The ‘pig on the kabaa’ issue and the value of overt nonsensical racism

Singapore Police Force is investigating blogger and chief editor of New Asia Republic, Donaldson Tan for re-posting an extremely offensive picture to Muslims; one of a prohibited animal in Islam, superimposed on the Ka’ba – Islam’s most sacred site, on his Facebook.  In his report to the police, the complainant, Amran Junid, also highlighted a Serena Lee for posting racist comments on that FB post by Donaldson Tan. - toc

Whilst I have retired from this issue, it would be irresponsible of myself to not comment on related matters as and when it requires address beyond the capablility of the 'insightful bloggers' and 'opposition' in singapore.

The following is ed’s response, published partially as a comment on a seemingly fair-minded singaporean Chinese individual, Kirsten Han's, post, entitled, 'You can't arrest the racist out of someone'.  Further thoughts on Donaldson Tan’s statement follow.


“I have no problem with racist nonsense like the ones in question - the Gods know that i've had to 'tolerate' with chinese racism all my life - which makes singapore's 'racial tolerance' interchangeable with 'tolerance of chinese racism'.

But i do have a problem with people of the advantaged race not taking issue with their ill-gotten advantage and not taking issue with racists, overt or otherwise, amongst their number.  You say,

"Singapore is a multi-racial, multi-religious society. That much we know; it’s been relentlessly drummed into our heads since we were kids in school....But as I look around, there is this sneaking suspicion that we might not actually be a real multi-cultural society."

You don't need to look far mate.  Just take a look at your sidebar.  You obviously don't seem to have a problem proudly displaying the 'singapore blog awards' logo awarding your site in your side bar whilst failing to notice how it presents singapore as a chinese state.  You ought to go do some soul-searching Kirsten old boy.  I think you're too used to seeing things through sinical eyes to notice this problem, and, unwittingly, have profitted from it as well through the additional motivational/occupational/social/political resources all chinese would be able to access in greater degree than 'others'.

The fact that there isn't violence or any such nonsense in response to this situation is not because singapore is 'mature and discerning', unless 'mature and discerning' is taken to mean, 'i'm used to being first/second-class citizen so it's like that one lorr'.  It is highly self-serving to view people as 'mature and discerning' when they are accustomed to taking racism as the norm mate. 

That said,

The reason why i welcome racist nonsense as posted by the bloke in question - who posted a picture of a pig on the Kabba...ridiculous nonsense of course - i take it as an opportunity for people to reaffirm their commitment toward the appreciation of difference and multiculturalism by speaking out against it.

It is at times that people are exposed to such nonsense that gives them the opportunity to rethink their status relative to less advantaged others.  Otherwise, in the absence of such blatant nonsense, people might just get used to the less overt racism that takes place on a daily basis and, hence, take it as the norm.

In other words, it is the presence of a greater evil that might lead people to question the lesser evils that they have taken as the norm, and perhaps, amongst a host of others, look at the 'singapore blog awards' logo and say, 'hey, i thought we're supposed to be a multicultural state?  What's with this bilingual logo that makes nothing out of the non-chinese?'  In that mate, you're a 'passive' racist, i.e. one who only notices racism in its more obvious forms whilst profiting from its less obvious ones.

It's no wonder that the cartoon accompanying your article has a chinese character as its central character (centre finger).  We'd call it a 'Freudian slip'.”

Now, with regards to Donaldson Tan (looks like the Tans are really taking centrestage in quite a few arenas in singapore)  comment (see pic above, with a magnifying glass):

Censorship is never an option.  You guys have to live and let live with differences, not expecting people to pander to sensitivities.

That’s pretty rich coming from a member of singapore’s ‘preferred’ race - as illustrated by, amongst a host of others, singapore’s Confucian leader, Lee Kuan Yew, stating that ‘singapore must always have a chinese majority’ - which the chinese didn’t take issue with - importing mainland chinese to keep up the ‘balance’, promoting chinese culture and language over all others, and even erecting a statue of chinese mass murderer, Deng Xiao Ping in a prominent location.

I’d like to see this Donaldson take issue with ‘his own’ for what they’ve become given the racist socio-political events of the past decades in singapore.  It’s alright to stand up for the ‘freedom of speech’ and criticise others, but keeping mum about how ‘your own’ have gained ascendency, not by exceptional intelligence or talent, but discrimination, is quite hypocritical don’t you think.

But the main point i’d like to take issue with is his statement, and to reiterate, ‘Censorship is never an option.  You guys have to live and let live with differences, not expecting people to pander to sensitivities.’  

