valentine’s crackdown (Yahoo, 15 Feb 2011)

In Malaysia, Islamic authorities remind Muslim students not to celebrate Valentine’s Day (ST, 13 Feb 2014)

In Malaysia, new entertainment rules restrict dressing, lyrics and crowd interaction (malaymailonline, 18 April 2015)

Miss Malaysia World Muslim finalists dropped after beauty pageant fatwa (malaymailonline, 21 July 2013)

Trick or treat? Fatwa Council bars Muslims from celebrating Halloween (malaymailonline, 28 October 2014)

  •  Intolerance to Dress codes

Yuna’s Young Fan Mocks Her “Inappropriate” Outfit, Gets A “Sisterly” Advice From The Singer (MalaysianDigest, 13 May 2016)

Gymnast’s attire ‘a lesson’ on clothing for Muslims in sports: Malaysian minister (CAN, 17 June 2015)

Concerns of rising conservatism in Malaysia as dress code debate continues (CAN, 20 June 2015)

Cover up to ‘respect’ Muslims, Mufti tells non-Muslims in dress code rows (malaymailonline, 28 June 2015)

Dress code uproar ‘stems from intolerance’(ST, June 29 2015)

6 Controversial Dress Code Incidents in Malaysia (ExpatGo, 3 July 2015) 

Facebook users tell Bank Negara scholarship winner to don tudung (18 Sept 2015)

Cover up during Ramadan, Kelantan mufti tells non-Muslims (MMO, 11 Jun 2016)

Malaysian woman stands up against religious policing during Ramadan (AsianCorrespondent, 27 Jun 2016)

Malaysians Stand Against Haters Who Had Issues With This Female Racer’s ‘Tight’ Suit (SAYS, 1 Aug 2016)

Now, more than ever, women like Uqasha need our support (MMO, 4 Sept 2016)

If you can’t look beyond his shorts… – The Heat (The Heat Malaysia, 22 Oct 2016)

  • Transgenders

Malaysia slammed for jailing of two trans women (PinkNews, 22 Jun 2015)

Malaysia upholds ban on trans community (PinkNews, 3 Oct 2015)

This brave trans woman breaks the law just by going outside (PinkNews, 22 Mar 2016)

JAWI raids transgender ‘beauty pageant’ for breaking fatwa (malaymailOnline, 4 April 2016)

Transgender at ‘beauty pageant’ to be charged with encouraging vice, group says (malaymailonline, 5 April 2016)



Case Study #2: Aceh and Indonesia


Aceh fully enforces sharia (Jarkata Post, Feb 7 2014)

Indonesia: Aceh Province Bans Daytime Food Sales During Ramadan (Library Of Congress, 7 July 2014)

Hijab Suggestion for Non-Muslims in Aceh Draws Criticism (Jarkataglobe)

Indonesian district bans unmarried couples from motorbike rides (ST, 4 May 2015)

Indonesia mayor orders curfew for women in Aceh capital (The Star, 9 Jun 2015)

Banda Aceh imposes curfew on women working at night (TODAY, 9 Jun 2015)

National scene: Aceh orders curfew on women (Jarkata Post, 10 Jun 2015)

Churches attacked and one man killed in clashes in Aceh, Indonesia (BBC News, 14 Oct 2015)

Aceh cracks down on gay sex(The Star, 23 Oct 2015)

Indonesia’s Aceh province enacts Islamic criminal code (TODAY, 24 Oct 2015)

W. Aceh bans musical performances (JarkataPost, 6 Apr 2016)

Woman, 60, caned for selling alcohol in Aceh (ST, 14 Apr 2016)

Indonesia wants to ban Grindr and 18 other gay apps (PinkNews, 10 Sept 2016)

Indonesia blocking Grindr and 80 gay websites in clampdown on ‘deviant propaganda’ (PinkNews, 15 Sept 2016)

1Case Study #3: Brunei



Brunei yet to implement harsher syariah penalties (AsiaOne, 13 July 2015)

5 years’ jail for Brunei Muslims partaking in Christmas (FMT, 22 Dec 2015)

No Christmas decorations in ‘Brunei’(FMT, 24 Dec 2014)

Brunei bans Christmas in hardline shift (CNA, 23 Dec 2015)

Bruneian calls for Miri churches to be demolished, sparks local anger (MMO, 20 Jun 2016)

Everyday life in Brunei under hudud (The Star, 2 Oct 2016)

New churches or temples not allowed (TSO, 3 Oct 2016)

The deep impact of the law on non-Muslims (The Star, 2 Oct 2016)

The separation between state and religion should always remain. The extent to which we choose to follow or carry out our religious obligations should always be a personal choice, and penalties / punishments for not following any aspect of any religious practices should NEVER be put inplaced into secular laws or moral policing.

Likewise, the general public SHOULD NEVER play morality police and harass individuals from their respective religious community for not following aspects of their religion.

Also, anyone should be able to leave and join any religious / secular community without any repercussions from the law, or ostracisation/harassment from their former community.1

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