Self-radicalised teen released under Restriction Order

From ‘Singaporean teen arrested under ISA released, under Restriction Order’, 29 June 2015, article in CNA

A Singaporean youth who was arrested under the Internal Security Act in May has been released from custody and is placed under a Restriction Order (RO) under the ISA for two years from June, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on Monday (Jun 29).

Investigations showed the 17-year-old had become radicalised after viewing videos, websites and social media materials propagated by radical ideologues and terrorist elements, MHA stated. “He had wanted to engage in armed violence alongside the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and had started making preparations to carry out his plans,” MHA said.

Under the Restriction Order, the youth will have to attend religious counselling and has to stop accessing violent or extremist online material. He will not be allowed to leave Singapore without permission or to issue public statements. Further measures will be taken against him if he breaches the conditions of the RO, or if it is assessed that further measures are needed to protect public, MHA added.

The teen ‘radical’ has not been named, and was arrested sometime in May, which means he’s been under lock and key for not more than 2 months. This leads me to the inevitable comparison of ISIS boy’s fate to another kid around his age, one who got into trouble after badmouthing a certain dead leader. That kid is none other than Amos Yee.

1) Identity

The identity of ISIS Boy remains under wraps. Not so secretive was another 19 year old detained under ISA for planning violent attacks, with the death wish of assassinating the President and Prime Minister. It’s puzzling why the name of this guy got leaked, but not the younger teen whom the ministry folks seem to think can be ‘de-radicalised’ with ‘religious counselling’, and not with that thingamajig used in A Clockwork Orange.

Amos, on the other hand, made a grand show-and-tell of how he felt about LKY, through his own Youtube Channel no less. Despite depicting the man in a rather unflattering position with Margaret Thatcher, he did not call for his followers to gun down the rest of the Lee legacy, or strap themselves with homemade bombs and detonate them inside 38 Oxley Road.

We also know who Amos’ parents are, which school he dropped out from and maybe even where he lives. We know that he LOVES bananas. We know absolutely nothing about ISIS boy or his friends. At least if you see Amos in the streets one day you could run and hide in case he unleashes a torrent of anti-Christianity rants on you. ISIS boy is practically invisible, and exactly how the shady organisation wants him to be.

2) Time spent ‘in remand’

Excluding a pending 2 week stint in IMH, Amos has already spent at least 40 days in remand, and may potentially exceed the time ISIS boy spent ‘detained’. What gives? The kid who’s an actual threat to public safety getting out of prison before another who dissed Christianity and broadcast some cartoon porn for the world to enjoy. Which is the more heinous crime? Amos probably knows more about the history and geography of Syria than any blind follower who looks forward to a training stint there like it’s the Disneyland of the Middle East.

3) Victimisation

Amos has been threatened with castration, and even hit square in the face by a random attacker with dumbstruck reporters standing by snapping away without lifting a finger to help. His fashion sense has been made fun of, and his parents shamed for not doing their job.

What about ISIS boy? Were people afraid of teaching him a lesson in case his secret ISIS brethren begin blowing up our stuff and loved ones? Where was that slapper when we needed him the most?

4) Cause

An eminent psychiatrist from IMH has suggested that Amos may be suffering from autism spectrum disorder, which may explain his behaviour. It’s also the kind of tactic lawyers resort to when they don’t know how to keep extremely rebellious teens out of jail. If diagnosed, Amos may be at the receiving end of the ominous-sounding Mandatory Treatment Order, which has been dished out on maid abusers, bra sniffers, schizophrenics and bipolar disorder sufferers. He may never be the same again after 2 years of forced rehab. Or maybe this was a devious ploy all along to escape NS.

ISIS boy, on the other hand, isn’t suffering from a mental disorder, but merely mixed up with bad company and swayed into some murderous doctrine disguised as rap videos. Unlike Amos, there seems to be hope for ISIS boy, that he shall be guided onto the path of righteousness with religious elder support. Yet, the one labelled ‘sick’ here and set to be coerced into therapy is not the one with aspirations to actually fire weapons at other human beings, but the boy who merely had one too many things to say, and refused to take those words back.

