A Tribute to Lee Kuan Yew and his Treatment of Islam

A Tribute to Lee Kuan Yew and his Treatment of Islam, by Hugh Fitzgerald.

Consider the views on Islam of the founding father of Singapore, and its longest-serving Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, who died in 2015. Lee Kuan Yew lived in a multicultural city, with a Chinese majority and Indian and Muslim Malay minorities.

All his political life, Lee Kuan Yew was aware of the need to keep the Muslim population in check. The laws he had passed, the regulations he enforced, were directed in large part to that end. He knew about Muslim efforts to convert others, and he made sure that any convert had to immediately register with the government, so such efforts could be monitored, and then countered, by the government.

A study of all the ways that Lee Kuan Yew dealt with Muslims, and took careful note of, and combated, their natural aggressiveness and political machinations in tiny Singapore, an island of mostly Unbelievers — 3/4 of whom are Chinese — in a Muslim sea, should be instructive for Western leaders, who have the same problem and as yet only timid and confused ideas as to how to solve it.

Wikileaks revealed that Lee Kuan Yew had called Islam “a venomous religion.” He made sure to limit the numbers of Muslims in Singapore’s armed forces, suggesting their religion made them a possible danger to their non-Muslim fellow soldiers. …

It was under his leadership that the government instituted a ban on hijabs and other Muslim headscarves in both the police forces and nursing jobs. Lee Kuan Yew also substantially reduced government funding for madrasas, while increasing support for secular education. His government carefully monitored the mosques, both for the content of the imam’s sermons, and for any foreign (especially Saudi) sources of financial support that might lead to a mosque being “radicalized.” Clearly he understood the danger of Islam.

Lee Kuan Yew had, after all, originally declared Singapore’s independence from Malaysia because the Muslim Malays rejected meritocracy, and insisted on giving economic advantage to themselves. All Malays were required to be counted as Muslims (even if some were not), and all Muslims benefited from a disguised jizyah tax on non-Muslims which is called the “Bumiputra.” …

In his book Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going, Lee Kuan Yew urged Muslims to be “less strict’ in their interpretation of Islam. And he also wrote in the same book that “I think we were progressing very nicely [in limiting the power of political Islam] until the surge of Islam came, and if you asked me for my observations, the other communities have easier integration –- friends, inter-marriages and so on –- than Muslims… I would say, today, we can integrate all religions and races, except Islam.” …

Muslim Malays today make up 14% of the population of Singapore, just about the same percentage as in 1990. The Bumiputra system, which has unsurprisingly done damage economically to Malaysia, was successfully kept out of meritocratic Singapore. The results are there for all to see … The GDP per capita is $16,800 for Malaysia, and $60,800.00 for Singapore, an astonishing difference given that they began from roughly the same starting point, forming a single political unit at independence.

If Singapore is an economic powerhouse today, it is because Lee Kuan Yew guided it to a successful separation from overwhelmingly Muslim Malaysia, kept the Muslim Malays in Singapore from increasing their numbers by monitoring campaigns of conversion, and limited the freedom of those conducting such conversions whenever they appeared to be too successful. Further, the madrasas were kept largely free from foreign funding, while government support for them was deliberately diminished. Local Muslims knew they were being watched by a government unafraid to take them on — the government of the authoritarian, far-seeing, no-nonsense Lee Kuan Yew. Few governments in the democratic and far too tolerant West could follow his hard-headed example.