This bloke is being silly of course, given that he doesn’t even appreciate the glaring contradiction in his statement.  If we ought to ‘live and let live with differences’, why on earth isn’t Donaldson doing so with the Muslims.  Putting a pig on the Kaaba isn’t really ‘living with difference’ is it.   This is just a more blatant example of the generally chinese approach toward difference.  Ignore-cum-ridicule.  ‘Fair’ is good, ‘dark’ skin is bad; indian are funny when they shake their head when expressing themselves; Malays are lazy; Indian language is funny because it doesn’t sound like Mandarin; Indians talk too much/ask too many questions; Malays have no foresight; Malays aren’t practical;....and the list goes on and on for anyone, be they chinese or otherwise, to see.  What you’re seeing here is the imposition of the chinese norm in judging reality.  I wouldn’t mind that, but give that their perspectives and culture is borne of oppressive and intellectually narrow circumstances in China, such an imposition makes less of us all.

When you look at a bloke like Kirsten Han, and other bloggers in the confucianised state of singapore, you might think he was a fair-minded individual, and certainly not a racist.  But that would be completely untrue.  The common factor amongst people like Donaldson Tan and Kirsten Han et al (it’s not just Kirsten, mind you) is that their either intolerant of difference, or not mindful of that which discounts it.  Hence, there is hardly anyone taking issue with lots of racist situations in singapore, or that which engenders it.  It is from such a climate that the likes of Donaldson Tan can arise.

And it as times like this that people like Kirsten rear their hypocritical, albeit unwitting, head and speak up for ‘difference’.  That, actually, is nothing short of buying their way out of actual appreciation of the racist condition of singapore.  They can give themselves a pat on the back for standing up for the Malays in this situation, and then go take the front position whether it be for the presidency or a job that prefers, ‘mandarin speakers only’.  It is also these times that the government can come across as racially fair-minded by standing up for the Malays, whilst keeping the presidency and premiership for the chinese, along with a host of other advantages.  It is nothing but a whitewash.

The point here is not to generate hatred for the Chinese.  Rather, it is a call to all non-chinese to not deem nothing amiss simply because you’re used to it, or brought up to deem it normal or ‘everywhere in the world also like that one lorrr’, and to all chinese to do more than to speak up only in the face of more blatant examples of racism such as the ‘pig on the kabaa’ issue.  If it is only at times like these that you say something, and keep silent about the host of other issues, it is nothing short of hypocritical.

I’m just describing things as they are.  And it is up to you to prove the ed is wrong.  And given the reality of that described, the only way that can be done is to undo it via conscientious empathy and cross-cultural appreciation, as opposed to a simple and oft-used strategies of ‘tolerate-cum-ignore’ and 'become like us-or else.



  1. I read both posts and think it's unfortunate that all you can see from Kirsten's post - that mainly explored the (non) effect of law on racism and admitted how far we are from true racial harmony - is hypocrisy - for basically not rejecting a pre-designed award that was given to her. Although it's not surprising considering the tone of your past posts on such topics. It's hard to take you seriously when you appear to lash out at any and all that doesn't behave as *you* deemed acceptable - such as protesting every single thing they come across that dares to bear only English and Chinese versions. I would wonder what exactly you experienced to feel so suppressed and victimized, but then again I'm not that keen on listening to extreme views.

    Oh, and Kirsten is not a bloke, Miss ed.

  2. 'It's hard to take you seriously when you appear to lash out at any and all that doesn't behave as *you* deemed acceptable'.

    A typical and insensible response. I've heard it often enough.

    Just to spell it out for you, i do not 'lash out' when something is deemed unacceptable by myself. I 'lash' out because it is unacceptable to me ON the basis of reason and egalitarian ethics. To discount what i say, you'll first have to prove that it is unreasonable and unethical, not because it is 'unacceptable to me'. Get it? I doubt it.

    You are obviously most satisfied with the prominence given to chinese culture, language and people over all others. Hence, you use smaller protests against 'every single thing that dares to bear only English and Chinese version' as an excuse to discount the rest, or to pay attention to the most obvious instances of racism - as Kirsten has done. But it is the less obvious and seemingly innocuous instances of racism on a daily basis that affects people the most mate.

    Do you not see the contradiction between Malay being the language for state logos and Mandarin and English being the one in the social arena? That makes the former nothing more than paying lip service to multiculturalism whilst another highly partial agenda is being effectuated at the social level. You'll have to appreciate these 'smaller' instances in the context of the 'bigger' ones to see how they symbiotically feed on and reinforce each other.