Malays excluded from Navy due to lack of halal kitchens

From ‘Malays deployed in the SAF as sailors: Ng Eng Hen’, 16 Feb 2015, article by Jermyn Chow, ST

A person is deployed in a sensitive unit in the Singapore Armed Forces based on his ability and beliefs to ensure that he is not a security risk, not on his race, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Monday night. He also revealed that the SAF has started to deploy Malay servicemen onboard ships as sailors who will go out to sea. Previously, Malays in the navy were only deployed as “sea soldiers”, who primarily patrolled naval bases.

…Responding to a question on a perceived bias against Malays in the SAF and why they have been excluded from the Navy until now, Dr Ng said it was a “practical issue” of having halal-certified kitchens onboard ships. “(This is) because in a confined space, it is hard to have a halal kitchen. If you spend months out at sea, it is difficult.”

But provisions have been made for Malay Muslims who are willing to serve, said Dr Ng. “So we made and found some accommodation and started to have Malays in the navy as well, if the person is willing.” He also reiterated that Malays now serve in the army, navy and air force, adding that with Singapore’s small population, the SAF does not discriminate against anyone and promotes its servicemen based on their ability.

“We want to get the maximum out of each person in the SAF…we are putting the best people in the best positions.”

But for sensitive positions in the military, the SAF is not blind to the fact that “people can be blackmailed“, said Dr Ng. “We ask ourselves, can we trust this person in that position to make sure he will not be made use of, that he will not be vulnerable.”

In 1987, then Trade and Industry Minister BG Lee was bashed by critics across the Causeway for remarks which reinforced this ‘perceived bias’ against Malays in the armed forces, that the Government did not want to ‘put its soldiers in a difficult position where their emotions for the nation may be in conflict with their emotions for their religion’. In response, Chiam See Tong accused the practice as discriminatory towards the Malays and not being in the spirit of regional harmony, that the best way to build a nation was to ‘trust everybody’ to have that trust reciprocated. He was swiftly slammed by Malay MPs for trying to be a ‘hero’ for the Malay community when he was in no such position to do so.

Some observers suggest that this ‘cautious approach’ is due to an initial fear of Malay ‘Trojan Horses’ within the military, or in plainspeaking terms, ultimately a question of ‘loyalty’ amongst our own countrymen given our geopolitical ‘situation’. Lee Hsien Loong back then added that this was the ‘reality that we cannot run away from’, and the Malay situation would improve over time as the nation became ‘more integrated’. By ‘integration’, in the case of the Navy, surely we mean that a Malay soldier by now would have no qualms about firing a torpedo at someone else of the same ethnicity/religion in actual war, rather than the SAF accommodating extra space for halal kitchens on board ships, which begs the question of why these weren’t considered in the first place. How does the SAF decide which unit is more ‘sensitive’ than another as they gradually phase Malay soldiers in anyway?

What we do know is that we have Gurkhas tasked to guard the very lives of some important politicians, which I would consider a highly ‘sensitive’ deployment. Unlike our own born and bred Singaporeans, the fierce loyalty of these foreigners has never been in doubt. In Chiam’s own words, ‘We trust all kinds of foreigners but we do not trust our own Malay citizens’. In 2013, PAP MP Zaqy Mohamed raised a valid point about our eagerness in enlisting new citizens or children of foreign spouses into the army, and whether SAF was playing fair if it continues to maintain this ‘national security narrative’ affecting the military prospects of own Malay Sons of Singapore (MP asks how position of Malays in SAF compares to those of new citizens, Feb 6 2013, ST)

The ‘practical’ matter of dietary requirements aside, Ng Eng Hen also mentioned, rather strangely, about the SAF needing to screen out ‘people who can be blackmailed’, which I would infer as someone trained to be a soldier, but forced under circumstances to turn his weapon on his own people, or run away to join a mercenary brigand. Under what circumstances exactly isn’t clear. We have heard of NSmen turning their weapons on themselves though. To date, more tragedies have occurred due to suicide or accidents rather than an ’emotionally conflicted’ soldier going ‘Trojan Horse’ on the military, or someone forced to steal SAR 21s for a terrorist cell group otherwise their sex videos may get leaked on the internet. Maybe we should focus more on soldiers with undiagnosed mental disorders posing a danger to us all in peacetime , rather than being fixated on the notion that men of a certain demographic are a higher ‘security risk’ in sensitive units compared to others during actual war.

