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Theorising 'Talk' about 'Religious Pluralism' and 'Religious Harmony' in Singapore

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This article aims to make sense of the discourse on 'religious pluralism' and 'religious harmony' in Singapore. My choice of the ' Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act ' , passed in 1990, to launch this inquiry is by no means accidental or random. I argue that in addition to an empirical domain, it is a central analytical tool that has provided an occasion for the articulation of a range of taken-for-granted statements about 'religion', 'religious pluralism', and 'religious harmony' in Singapore. I map out how the religious scene is discussed by various parties. The inevitability of Singapore's multi-religiosity, the fragility of religious harmony, and the need for constant vigilance are dominant strands. The article addresses these related areas: a brief historical contextualisation of religion in secular Singapore is followed by a condensed narrative of the conditions and deliberations leading to the Act. Further, the discourse on religious harmony from the early 1990s is juxtaposed to present concerns about religion and religious encounters in Singapore. The intention for this is two-fold: to see if there have been any major shifts in such 'talk, and to use the empirical material to call for the re-conceptualisation of categories/notions, such as 'religious pluralism' and 'religious harmony'.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2005

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