    If you can't put yourself in the shoes of others in a multicultural state, than i suggest you jump on the next available boat and bugger off to where prominence accorded mainly to English and Mandarin would not be yet another milestone in the marginalisation of difference.

    Oh, looking at the way 'women' have turned out in singapore, it wouldn't be inappropriate to refer to 'women' as blokes.

  3. You reply is predictably antagonistic in your usual anti-Chinese "no one understands us; you are all racist and pretending otherwise and don't want things to change". Sorry I don't have the time to read your usual verbal diarrhea in full as you failed to grasp my point anyway; the rest of us fair-minded people of all races will continue to discuss amongst ourselves without your prejudiced views. I'd only say that if I were a minority discriminated race somewhere, I wouldn't want an ally like you. I leave you with the quote "minorities can be racist too".

    And passing off your mistake with insult is oh-so-intelligent and not racist or sexist.

  4. Thank you for your comment on my blog, and the link to your blog entry here. I'm sorry the comment didn't appear on my blog sooner – WordPress filed it as spam so it got chucked into the moderation queue.

    To be honest, I don't disagree with most of what you say. I am well aware that my life in Singapore is much more privileged/comfortable/easy than many of my fellow citizens, simply by virtue of my being born into the majority. Should I want to buy an HDB flat (not that I can afford it), it'll be easier for me because I don't have to worry about the race quotas as much. It's easier for me to communicate with the huge flood of Chinese migrant workers in hawker centres, food courts, shops and even on our public transport because I can easily switch to speaking Mandarin if necessary. These are just two examples of the many, many ways in which my life is easier in Singapore because I am in the Chinese majority. I might not even be aware of some of the injustices simply because I have never had to come up against them – for these, I depend on others who have encountered such discrimination to share their experience so that I can be made aware. Because I agree with you – this discrimination is unfair, and I certainly do NOT expect minority groups to just shut up and swallow it.

    When I spoke of "mature and discerning", I did not – contrary to your interpretation – expect minority groups to accept racism as the norm. What I meant was that even if people are aware of and protest the racism, they are sufficiently rational to not go out on the street and punch out the first person of a different race that they see. I don't feel that minority groups should accept racism as the norm at all – quite the opposite.

    I don't think it would make you feel any better, but when I was at the Singapore Blog Awards ceremony I remember remarking to some fellow attendees that this was not a truly representative awards event, because allowing Chinese entries meant that there would be an overwhelmingly Chinese presence at the awards – they should have either just kept it to English-only, or allowed all four national languages. Ultimately that was not my call to make since I neither run OMY.SG (which is also only English/Chinese) or Singapore Press Holdings, but it's a suggestion that should be made for next year.

    You are absolutely right – there are a lot of double standards, lip service and superficiality. But that was precisely the point that I was making/going on to make in the blog post before your eyes wandered over to the awards banner. And again, I agree with you that a posting like the one Donaldson made allows people to "reaffirm their commitment toward the appreciation of difference and multiculturalism", which is why I am opposed to the use of the Sedition Act to investigate, arrest and maybe even charge people for making such posts.

    And that was the actual focus of my blog post – that instead of rushing to report and arrest, we should use such opportunities to further the dialogue and discussion on race/religion issues in Singapore, to promote more awareness and understanding. I don't think I ever advocated "tolerate-cum-ignore" or "become like us or else".

  5. Hey there Kirsten,

    Nice of you to drop by....i mean it.

    Well, i can't say that i disagree with most of what you said either, here or at your site. Frankly, i personally felt bad having to write this article, as i do with most. But it would be irresponsible of me to not do so just because of my chinese connections, both social and familial.

    Now, please allow me to appeal to your objective sense,

    The point is, you should be aware that despite your relatively greater egalitarian vision, as evidenced by quite a few of your perspectives, your support of, and attending an event that is so obviously racist in its exclusion of the native Malays and others in its promotion and presentation, and even going so far as to sport its logo at your site, can be deemed nothing short of hypocritical, and your stating that it is not representative, nothing short of lip-service. I'm appealing to your reason here Kirsten. Saying that, 'oh well, it is their call' and then supporting it just because you won something out of it, further reinforces doesn't it. To say something is wrong, and to profit from it, and promote it, simple perpetuates it.

    That is an insult to the potentials of those out there whom are capable of more and whom were marginalised and underdeveloped because their ancestral point of origin wasn't 'preferred' by the government, or/and were unfamiliar to the chinese - and i know do know a few malays and indians whom would be more deserving of such awards due to their relatively greater insights and creativity than you or other 'winners'. But what i've heard many say over the years was, 'well, its a chinese thing, so what's the point of trying for it' - with regards to many other arenas despite this farce of a 'blog awards'.