So, as Chiam has pointed out,  it appears that there still remains, especially in a time when we have our own people joining armies to wage war against Syria, a lingering trust issue in the military despite our integration efforts. At the same time, as the Defence Minister has stated himself, we don’t want to put Malays in high-ranking positions just to meet certain expected racial quotas, which would amount to ‘tokenism’. What we need is an honest, open discussion about the actual place of Malays in the armed forces, what exactly constitutes a ‘security risk’, whether this concern is still relevant today, and not, to put it in army vernacular, a ‘smoke-out’.

In the late nineties, LKY was more specific as to what a Malay soldier shouldn’t be commanding, namely a ‘machine gun unit’, that it would be ‘tricky business’ if such a soldier had family or religious ties to our immediate neighbours and that ‘he and his family’ would have a tragedy on their hands if we did not think this through. He did not say if it was OK for them to pilot fighter jets, drive tanks or even help design weapons in a research lab for that matter. PAP Malay MPs were quick to shrug off the senior Lee’s comment as an ‘honest and candid one’, and needs to be put in the right ‘context’ given our geographical realities. The reality is that if it were anyone but LKY telling us what a Malay should or should not do in such an indelicate manner, even if it were ‘candid’ to the point of satire, they may just be arrested for sedition.

Charlie Hebdo cartoon pulled out of Economist Singapore

From ‘Right to speak freely and responsibly must come together’:Yaacob on Charlie Hebdo, 17 Jan 2015. article in CNA

Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim said he appreciates a decision by a local printer of The Economist not to reproduce a page with the latest cover of the Charlie Hebdo magazine depicting the Prophet Mohammed. “We have no doubt that there’s no such thing as freedom of expression without limits. As I have said before, the right to speak freely and responsibly must come together,” Dr Yaacob said to the media on the sidelines of the JFDI.Asia Demo Day on Friday (Jan 16),

Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs said the circulation of the cartoons will not be allowed in Singapore. He later posted on Facebook that “there are longstanding laws against causing offence to our races and religions” in Singapore. The page in the Singapore edition of The Economist was replaced with a statement informing readers that the magazine’s “Singapore printers” declined to print it. The magazine hit local newsstands on Friday.

“I think Singaporeans understand the sensitivities and we must continue to protect our racial, religious harmony. So I appreciate the sensitivities shown by the printer and I commend them for the decision,” said Dr Yaacob.

…Dr Yaacob said the Malay/Muslim community is “by and large offended” by the latest Charlie Hebdo cover. “But I think they also understood that we need to act rationally and I am quite impressed at how the community has come together to respond to this particular episode,” he said.

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Instead of the actual image, our local printer (Times Printers) agreed to allow a link directing the reader to the cartoon, only without the disclaimer ‘Click at your own risk. We are not responsible for any bloody riots taking place on the streets over this’. As the head honcho of all Muslim Affairs we’re supposed to take Yaacob’s word that ‘by and large’ a cartoon of the prophet shedding a tear expressing solidarity with the Je Suis Charlie movement is insensitive to Islam. Hebdo has published worse, of course, with images of His Most Exalted One being subject to gross humiliation and explicit violence. The creator of the latest cartoon has already explained the meaning behind it, that it wasn’t meant to poke fun but imply that the prophet would never have approved of these mindless killings. Angry Muslims elsewhere have already taken to the streets slamming the resurgence of Charlie as an act of defiance. To some, it’s an act of WAR. Well, Sacre bleu!

Since the time someone was investigated for posting an image of a pig on the Kaaba in Facebook, Singaporeans have become all too familiar with the consequences of breaching boundaries of ‘free speech’. The publisher’s ‘self-censorship’ is similar to the restraint exercised by Singaporeans from expressing their honest views about such a ‘sensitive topic’. We don’t talk about it in school, at work, even around the dinner table, letting the controversy drift by while we argue instead over the ethics of Xiaxue vs Gushcloud. Opinion leaders straddle an overcrowded fence, saying that ‘I am not really Charlie Hebdo’ and ‘Killing is bad, but free speech has its limits’. One moment we’re condemning the murderers, the next we’re saying ‘Hmm, maybe those cartoonists went too far’. The usual refrain is ‘There is no excuse for murder, this has nothing to do with religion…’. Then there’s this big ‘BUT….’.

