We are all prejudiced against something. There are foods that we hate. Songs that we abhor. And this being the hot season, oh how we hate the weather! And there are people whom we hate too. Usually our mother-in-laws. Hatred is part of human nature. It is something that is inherent in all of us.
Whether we realise it or not most of us are also prejudiced against certain aspects of other cultures. This is what makes different cultures different. We tend to identify with our own culture by differentiating it from other cultures. And this is also the reason why forging racial harmony is such a daunting task. But does that make us racist?
Racism is an act of blatant hatred towards a group of people due to their race, skin colour and beliefs. It can be verbal or physical and the greatest act of racism in history was of course the holocaust. There were others after that like the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, the racial war in Rwanda and some might argue the inter-religious strife between the Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq, Syria and Pakistan.
We in Singapore are now fortunate not to witness first-hand the atrocities of racial violence despite living in an overpopulated, multi-ethnic and multi-religious society although we did undergo a short period in the sixties of racial tension that went horribly wrong. And that event so long ago could still serve as a reminder that we cannot take racial harmony for granted. Just recently, a racist comment targeted towards the Malay/Muslims was made on facebook. Although the owner claimed that his account was hacked, the fact of the matter is that there is a racist somewhere out there out to create mischief. What is more worrisome is that it was not the only racist outburst targeted at the Malay/Muslims. There have been at least three. And this is really puzzling because the Malay/Muslims in Singapore are regarded as the most docile in the world. They practice a brand of Islam that is moderate and accommodating. Yes there are exceptions amongst them such as members of the Jemaah Islamiah but there will always be exceptions in everything in life. But those exceptions should not be a reason for racism.
In view of the racial harmony day, let us all hope and pray that Singapore will always remain a place for all races to live harmoniously together.