mrbrown: Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and the three magic words
When I read the headline, “MM Lee: I stand corrected,” I gasped.
I looked around me to see if I was still in the same universe or if I had been moved to a parallel one; I watch too much "Fringe."
I felt the walls to see if there was rip in the space-time continuum.
I confess, I do not know if checking walls is even the right procedure to check for rips in space-time.
Nope, I was still in this world. But there it was, MM Lee Kuan Yew said that his remark about Singaporean Muslims being harder to integrate than the other religions was, well, out of date.
What is the ugly truth?
"Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going" is a book based on 32 hours of interviews with Mr Lee over a period of two years.
In the interviews for the book, MM Lee said, “I think the Muslims socially do not cause any trouble, but they are distinct and separate" and urged them to "be less strict on Islamic observances."
This created huge furor in the Muslim community. Some respectfully disagreed. Some said the views were unfounded. Some even asked for an apology.
Fast forward a few weeks, and our founding father declared that he was convinced by other ministers and MPs that “Singapore Malays have indeed made special efforts to integrate with the other communities” and hence stood corrected.
You have to understand my reaction. I belong to the generation of Singaporeans who are not used to hearing our leaders admitting they were wrong.
Especially The Man Himself.
Did he or didn't he apologise?
In fact, now that I think about it, I am not even sure if MM Lee said he was wrong. I also didn’t see any apology.
So was this hard truth correct in earlier times, but incorrect now?
And what will become of the book "Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going" -- will a new edition be published called "Somewhat Hard Truths?"
Will there be a warning sticker -- "Out of date. Please disregard” -- on the page where the Muslim integration comments appear?
Certainly a publishing dilemma.
I did find it amusing that in some news reports that ran the “I stand corrected” headline, MM Lee was pictured sitting down. But I am sure he sits corrected too.
Another news report stated, “Muslim leaders welcome MM Lee's clarification”.
These leaders were very keen to embrace MM’s self-correction. It was like a virtual group hug.
I wonder what the headlines would have been if we had less-than-cordial religious leaders, like the kind seen in more confrontational societies. Who knows? The headlines may have been:
“Religious leaders say: You stand corrected? Sorry no cure!”
“Religious leaders insist on make-up flowers and a nice dinner too”
“Religious leaders declare: Eat my shorts.”
But religion is a sensitively handled matter in Singapore and thankfully our religious leaders know how to react with restraint and grace.
When I opened the Times to see the “Muslim leaders welcome MM Lee's clarification” headline on page two, there was an unfortunate placement of a photo of Bangladeshi workers who had fled Libya, waiting in line for food, looking forlorn.
I had to read the caption to make sure the photo was not one of grumpy religious leaders queuing for a “clarification."
It seems that after this statement from MM Lee, the dust has settled and we can all move on to other important things, like the coming elections.
Taking the MM's lead at home
The hard truth is, elections are not a time you want ruffled feathers and unhappy voters with hurt feelings.
I should know. In my household, I am used to being candid and blunt because, hey, I am the head of the family, right? But these days, when my wife shows me the latest shoes or bags or clothes she buys, instead of “How much did you spend on THAT?”, I have learned to smile and say, “That’s nice.”
It keeps the peace, makes my wife happy, and costs me nothing. Beats having to say sorry later.
Or “My dear, I stand corrected.”