Some go to the extent of calling out countries for hypocrisy, such as Saudi representatives at the Charlie Hebdo march, who hail from the very same place that sentenced a blogger to 1000 lashes for denigrating Islam. Maybe our publishers just really wanted to play it safe in case they get a similar mode of punishment in Singapore, or their office gets razed to the ground by insurgent syndicate members. We can’t blame them for that really, but one can’t help noticing the double-take when a public figure goes on to commend them for muzzling themselves over a cartoon that anyone can find online at the click of a mouse. In particular THIS cartoon. Our local FHM magazine has published a caricature of Jesus Christ with a shotgun previously, which in my opinion is more offensive than the Prophet with a glum face holding a ‘Je Suis Charlie’ sign. Today, FHM is still in business, though focusing more on boobs, thighs and butts, which ‘by and large’, doesn’t offend the general populace. MDA must be thanking the heavens that the publisher censored themselves otherwise they’d have some work to do. Thank you for acting ‘rationally’. Hey wouldn’t it be more ‘rational’ if you removed all links and references to Hebdo COMPLETELY? Here’s a broom and a rug, guys!

The irony was evident from the moment our ministers lined up to ‘strongly condemn’ the act, even sending dignitaries to march with the Parisians. The French ambassador took Singapore’s deep condolences as a gesture of support for the French people, and ‘solidarity in the fight against terrorism’. Yet, we knew that Singapore would have banned Charlie Hebdo all along, whether they’re slamming the Prophet, Buddha Jesus, or the Supreme Court for that matter, as one of our own cartoonists Leslie Chew found out the hard way. It would be a matter of time before the awkwardness hits home, when a ‘controversial’ image from the ‘survival edition’, meant to symbolise resilence against terror, is taken out because people are afraid of the consequences. By branding the latest cartoon as ‘religiously insensitive’, MDA is throwing the ‘context’ out of the window and going for the safer option of a blanket ban. The failure to appreciate context, of course, is the reason why extremists kill people in the first place, and a ban is exactly what they have always hoped to achieve.

The French ambassador may want to take a second look at our condolence signing and look for the small print that says: ‘We feel you, bro, but Charlie Hebdo is still a no-no here. Sorry’. As for us, maybe looking up ‘solidarity’ in the dictionary might be a good idea before jumping on the Hebdo sympathy bandwagon.

Shisha ban affecting the ‘character’ of Arab Street

From ‘Shisha smoking on decline over past 2 years’, article by Amir Hussain, 10 Nov 2014, ST

…Last year, the authorities revoked the outdoor smoking licences of 12 out of 23 shisha cafes in the area for allowing shisha smoking outside designated areas. Under the law, food establishments are allowed to have smoking areas of up to one-fifth of their outdoor refreshment areas. There are now 16 licensed shisha retailers, with the majority in Kampong Glam. This is a far cry from the 49 in 2012.

A ban on the import, distribution and sale of shisha, which will kick in later this month, will allow existing retailers to sell the tobacco product until July 31, 2016. Noting the gradual decline in shisha providers over the past two years, seven businesses, ranging from carpet shops to an outdoor gear retailer in the Arab Street area, told The Straits Times they were not surprised by the ban announced in Parliament last week.

…But the first shisha retailer in Singapore, Cafe Le Caire’s owner Ameen Talib, said: “The fact is that shisha brought a certain character to the area, led it to be known as an Arabic Quarter and added a certain vibrancy.”

Dr Talib, 52, first received a tobacco retail licence from the Health Sciences Authority in September 2001, two months after opening his restaurant in the then sleepy Arab Street. The former accountancy professor, a third-generation Arab Singaporean, said he wanted to rejuvenate the former Arab Quarter of colonial-era Singapore.

“When you walk around, you need to smell the aroma of kebab, the aroma of shisha. Visually, you need to see people sitting on the road relaxed, smoking shisha. You get the feeling you are in the Middle East. And you need to hear Arabic music as you walk down the road,” he said.

In 2004, 3 years after Dr Talib first introduced Singaporeans to shisha, or ‘sheeshah’, he called Arab Street the ‘only bohemian village in town’, where one can have ‘nice, CLEAN fun’ without alcohol. A shisha contraption, of course, other than having a pipe that you stick in your mouth and trade saliva with others, is far from ‘clean’, despite the use of a bubbling water vessel that gives the illusion of ‘purification’. Before MOH resorted to a total ban, HPB had to rely on public education i.e scare tactics to warn users that shisha wasn’t just another form of social smoking. Unlike a standard cigarette, you risk contracting not just lung cancer, but Tuberculosis and HERPES. It’s like putting an ornamented pubic toilet brush in your mouth and sucking on it for hours. Yes, don’t let that cute Ninja Girl blowing a dildo-shaped watermelon shisha fool you. That thing is a biohazard.

