What is these old men doing?
Malaysia’s former premier Mahathir Mohamad has publicly denounced Singapore Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew for his remarks on Muslims in his recently published book, “Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going”.
Dr Mahathir accused Mr Lee of not being respectful of religion and blamed him for Singapore and Malaysia’s separation in 1965. The elder statesman of Malaysian politics also accused Mr Lee for recent remarks linking Singapore Muslims’ beliefs and racial integration in the island-nation.
“I’m not surprised by his statement because to him religion is not important,” Dr Mahathir told Malaysian paper, Utusan Malaysia’s Sunday edition, Mingguan Malaysia.
“For him, the end justifies the means, so if he wants racial integration in Singapore, he won’t let Islam stand in the way of his goals. That is Kuan Yew. He totally does not respect religion and the sensitivities of other races.”
Dr Mahathir’s criticisms have added to the firestorm of debate within the Muslim community in Singapore and Malaysia, which first started when MM Lee said Muslims were “distinct” and “separate” and that they don’t do enough to integrate with the rest of society, such as having meals together.
Malay-language dailies in Malaysia including Utusan and Berita Harian, have lashed out at Mr Lee through various articles and commentaries, saying Mr Lee was trying to sow discord among the two neighbouring countries.
They also add that Mr Lee should learn more about Islam before making statements about Muslims. Dr Mahathir also claimed that Malays in Singapore had no choice but to compromise their beliefs.
“They are afraid of the Government,” he said. “I also feel that the Malays are careful when they speak up because they are worried they would be victimised. That is the attitude of the Malays in Singapore.”
In the interview, Dr Mahathir also fired back that while Malaysia ensured equal opportunities for all races, Singapore’s Malays were “weak” and marginalised.
He also blamed Mr Lee for breaking a promise not to contest in east Malaysia in the 1964 elections, saying it was his actions that led to the separation of Singapore from Malaysia.
Dr Mahathir added that other countries might have responded to such a situation “using force”, but Malaysia’s then Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, “chose to separate Singapore and give independence to the country”.
“That’s why it is not true when Singapore accuses us of having malice towards them,” he said.
In Singapore, Mr Lee’s comments have also sparked outrage from various Muslim groups, including the local association of Muslim scholars, PERDAUS and Jamiyah, a member of the Inter-Religious Organisation.
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has since tried to distance his father’s comments from the government and said, ”My own perspective on how things are in Singapore is not quite the same as MM Lee’s,” adding that his own view is shared by the Government.
During a community event on Sunday, PM Lee also paid tribute to the way the Muslim community in Singapore “has made great efforts to integrate with the other communities and with Singapore society to join the mainstream.”