Thursday, May 31, 2007

People Cannot Join and Leave a Religion as they Wish

The wisest in the land has ruled. “People cannot join and leave a religion according to their whims and fancies.”

Thus saith the Chief Justice Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim (of Malaysia) in delivering the main judgment of a case involving a Malay woman, Lina Joy, who converted from Islam to Christianity nine years ago and wanted to have “Islam” deleted from her identity card.

This was supposed to be a ‘test case’ because it is binding on all lower civil courts, and will affect a number of apostasy cases pending in civil courts. For example, there is this case involving Mrs R. Subashini, a Hindu woman who is fighting to prevent her estranged husband from converting their one-year-old son to Islam. Her husband, Mr T. Saravan converted from a Hindu to become a Muslim last year. And he has already converted their elder son, three, without her knowledge.

According to the wise chief justice's reasoning, Mr. T Saravan is guilty. He cannot ‘suka suka’ (any how) convert to another religion. And he certainly cannot change his children’s religion according to his ‘whims and fancies’. At the very least, he should consult and get the approval of his wife, don’t you think.

And there's another case involving a former soldier M. Moorthy who also (allegedly) converted to Islam – so said his colleagues, but they have no documents to prove it - without even telling his family. This caused a lot of problems when he died, because both his widow and the Islamic authorities claim his body for burial.

By the way, do you think it is a coincidence that both the judges who ruled against Lina Joy were Muslims, and the third judge who ruled for her was a non-Muslim? Make you wonder if the verdict would have been the same if none of the 3 judges were Muslims doesn't it?.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Must it always be about Money?

The Singapore daily, TODAY has this tagline: We set you thinking. A couple of things I read this morning set me thinking.

In a report about Michael Moore’s latest movie, Sicko, the director, famous for movies like Fahrenheit 911 and Bowling for Columbine, was quoted as saying that he was trying to ask questions like, “Why do we behave the way we behave? What has become of us? Where is our soul?”

This reminded me about something former Malaysian prime minister, Dr Mahathir said recently about us; “Singapore believes the most important thing is what profits Singapore”.

Offhand, I would like to dismiss this as another of his thoughtless, unsubstantiated accusations. But if you think about it objectively, there may be some truth in what he said. A lot of times, our behaviour gives others the impression that profit is our only criterion for evaluating decisions in practically every aspect of our lives.

Let’s take the example of our sales people and businessmen. You must have encountered such a situation before. You walk into a shop and the salesman is all smiles and enthusiastically answers your questions. But the moment it becomes apparent that you are not going to buy anything, his attitude changes, and he makes no effort to hide his irritation and wish that you would leave and stop wasting his time.

Not long ago, we had a huge debate in this country about the decision to build casinos after decades to saying no. In parliament, speaker after speaker spoke about the ills of having casinos; but in the end they were persuaded because of the prospect of revenues and jobs. We will come up with lots of measures to reduce the social impact of gambling on our society. But what about the harm that it does to foreigners who we will woo to come here to gamble? Not our problem? Then Mahathir is right isn’t he?

For years, the Indonesians have been pressurizing us to sign an extradition treaty so that they can go after corrupt officials who hide their ill-gotten wealth in Singapore. We have always resisted because it will affect our reputation as a financial capital. We will only sign the treaty if there are other conditions attached to it and bring benefits in other areas. But, what about the fact that we have helping dishonest people to get away with their crimes? Again, not our problem?

Last Saturday’s edition of Today carried this headline, What Price the Pink Dollar? It reported on the results of a poll commissioned by Today which showed that a majority of Singaporean heartlanders were against making homosexuality legal in Singapore. The article went on to argue that this was not good for Singapore. A law criminalizing homosexuality will work against our push to lure foreign talent here and grow an ideas-driven, creative economy because homosexuals are supposed to be creative people. We do not want to be seen as a ‘culturally intolerant and sterile’ people. But what about the long term effects of welcoming such ‘alternative lifestyles’ on our society?

Why do we behave this way? I don’t know. Maybe it has to do with the fact that our leaders are all paid ‘market rates’ and constitute some of the best brains that money can buy in this land.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Did you see this article in Today?