The same shisha-pushing professor also called for a blanket ban of alcohol throughout the area back in 2012, in order to preserve the ‘core and heritage’ of Kampong Glam, the same shisha-centric ‘character’ that he pioneered back in 2001. There was no shisha before Talib opened the floodgates, but it doesn’t mean that Arab Street, with its carpets, textile, spice shops, tomb-makers, didn’t have any less of its Islamic ‘charm’ then, even if it didn’t immediately transport visitors to the bustling smoky, dusty bazaars of Baghdad sans camels and belly-dancing slave girls. In fact, some shop owners in the area even agreed that shisha was a relatively new trend, and was NEVER connected to Kampong Glam’s identity and history. Maybe the Sultan and his royal family imported them secretly from the Middle East back in the 19th century, but it was never a feature of the ‘kampung’ vibe on the streets.

So what’s Talib’s cafe going to do now that it doesn’t sell alcohol and recently had its shisha licence revoked for flouting outdoor smoking regulations? How about some nice, clean, live screenings of football over authentic Samovar tea then? The total ban may be a little extreme, given that cigarettes are spared because they have become ‘entrenched’ according to MOH spokesmen (and also taxable), but to say that banning shisha will make the ‘Arab Quarter’ lose its ‘character’, ‘vibrancy’ or ‘heritage’ is a pitiless excuse for the real reason; Fear of business going up in smoke. Ban prostitution and you’ll have pimps complaining that, like losing shisha, it’ll deprive Geylang of its ‘character’ and ‘colour’ as well.

Noah movie is a gross distortion of the biblical story

From ‘GV notice for Noah is misguided’, 18 April 2014, Mailbag, ST Life! and the ‘Rock of Ages’ Facebook post, 12 April 2014.

(Kam Tin Seah): I was intrigued by the notice put up by Golden Village (GV) at the screening of Noah in Singapore. It read: “The film Noah is director Darren Aronofsky’s version of the story of Noah. “Noah is inspired by the Book of Genesis. Though artistic licence has been taken, we believe the film to be true to the values and integrity of the biblical story.”

…Any informed person would have gathered from the media that since the release of Noah on movie screens, it has raised objections. Malaysia and Indonesia have banned the screening of Noah. Given such controversies, what does the notice intend to achieve?

I proffer that it will precipitate the divide between the money-making motive and religious conviction. Worse, it may be perceived by many as an intention to taint the minds of those who are unaware of the historical context and divine purpose of the flood as told in the Bible. This assaults the very tenet of respect for and practice of religious freedom enshrined in Singapore’s constitution.

Is it wrong to make movies only for profit? Not really, insofar as they do not show disrespect and distort the sacredness of any religious belief or racial norm. I beseech GV to immediately remove such a misguided notice from all the screening venues of Noah.

(Pastor Les and Adeline Chia): The Noah film is another example of the postmodern spirit at work. The film claims to tell the biblical story of the Flood but disappointingly, it does not stay true to the biblical narrative. Instead both the script writers and the director take excessive artistic license and reframe the story. The final product is a gross distortion of the original biblical account.

We understand from the bible that Noah was a righteous man, blameless among his people and he walked with God (Genesis 6:9). God Himself has singled out Noah as one of the three most righteous men apart from Job and Daniel (Ezekiel 14:14). But the film gives Noah a dark twist. It portrays him as a complicated, uncaring and evil person.

…In the film, the character of God is also distorted. God is portrayed as evil and unmerciful. Noah was led to believe that God intended to eliminate humans altogether. So, in obedience to God, he tried to kill his granddaughters but failed. And he sort of apologised to his Creator, “I can’t. I can’t do it. I am sorry. I am sorry.” Noah was just too compassionate to carry out God’s cruel plan. He was more loving than God.

