THERE is an inverse relationship between kindness and prejudice (‘Gap in multiracial message’, Nov 26; and ‘Hate speech doesn’t always require red card’, Dec 3).
Kindness is treating others with respect and showing consideration for their needs and feelings.
By contrast, racial and religious prejudice has no respect or regard for the needs and feelings of others who are different. Such prejudice is not merely unkind, but unacceptable in multiracial and multi-religious Singapore.
Prejudice is rooted in stereotypes, which stem from ignorance. Stereotyping makes broad assumptions about people whom we either don’t understand or choose not to understand. We fear what we do not understand. And fear, being an emotional response to a perceived threat, leads us to react irrationally.
As fear is also a function of ignorance, we can break the cycle of ignorance and fear that leads to acts of racism and religious intolerance by learning about other religions.
Every person must be reminded of the values of tolerance, consideration, respect and graciousness.
We have come a long way from the turbulent 1960s, when religious ignorance became flashpoints for hate and violence.
By employing a combination of laws and public education campaigns to help combat ignorance and stereotypes, we have laid a strong foundation for racial and religious tolerance.
But recent incidents of irrationality are a cause for concern. However, just because some continue to live in ignorance and fear is not a sign that we have failed in our quest for a multiracial and multi-religious nation.
On the contrary, the absence of a stronger, more violent reaction indicates that we have, in fact, succeeded.
We should not only avoid giving offence, but also avoid taking offence. That we are able to maintain self-control in the light of the offence reflects our strength in self-control.
Dr William Wan
Singapore Kindness Movement
The Straits Times – 14 December 2011