LKY and the ‘venomous’ religion of Islam

From Wikileaks claim is false:Lee Kuan Yew, 5 Sept 2011, article in Today.

SINGAPORE – Former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said the claim in a cable released by WikiLeaks, in which he had “characterised Islam as a ‘venomous religion'”, is false. Mr Lee this morning issued a statement following the release by Wikileaks of a cable by the United States Embassy in Singapore, reporting on the visit of then-Senator Hillary Clinton to Singapore in July 2005.

He added that that he looked up Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ filenote of the meeting and “nowhere does it record me describing Islam as ‘venomous’, nor did I say anything which could have given that impression”, said Mr Lee in the statement. In the statement, Mr Lee said that at the meeting, he talked about extremist terrorists like the Jemaah Islamiyah group, and “the jihadist preachers who brainwashed them”.

“They are implacable in wanting to put down all who do not agree with them. So their Islam is a perverted version, which the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Singapore do not subscribe to,” the statement read.

LKY honoured for Lifetime Achievement in 2009, with Hillary Clinton

Well there’s no love lost between Islam and Lee Kuan Yew, but isn’t it the Government’s stand not to respond to unverified information via Wikileaks? LKY was silent on earlier leaks of his jibes at North Korean leader Kim Jung Il and the Myanmese junta, but jumped right into the thick of it when it came to addressing a prickly topic in which he is fully conversant with, yet unfortunate to be implicated this close to the 10th anniversary of 9/11. As much as LKY would deny the contents of the cable, using some Ministry secretary’s meeting minutes as a back up, you can’t deny that ‘venomous’ is somewhat typical of the vocabulary of our former MM and critics have every right to be suspicious. The snakes in the grass have been stirred from their slumber, and slithering fork-tongues from both sides of the Causeway will have a field day tossing anti-Muslim accusations once again if we’re not careful.

LKY always had little praise for Islam as a religion or ideology, wary of Muslims congregating in mosques instead of CCs, raised fears of rebellion during the tudung saga, was quick to call JI members fanatics and was even uncomfortable with their eating habits, but never one to condemn the religion altogether knowing the kind of retaliation he would get not just from his countrymen but from regional leaders as well. Unless, of course, Hillary Clinton made a good drinking partner and tricked him into spilling the beans in a state of stupor during the IOC meetings in 2005.  Though there’s probably no published record of LKY using the harsh word ‘venomous’  in public, a little dip into history reveals that words like  ‘venom’ and ‘poison’ have been associated with LKY in his dealings with his personal nuisances, which does lead one to wonder: If this accusation were indeed true, maybe Clinton didn’t need to tickle much to get some nastiness out of him after all.

In an ironic twist, it was in 1963, just before Singapore’s merger with Malaysia, when then Prime Minister LKY claimed that Tengku Abdul Rahman had told him to ‘ignore the MCA (Malaysian Chinese Association) venom’ (Venom? I said no such thing: Tengku, 21 May 1963, ST).  If this article is to be believed and that we can safely assume that ‘venom’ is not a word a Tengku would readily use, it’s possible that LKY let slip the word as a figure of speech to spice up what the Tengku really meant. 3 years later, this was what LKY said to Malaysian students in Singapore causing a ruckus, threatening to deport them out of the country if they persist in their nonsense (Warning by Lee to students from Malaysia, 22 Nov 1966, ST)

…But we cannot tolerate, and will not tolerate, students who come here and let off their venom, their frustrations, their bitterness against a government that really is not responsible for them

The synonym for venom, ‘poison’, was used in the literal sense when LKY told disgraced president Devan Nair, not too subtly, to go kill himself in a letter written personally, dated 1985.

Although none of the above variations were directed towards any religion or race, it is not too much of a stretch to believe that ‘venomous’ could very well be one of those combustive words nestling right at the tip of LKY’s tongue. But whether he did say it or not, this is not the time to get everyone all fired up before you could say ‘crusade’. It’s been a good 10 years since Islam has been made a poster-child religion capable of stunning insurgency and mass murder, but let’s not forget that any religion pursued to absolute ends, like absolute power, will corrupt, and ‘poison’ the mind, absolutely.

The person I really sympathise with here is Minister Yaacob Ibrahim, probably gearing up again for another round of damage control to clean up after someone’s mess like a caregiver changing a soiled diaper. It’s worth reminding ourselves that LKY has stepped down even if it doesn’t feel that way, and any religion that preaches tolerance and compassion should see to it that devotees be patient, wise and forgiving towards the old man, whatever misgivings he may have with divinities or an afterlife, a place where ghosts of his past would return to haunt him for sure.


One Response

  1. This was a case of He Say, They (US) Say. In the end, LKY just said that his PPS is better at note-taking than the US Counterpart. I’m sure is a saving-grace for both sides to scratch their backs for now given USA inability to stop these leaked cables that could potentially cause issues.

    Yaacob on the other hand has a different damage control of his own since the dual-nationality of his wife/children have just come to light…How much of credibility does that leave him in front of his own community remains to be seen. But everyone knows he won’t be the only MPs/Civil Servants who have children overseas/enjoying foreign citizenships.

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