I watched the film and found it surprisingly entertaining, especially for a non-believer. Aronofsky’s previous work include Black Swan and Requiem for a Dream, and anyone familiar with his narrative and visual style will walk into the theatre expecting something radically different from what we’d imagine from the Bible. Yes, it’s a distortion of the gospel ‘truth’ and it has elements of typical Hollywood blockbuster fare, but with Paramount’s disclaimer, I thought it would be a simple matter of one man’s interpretation of events and their meaning vs another, since even the most devout people have different takes on the Bible anyway. No ‘biblical film’ has been spared this testament poison that is ‘artistic licence’, whether it’s the Passion of Christ, Prince of Egypt or the Ten Commandments. If you were to make a film about the Bible literally word for word, it’d probably bore people, Christians included, to death. You’d have people nitpicking on the colour of Moses’ skin, the number of lashes on Jesus’ back and the type of wood that Noah used to construct his vessel.

Aronosky, incidentally, is a Jew, and had consulted texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls for the plot. It appears that what the above writers are disappointed about is not so much about how certain characters in the movie resemble fantasy beasts from LOTR (no spoilers, I swear), but how one of the most famous prophets in the Bible has been portrayed more like, well, a flawed HUMAN BEING. In the film we see a stoic, violent, fatherly, drunk, fat Noah played by Russell Crowe, a chosen one devoid of any humour whatsoever that all other plot devices (Methuselah, evil villain, snakes, sex in the forest) around him had to make up for his stony conviction and austerity. If Noah were evil, and his God were equally evil, then it only makes sense since God ‘made Man in His image’. If you wanted a biblical superhero, go watch Son of God.

The word ‘God’ was not mentioned once in the movie, with the writers opting for the more universal ‘Creator’ instead. In the film, the Creator comes across as merciless, stubborn and vengeful, and the ROA pastors were upset that Noah was above all His genocidal tendencies. Well, what’s new here? Isn’t this the same God who annihilated Sodom and Gomorrah? The same God who commanded one to go ‘smite Amalek..slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass (Samuel 15:3)? One moment He appoints you to shepherd everything that ‘creeps and crawls’, and the next He slaughters your camels and asses.  Wouldn’t He be more of a Destroyer of Worlds than Creator in this instance?

What about God being portrayed as Morgan Freeman in a comedy with a similar Ark-building theme, Evan Almighty (Malaysian Muslims called for its ban, naturally). Are Christians saying that it’s OK if Noah is played for laughs, but unacceptable if it’s supposed to be a serious movie?

The writers stop short of calling for Noah’s ban entirely, though ROA concluded by urging their followers to educate the masses on what really happened in the build up to the Ark. MUIS also acknowledged that there were ‘alternative narratives’ of the prophets and indivudal discretion is advised. Isn’t this, then, what ‘religious freedom’ is all about? Would you rather have the general viewer watch a pedantic, preachy deluge of a movie that’s the cinematic equivalent of stuffing a Bible down your throat?

From the perspective of the movie industry, Noah is a resounding success, and it’ll take some convincing of the Christian community that Noah, as compared to more overtly religious films like Passion and Son of God, is more likely to pique the interest of non-believers, atheists even, to read up on Genesis than any other ‘biblical’ film in recent memory. If there’s one statement that I agree with the ROA pastors, it’s this:

In conclusion, I think that the Noah film is a great opportunity to engage people that would not otherwise want to talk about God.

Amen to that.

Heather Chua is really a 22 year old man

From ‘Man probed for posing as woman and making racist remarks online’, 11 Jan 2014, article by David Ee, ST

A 22-YEAR-OLD man is under investigation for making racially insensitive remarks on Facebook while posing as a woman with the fictitious name of Heather Chua. The comments targeting Malays last week caused an outcry among netizens, and led to several police reports being lodged.

Yet to be named, he is assisting police with investigations. The “Heather Chua” moniker gained notoriety online from early last year after numerous posts denigrating, among other groups, the poor and the lower-income.

“She” also hit out at Institute of Technical Education graduates, public housing residents and national servicemen. “Heather Chua” claimed to be a 40-year-old Singaporean who studied engineering at the National University of Singapore and attended Raffles Girls’ School and Temasek Junior College. “She” also claimed to live at Sentosa Cove. Photographs of luxury cars “she” purportedly owned were posted on the Facebook account.

…In a Facebook post last night, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he had received complaints about “Heather Chua”, and was glad the Singapore Police Force had established the identity of the man believed to be behind the fictitious profile.

