Mr Lee Kuan Yew: (1) Mr Lee, we respect and honour you

Mr Lee, we respect and honour you  

Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s Prime Minister for three decades from 1959, remains critically ill (as on 19 March 2015).

At this juncture of sadness, the rumours and hoaxes that spread via hand-phones and social media on 18 March – that he had died – angered most Singaporeans, including me and my family members.

Someone had blatantly doctored the Homepage of Prime Minister’s Office by announcing the falsehood.  The “announcement” even made a number of foreign media publish the news of the “death”, and then had to retract it when informed that it was a hoax, and that in truth, the founding father of Singapore was still very ill in hospital.

No one should poke fun of another person – of any race, nationality, religion or culture, poor or rich, unknown or well-known – who is seriously ill or on his deathbed.  Islam is against making fun of death or the weak or dying.  Respect is the norm.

Many Sunnahs (traditions and practices of Prophet Muhammad) mention the Prophet visiting non-Muslims who were sick, and respecting the dead by standing up when the biers of non-Muslims passed by.  When asked by his Companions why he stood up, he said: “They too have souls?”

In Chapter 17, Verse 70 of the Quran, God says that He has honoured the children of Adam. Since all human beings, irrespective of race, language, colour or religion, come from Adam, everyone is to be treated with respect and honour.

Muslims therefore share the sadness of the elder Lee’s son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in this hour of gloom when his beloved father’s health condition is worsening.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew, we would agree had done so much for Singapore and elevated its status and image. At a glance, we Singaporeans can be proud that we live in Singapore where peace and harmony reigns.   For example, we are proud that:

  • We don’t have beggars at every nook and corner of the Republic. The poor could seek financial help.
  • People have proper homes. Even the very poor live in flats with modern amenities.  One can even drink the water straight from the tap without fear of contamination.
  • Every child goes to school – primary education is compulsory. No child is deprived of pursuing primary, secondary or tertiary education because of poverty.
  • We have a clean and green environment. In fact, the whole island is a garden ity. There well-kept trees and, flowering plants shrubs lining the roads.  There are gardens and parks everywhere. The Gardens by the Bay is one fantastic example of beauty, design and education.
  • Roads and the neighbourhoods are well-lighted up all night. It is safe for a lone woman to return home from work or outing even at mid-night.
  • Public transport (buses, taxies and MRT trains) is easy and frequent.
  • Sports, recreational and exercise areas are everywhere in the neighbourhood.
  • There is no corruption among politicians (any politician or police officer or the rich and mighty found guilty of corruption or of any other crime is dealt with by the law.)
  • There is religious freedom among the multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-cultural residents of Singapore.  All religious groups have their respective praying buildings.

As for mosques, there are alrtogether about 70 mosques in Singapore, the most famous and prominent one being the majestic Sultan Mosque renovated and expanded over the years.  All mosques are active in conducting Islamic social activities and religious lecures, including running educational religious classes for children and adults.  New mosques are built under the Mosque Builsding Fund. By Ramadan this year (2015), the 24th mosque, built under the Fund, will be ready for Muslims’ use.  The mosque, named Al-Islah Mosque, in Punggol, cost more than $4.5 million.  These new generation mosques are usually 3-storey or 4-storey high and can accommodate some 4,000 worshippers.  They have lifts and classrooms and modern facilities, including TV-monitors placed at strategic places in the prayer halls to facilitate transmission of announcements and beam the delivery of Friday sermons. It was Mr Lee who gave the idea of the fund which was formed in 1975. Muslim workers contribute to the Fund through their Central Provident Fund by deducting a small monthly contribution.  Highlighting Mr Lee’s role in providing the idea for mosques to be built from Muslims’ effort through the Fund, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yacob Ibrahim, said, “He gave us a wonderful idea which you can never find anywhere else in this world where, a minority community can raise funds almost automatically to build 24 mosques.”  (“Punggol mosque to open in time for Ramadan”, The Straits Times, 21 March 2015)

As for spreading falsehood about the death of Mr Lee, I am in full support with those who condemn the irresponsible act.  Among them are two Straits Times Forum writers. Excerpts of their letters are:

  • “It is appalling and in bad taste that as former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew’s condition deteriorates further, and when the majority of Singaporeans and many around the world are wishing him well, there are those who have the temerity and ingratitude to falsify a death notice…Freedom of speech does not provide for the freedom to spread falsehoods…There is no place in civil society for wishing someone ill or spreading falsehoods about their death.” (Tan Suan Jin, “More responsible use of Internet needed”, Forum, The Straits Times, 20 March 2015), and
  • “Love him or hate him, there is no denying that Singapore would not be what it is today if not for Mr Lee and his team of first-generation leaders…Some people may disagree with Mr Lee’s policies, but many have benefitted from them. He is the man who put Singapore – a tiny red dot without natural resources or a large hinterland – on the international map, and made it the envy of many countries. Whether or not one agrees with his tough stance on security, there is no doubt that it has kept Singapore peaceful and safe.” (Patrick Tan Siong Kuan, “Take firm action against creators of hoax website”, Forum, The Straits Times, 20 March 2015).

Everyone has to leave the earth one day.  According to Islam everyone comes from God and to Him is everyone’s return.  In the case of the founding father of Singapore, he has done a marvellous job in developing Singapore and mantaining peace and harmony among the people.  We wish him well.  Sooner or later when he leaves us, let him leave peacefully.  Singaporeans, especially the pioneers like me, will always remember him for his foresight and contrbutions that have benefitted Singapore and Singaporeans.  We respect and honour him.

Shaik Kadir

20 March 2015

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