It's about the GMP Group which does not require it's job applicants to fill up a lengthy application form. They believed that a simple cover letter and resume are “more than enough”.

It reminded me of a book by Edward De Bono entitled simply, SIMPLICITY. In it, he lamented that many procedures in this world are far too complicated. He cited the example of those irritating Embarkation Forms that we have to fill up each time we visited a foreign country. By the way, he wrote this book before September 11. He questioned why some countries (I think he quoted France as an example) only required a simple 4 or 5 - question form whilst most others have literally pages of questions to answer.

I am tempted to ask the same question about job application forms here in Singapore. If GMP can do with a simple resume and cover letter, why do most organizations require you to fill up lengthy forms. Out of curiosity, I visited the websites of some large organizations in Singapore. Most of them asked the customary questions like which schools you attended, your children’s date of births etc. Some like the NTUC, a supposed champion of older workers' rights, even asked for your grades in your O level exams. I pity guys like my 56-year old friend, who was retrenched 2 years ago. He will have to submit information about his grades from nearly 4 decades ago. Quite possibly, the primary school he attended may not even exist today.

A screen shot showing just a part of NTUC's online application form.

We should thank TODAY for this article. Let’s hope that more employers, especially our largest employer, the government, will follow GMP’s example and change their procedures rather than waste their energy to try and ‘fix things that ain’t broke”.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

I’m No Pessimist

I am greatly flattered that blogger Victor thinks that I am a ‘thinking blogger’; more so when I didn’t even know that he reads my articles. I feel even more flattered that he actually likens me to the famous blogger Mr Wang. I don’t think there is any other blogger who thinks that it is a worthy comparison. No need to elaborate.

Victor also thinks that I am probably a pessimist. Well he isn’t the first one. Some time ago, one reader expressed the same opinion when he read my article opposing the nomination of Mr S. R. Nathan as the next president of Singapore. I argued that it wasn’t pessimistic to speculate that an 80-over year old man like Mr Nathan may be forced to step down for health reasons mid-way through his term of office. It that happened, more tax payers’ money would be spent to hold another election to find a replacement. Anyway, once it became clear that Mr Nathan would win the election, I took down the article. I felt that it wasn’t helpful to keep that sort of argument on the internet any more. Now that we could all see that Mr Nathan is happily performing that role, I feel relieved and glad to be proven wrong.

And then it occurred to me that that reader, like Victor thought of me as a pessimist because of the title of my blog – Bad News on the Doorstep. I had never taken the trouble to explain why I chose such a ‘pessimistic’ name because there is a religious consideration behind my choice; and because I thought, since so few people read this blog, why bother. But out of respect for Victor, I think I should.

A very long time ago, at the dawn of earth’s history, there lived a man by the name of Lamech. He lived at a time when the society was full of violence and iniquity and moral decay. It so troubled him that when his son was born, he decided to name him ‘Rest’, or ‘Comfort’, saying; “This same shall comfort us.” The Hebrew name for it is Noah.

As I look at the world around me in 21st Century Singapore, and scan the news daily, I am convinced that we are living in times exactly like those of Lamech and Noah. (Just this morning I read the news of a man who raped his own daughter and posted the video on the internet. A couple of weeks ago, a young man, with a bright future ahead of him, took two guns and short dead 32 innocent bystanders before taking his own life). Since it is too late for me to go back and rename my son, I thought I would name my blog to reflect the times. And so I chose a line from the Don McLean classic, American Pie, to be the name of this blog.

Jesus Christ, before he left this earth warned us, through his disciples, to look out for the signs of the second coming. He specifically mentioned that the society at that time would “as in the days of Noah” – something I intend to blog about shortly. As I do not wish to mix religion with social and political commentaries, I have decided to blog about that topic (we call it Eschatology) in the separate blog called Parable of the Fig Tree. All bible-believing Christians look forward to a day when our saviour will return to this crippled earth to establish his millennial kingdom. Far from being pessimistic, we have a glorious hope.

You too can, if you will.