If a hacker claiming to work for the Anonymous legion can get caught by the police, what makes the brainchild behind ‘Heather Chua’ think he could hide behind a fake Facebook profile? The last time someone posed as another person on FB to make disparaging remarks did so under the moniker Rachel Ann Beguia, who insulted Singaporeans as a whole. The post that triggered the hunt for ‘Heather’ was related to Muslim dietary habits, and proved to be as offensive as sharing a link to a Pig on a Kaaba image.

Heather Chua may have started out as a parody account, a fictional persona of an attractive, snobbish and ridiculously wealthy elite, the kind inspired by the likes of  Wee Shu Min.  Citing her home as Sentosa Cove, she followed up her ITE diss by calling HDB dwellers ‘brainless low-lifes’.  It’s hard to imagine that such people exist, or that locals actually LIVE on Sentosa Cove. Last year the same Heather complained about NSmen being slackers and no one seemed to suspect her of being fake despite her familiarity with the army. She also happened to be an admirer of our PM, the very same PM who’s now glad that she’s been nabbed for investigations.

Thankfully, some bloggers were quick to call out Heather as a fraud, as ‘she’ turned out to be. If ‘Heather’ was conceived as an arrogant, racist bitch on the pretentious stage that is FB and her creator may be potentially arrested for sedition, what about characters in plays and movies who spew racist insults, like Adrian Pang’s porn director in Porn Masala? Would screenwriters or producers of racist scripts be called to ‘assist’ the police in investigations?

Racism aside, it’s not the first time someone got flamed for commenting on the educational level or affiliation of the boys they prefer to date. In 2011, relief teacher and blogger Jiang Lai said only ACS boys were worth dating. She was later arrested not for seditious remarks but for attempted suicide, with suggestions of ‘borderline personality disorder’, a neurosis which perhaps all FB users suffer from to various degrees. It’s interesting to see what the real Heather Chua is diagnosed with after being exposed and possibly charged. My bet is on ‘depression’, or at the very least he was ‘going through a difficult time in his life’.

Malays having less social capital than Chinese

From ‘Malays have less social capital:Study’, 10 March 2013, article by Rachel Chang, Sunday Times

Malay Singaporeans have less social capital than their Chinese counterparts, a new National University of Singapore study of nearly 1,000 people has found. This is worrying because social capital – the value found in personal networks – is a significant factor in someone’s ability to move from one class of society to another, said the researchers behind the study, assistant professor of sociology Vincent Chua and assistant professor of social work Irene Ng, yesterday.

They had analysed a 2005 survey of Singaporean residents for racial differences in social capital, and presented the findings at the Association of Muslim Professionals’ annual seminar. They found that Malays were six times less likely than Chinese to have university graduate contacts, and four times less likely to have someone in their network living in private property.

…The study also showed what sort of effect someone’s network can have on job prospects. Some 56 per cent of job-seekers from a minority race managed to get a job in the professional, manager and executives (PME) category if they were referred by a Chinese person. If the referral came from a non-Chinese, that number drops to 26 per cent.

“Minority members clearly benefit when they rely on job contacts from the dominant group,” said Dr Chua.The problem is that such inter-ethnic job help is rare, he said. Of 330 instances, only 18 were inter-ethnic. “More must be done to increase inter-ethnic integration so that resources can be shared between different groups,” he added.

If you didn’t know what this ‘social capital’ was, you would find the conclusion from this study mystifying, considering how tightly-knit the Malay community is, as any void deck wedding would tell you. ‘Value in personal networks’ is too broad a definition, which suggests that one would be better off generally if they had more friends, without specifying what ‘better off’ means. You’d be ‘better off’ at Facebook games if you had more ‘friends’ donating ‘lives’ to you. Narcissists would find ‘value’ in hundreds of people ‘liking’ their posts. I’d also make an excellent bounty hunter if I knew how to get into ‘inner circles’ (i.e have social capital) when my job is to find people and kill them.

In a corporate world that’s obsessed with ‘synergy’, ‘networking’ and ‘team-players’, it has become a given that the more people you associate yourself with the better. You don’t need a business guru or a professor of sociology to tell you that. So I dug a little further to find out in what context it is defined in Dr Chua’s paper (Social Capital and Inequality in Singapore). I thought ‘social capital’, as perceived by our Minister of Education, was a buzzword for the ‘value’ of integration and cooperation across race and creed in society, or to stretch it further, the ‘soul of our nation’. Instead, it is viewed in this paper as a personal resource and tool for success like IQ or having the ‘gift of the gab’. For some, getting this resource means bootlicking your way up rather than learning how to wear a sari if you’re not Indian.

