Monday 28 May 2018

Ramadan ad puts spotlight on harmony in Singapore

The Sunday Times, 27 May 2018

The warm public response to an advertisement, put up by McDonald's Singapore for the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, is a heartwarming reminder of how much Singaporeans share in spite of the religious and racial diversity here. The advertisement features a McDonald's delivery rider on a typical day in his life during the fasting month. He makes deliveries as usual although he is fasting and goes out of his way to help others, as he is expected to do, especially during Ramadan.

The advertisement ends with his making a delivery to a non-Muslim, who notices that it is time for the rider to break his fast. The customer invites him to do so with a McDonald's happy sharing box. The advertisement ends with the tagline: "Share the spirit of Ramadan."

The advertisement's impact, including internationally, reflects its simple yet deft capture of a slice of the real Singapore. This is a country where freedom of religion is an intrinsic part of the national pursuit of peace and harmony among all the communities. Each faith group takes the others as a living reality without which Singapore cannot be imagined. True to its name, the secular state does not possess a religion of its own and does not privilege one faith over another, but it is not anti-religious. It merely strives to keep the social playing field level for members of all faiths.

In that inclusive national environment, people can reach out to others without fear of the dilution of their own religious identities. That reaching out is a work in progress and should be second nature to Singaporeans. This habitual co-existence forms the bedrock of the religious harmony that sets Singaporeans apart from so many others elsewhere who suffer the punishment of religious exclusivity, extremism and violence every day.

If there is one quality to be cherished particularly among the many blessings of this land, it is that it belongs equally to all, regardless of race, language or religion.


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