KUALA LUMPUR: More Muslim groups in Malaysia have hit out at remarks by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew that the progress of integration in Singapore has been affected because Muslims in the Republic tend to be 'distinct and separate'.
Abim, a major Muslim youth organisation, asked MM Lee to apologise to Muslims throughout the world, while the Utusan Malaysia newspaper said in an editorial that Mr Lee had 'excessive suspicions' towards Islam.
But former Malaysian information minister Zainuddin Maidin differed in his view of Mr Lee's remarks. He said Mr Lee was merely challenging Singapore Muslims not to choose a path that would lead them to isolation, and one should not blurt out knee-jerk angry reactions.
Mr Lee's remarks, published in a new book, Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going, were reported on Sunday by several Malaysian and Indonesian newspapers and news websites, after they were reported by a news agency.
In the book, Mr Lee, when asked to assess the progress of multiracialism in Singapore, said: 'I have to speak candidly to be of value, but I do not want to offend the Muslim community.
'I think we were progressing very nicely until the surge of Islam came, and if you asked me for my observations, the other communities have easier integration - friends, intermarriages and so on, Indians with Chinese, Chinese with Indians - than Muslims. That's the result of the surge from the Arab states.'
[MM Lee realises that the influence of the Arab states ("petro-dictators" as Thomas Friedman calls them in "Hot, Flat & Crowded") is creating perhaps an Islamic Hegemony that unbalances the traditional vibrant diversity of views and philosophy in Islam, and this undue influence is shaping the community in a way that hinders rather than foster integration.]
He added: 'I would say, today, we can integrate all religions and races except Islam.'
He also said: 'I think the Muslims socially do not cause any trouble, but they are distinct and separate.'
The secretary-general of the Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement (Abim), Mr Mohamad Raimi Abdul Rahim, said in a statement that Mr Lee's remarks 'have clearly hurt the sensitivities of Muslims not only in Singapore, but also throughout the region including Malaysia'.
Mr Lee should issue an 'open apology' to Muslims in Singapore and the world for what he had said, Mr Mohamad Raimi said in a statement posted on Abim's website.
Utusan in an editorial yesterday claimed that, once Singapore Muslims had backed the Singapore Government to separate from Malaysia, the Malays 'disappeared from the dictionary of Mr Lee' and the People's Action Party.
But Tan Sri Zainuddin took a different tack, saying Mr Lee only wanted the Muslim community in Singapore to be progressive and dynamic by making the remarks.
Mr Lee's views 'should be seen from a positive angle' as he does not want the Malay community in the Republic to blindly accept Islamic teachings, Utusan quoted him as saying.
[Tan Sri Zainuddin seems to recognise it as well.]