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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Public places should be kept ‘neutral’ of religion

Religious rituals should not be allowed in public places, given the multi-religious makeup of our nation.
By TK Chua
I read an interesting news report, “Religious official denies ‘holy water’ in theme park claim”.
A group of Buddhists in yellow vests was found sprinkling “holy water” in a theme park much to the chagrin of a visitor of another faith. Subsequently, the Melaka Islamic Religious Department (Jaim) explained that the “water” used in the ritual was bottled mineral water supplied by the theme park.
I find the whole incident rather perplexing. The theme park is a public place providing entertainment services to visitors of all faiths and creeds. Don’t you think it is much better to keep the place “neutral” as far as religion is concerned?
When we have a group of Buddhists in yellow vests sprinkling water all over the place, it does not matter whether the bottled mineral water was supplied by the resort or not. It is no longer the physical properties of the water but its symbolic significance. Inevitably, there will be those of other religions who may look at the issue with a jaundiced eye.
What if another religious group did the same using its own religious ritual? What if yet another, instead of sprinkling water, scattered “harmless religious powder” around?
We have visited this issue many times before. It is best that we keep our religions private. I think reciting a short prayer in our hearts asking for God’s protection and providence should be sufficient.
There will be endless arguments if we allow religious rituals in public places, given the multi-religious makeup of our nation. We can all show tolerance and inclusiveness by not causing unease or discomfort to others.
TK Chua is an FMT reader.

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