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Bertha HarianBertha Harian

News Reports

Between pink and white

How do you champion or promote a cause without being divisive? Anyway that was Muslim Affairs Minister Yacob Ibrahim’s advice to those on both sides of the LGBT divide. Although it can also apply to any kind of divide…

So if you are a nature-lover, how do you champion a cause to preserve  a green lung without alienating those who think trees should make way for public housing? Or if you are a pet lover, how do you convince those who don’t think dogs belong on trains? Or, more to the point, how to hold an LGBT celebration in public without bystanders looking askance? Hold it indoors?  

Causes are by themselves divisive, which is why they are so-called. You can’t champion a cause by keeping quiet. And if you don’t keep quiet, how do you make your case in such a way so as not to attract the epithet that you are being “divisive’’? Or to have someone use that seemingly derogatory phrase that you are “lobbying’’? Ooooh. Shades of Western liberal democracy with its lobby groups putting the Government machinery in gridlock status! We don’t want that!

 Dr Tan Cheng Bock, for example, thinks that Nominated MPs shouldn’t be allowed to air their “causes’’ in Parliament because that would make them “partisan’’. They must speak in the national interest, which apparently is not made up of different “causes’’.

If you have a “cause’’, you are probably a member of the “fringe’’, that outermost group who are at odds with mainstream sentiment, although who can really represent the mainstream is a moot question. Or is that the G, elected by people?

So confusing.

Does it all depend on whether the cause is deemed “good’’ or “bad’’ and for whom? Nobody can argue with the Small Kindness Movement or a campaign to respect the elderly. The cause, in other words, had better be, for want of a better word, bland.

So I am watching all the fuss about the upcoming Pink Dot event with much interest. I suppose the fact that it got bigger and bigger over the years was bound to provoke a response from non-LGBT elements. (Sheeesh. I had better be careful here to avoid being attacked from either side of the divide)  

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So some Muslims want to wear white on the same weekend that gays are wearing pink. And a group of churches intend to do the same, more or less that same group who wanted to hold a Family Festival. Plenty of people and groups  are talking about it, with some trying to find a middle line between the white and the pink.

I wager that many are also just ambivalent or are unclear about how to view the issue. And they may not even want to articulate it if they do.


It is not fashionable to knock the LGBT group, and it sounds bigoted if you do. It might also expose your religious frailty if you condone it  and lead to attacks that you lack a moral/religious core.  

Well, methinks people are free to organise themselves, free to express their emotions so long as they do not hurt anyone, free to hold outdoor parties if they have the licence. There are laws that will police their action. If the problem is with words, there are also laws which protect social harmony including the new anti-harassment laws.

But clearly, the LGBT group is pushing itself forward with its constitutional challenges to the law. It is also strengthening in numbers. The Health Promotion Board’s health advisory on sexuality has complicated what had seemed like the G’s hands-off position on the subject (barring section 377A).

Now, we’re witnessing a pushback on the part of the conservatives who include both Muslims and Christians.

Frankly, we lack the rules of engagement to deal with this extremely emotive issue. Maybe the statements below will help stop the pot from boiling over:

For “conservatives’’…

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I do not condone homosexuality (for whatever reason) but I do not think it’s right to vilify homosexuals or those who support them (for reasons which can include treating everybody as being able to hold an opinion or to live their life the way they please or being unwilling to pass judgment on others)

Neither will I condemn homosexuality openly nor use labels such as “irreligious’’ or “immoral’’ – even if I think so – to prevent fracturing society. But I will promote the traditional family unit as a counter-point. And that includes wearing white. 

 And on the other side….

I condone homosexuality (for whatever reason) but I will not vilify those who hold a different view, characterise them as bigots or ridicule their reasons for being against homosexuality, such as their religious beliefs. I will keep my thoughts private.

Neither will I promote homosexuality openly as I agree that most people in society are not ready and doing so will lead to society fracturing. But it does not mean I cannot wear pink to show my allegiance.

I’m sure there will plenty of people who disagree with my very simplistic formulation for peace between the camps.

There will always be arguments that will never be resolved such as “if you say you’re inclusive, you must include gays”” or “if you are pro-family, you should be anti-gay’’ or “only atheists support homosexuals’’ or “if everybody is equal before the law, why is one section tilted against gays’’ or “why is the G giving advice to gays at all?’’   

I am not even sure that there is a middle ground for the two extremes to meet. Consensus will probably appear in only a generation or two. In fact, the phrase that both sides can use most usefully on the other is “Please, don’t get in my face. Not now.’’  

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An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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