Generally defined, social capital refers to the resources that people have potential access to from being connected to others possessing those resources

This is ‘having friends in high places’ reworded as social theory, which is a far cry from our PM’s definition of social capital:

Our success as a nation is increasingly defined not just in economic terms but also by our social capital. We need to strengthen our values of tolerance, mutual respect and empathy. This goes beyond being civil and considerate to one another. It involves us actively appreciating others’ perspectives, caring for our fellow citizens, conducting a constructive public discourse and accepting the need to make compromises that benefit the majority. These are essential attributes of a mature, gracious society which I believe we all want for Singapore.

This ideal is rather close to how one of the leading pioneers of social capital Robert Putnam calls it: “The value that arises when individuals learn to trust one another, make credible commitments, and engage in cooperative activities, such as giving to charity, joining civic and political groups and bowling together”.

The fairy-tale version distances itself from ‘economic’ factors, unlike Dr Chua’s linking it to ‘job contacts’. In fact, I think the two definitions of social capital contradict one another, one advocating harmonious, unconditional relationships even with those less privileged than yourself, the other calling for ‘strategic networking’ and mutual ‘back-scratching’. It’s obvious which social capital to rely on if you’re a Survivor contestant.  In the cold, self-centred version, I’d have social capital if my ex-boss wants to bring me in to his current company for better pay and prospects. It can also refer to  my ‘potential access’ to a beachside villa inheritance by virtue of being ‘connected’ to an eccentric billionaire grand-uncle. In other words, maximising your social capital means turning your interpersonal relationships into a personal goldmine. Another form of pop psychology related to social capital is ‘social intelligence’, and being no expert in this area, I’m not sure if being ‘socially intelligent’ necessarily assures one of ‘social capital’.  Whatever happened to being, well, just ‘hardworking’?

The indicators of ‘social capital’ used in Chua’s paper include controversial ones like ‘Number of MEN’ among network numbers, ‘Number of wealthy private housing dwellers’, and ‘Number of CHINESE’. He explains his selection of ‘Men’ and ‘Chinese’ as follows:

(Being) ‘male’ is another potentially important resource given the highly patriarchal nature of Asian societies where men are more likely than women to control valuable resources (Lai, 2008)
Chinese ethnicity represents a significant source of symbolic power in Singapore. As the ruling ethnic group, being “Chinese” is a form of social power independent of class

The results suggest that in order to accumulate social capital, you should try to score points with rich Chinese men living on landed property, but even if you have very powerful friends, you won’t benefit from your connections if nobody likes you. If the intention of this is to urge those with less social capital to mix around, as LKY once suggested to Muslims, it offers little assurance that collecting social capital translates to automatic dollar-and-cents rewards. The emphasis on having Chinese referrals as a factor in job attainment undermines other attributes such as job experience, skills or attitude regardless of your ties with people of a certain race. In a time where we’re promoting ‘inclusiveness’, where our women are steadily climbing ranks and we have a worsening addiction to foreign workers, such thinking about ‘dominant Chinese’, ‘patriarchy’ and ‘wealthy private home owners’ seems rather dated. These days, you’re as likely to find rich people in million-dollar HDB flats as having a female Caucasian foreigner for a boss.

The whole concept of social capital contributing to success, in all it scientific rigour, has eliminated the element of ‘dumb luck’. It also bases its theories and assumptions on a very narrow definition of ‘success’; I don’t need the help of university graduates or Chinese men if I want to become a satay tycoon.  It may be generally true that as social animals we thrive on human relationships, yet many happily successful, important people are misanthropes because people merely get in the way of what they excel in. On the flipside, many sociable people with contacts from Angola to the Antarctica end up being horrible bosses, charismatic cult leaders, dictators or serial date-rapists. If you’re an extremely lucky person you could build an empire after winning 1st prize in Toto even if you have the social capital of a mountain goat.

It pays to be well-connected, no doubt, but perhaps not in the predictable, categorical manner that advocates of social capital would like it to be. Nor is viewing people as simply a means to an end the right way to build a humane, compassionate society. Now excuse me while I touch base with my primary school classmate now bigshot trader on Linkedin.