    To be honest dear Kirsten (no condescension intended), you ought to feel ashamed to accept an award that has been given you because difference has been marginalised. I'm surprised that one with your empathetic value can overlook that. I wish i can say that i'm not surprised as that would indicate my acceptance of this whole situation or that 'all chinese are the same', but, for some reason, i have enough hope that that isn't so, for me to be surprised.

    It is the issue that i'm focused on here Kirsten. So my 'feeling better' by what you have said at the awards is moot. My time is past. We were the last of the true singaporeans whom embodied the best of all local cultures, and a smattering of British culture, of the pre-90s era whom were marginalised when singapore turned confucian/fascist. So my focus here is on current and future generations. I do not require placation as there is nothing for me to gain. Even if singapore was to turn egalitarian overnight, it's too late for me. I'm alright with that now as i didn't allow singapore to make me 'same same' with the majority and protected my intellectual and creative potentials. That's 'success' enough for me. But thanks for the tone all the same.

    A response from yourself isn't necessary, but critical introspection certainly is. I would certainly recommend it given your other perspectives are most definitely deserving of a thumbs-up from myself. But too often, great perspectives are compromised by a flawed corner stone. Your promotion of the blog awards is one of them. I'm still waiting for a chinese to appreciate this enough to reject it publicly as opposed to speaking against it privately and gaining from it socially.

    Thanks for dropping by Kirsten. I don't see much of a bloke in you. That's a compliment.

  6. That was quite a diatribe there. Well-written, but completely pointless, and, as usual, it fails to address the points made in this, amongst other articles, systematically. Quite typical. Making sense of things after discounting information. Ignoring your 'points'?

    Go and reread your post. The only 'points' you made were, that there was nothing wrong with Kirsten receiving and promoting the blog awards - despite it being racially/culturally biased. And the second point you made was, that i lash out and anyone who behaves in a way i deem unacceptable. Both points have been answered systematically and logically. It is you who have failed to consider it, or do not possess that modicum of empathy required to do so intelligently. What? You need subtitles or something?

    As for your quote - minorities can be racist too - it is just a statement, and doesn't explain anything with regards to its whys and wherefores. I could explain, but i doubt you have the objectivity to consider it.

    Whatever you or your pals might have to say, and however much you might like to cower behind ill justified one liners, i'd like to see you gals/guys prove me wrong via evidence approximating to significance in quantity and quality.

  7. Re to SP’s comments, i have also read both posts. The difference between the two is Kirsten has gone on to discuss a specific point on racism (like exploring the effect of law on racism etc), while Ed has taken a holistic view of the situation, including how Kirsten has unwittingly promoted racism (receiving and promoting the blog awards on her site). I was born chinese in a majority chinese country and have definitely ‘enjoyed’ the ‘ill gotten advantage’. I have learned a great deal from Ed (it wasn’t easy :) but definitely worthwhile) and have since ensure that i give equal opportunity and treatment to the non-chinese in my personal and professional arenas. Through my over three decades of interactions with the chinese in different parts of the world, i have learned that chinese are a ‘face value’ people and this is evident in the daily conversations and in their ‘witty’ and ‘creative’ productions. If it can’t be made sense of immediately, they will either just ignore it or take the most obvious of what you said. For such a people, right and wrong is determined by how many people are offended by it and not whether it might be true.

    It takes someone like Ed to have the perseverance, patience and determination in his quest (before his ‘retirement’) to ensure that the people are made aware of the truth. Just because the minorities have now kinda accepted their current 2nd class status in singapore doesn’t make it all right and forget how this land does belong to the Malays, how the chinese have taken control of the state and given greater political/social/economic opportunities over the minorities etc etc.

    Ed’s ‘eyes have wandered over to the awards banner’ on Kirsten’s site because he pays attention to the most obvious instances of racism. It is the ‘less obvious and seemingly innocuous instances of racism on a daily basis that affects people the most’.

    ‘The Root of all evils finds its incubatory refuge in all that is perceived to be good’

  8. SP,

    Thanks once again for exhibiting the blind defensiveness among those majority C-people. It isn't surprising as the majority in terms of ethnicity have socialised within the PC(political correctness) version of "multiculturalism" as dictated by the political entity, which seems like a "liberal humanist utopia" at its best but yet breeds an extremely arrogant form of exceptionalism among the mass. It's a palatable form of Legalism-Confucianism ideology.

    Your comment has not only insulted those non-Chinese Singaporeans, but also C-people who could have done much more. Kirsten could do better than you by not simply dismissing Ed's argument. Getting very pissed with this sort of comments...


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