Online|Offline – Tussle over xenophobia

Here’s the first part of the forum on xenophobia. The forum is the new initiative by some bloggers, called Online|Offline. (Join the Facebook page here.)

The forum went relatively well, this being the first that the combined bloggers team is organising. Scheduled for 1 1/2 hours initially, it ran longer – to 2 1/2 hours.

The starting point of the forum was to define or discuss what xenophobia is and whether it is a problem in Singapore. There is no disagreement, as far as I can tell, between the panellists on what xenophobia is – which is, the irrational hatred or fear of foreigners or things foreign. It then raises the question of whether what we have in Singapore is indeed xenophobia and whether this is a problem.

My own view is that it is not xenophobia, in fact, and thus it – xenophobia – is not a problem currently. Something which dos not exist cannot be a problem (at least in this case, in my view). But that does not mean that there is not a potential problem of negative sentiments turning into irrational hatred for foreigners, which is a point I made in this first part of the video.

And to prevent this from happening, it is important for the nation to have an open dialogue, and then see how the root causes of these negative sentiments can be dealt with. What some of these causes are, as I said in the forum later on, is quite obvious and we don’t have to beat about the bush about them – the immigration policy, labour policy, (lack of) long term economic vision, and so on.

Alex, in this blog post, seems to have misunderstood our stand (I am referring to Martyn’s, Ravi’s and mine), and seems to be accusing us of condoning xenophobia.

That is incorrect.

Nowhere during the forum did anyone condone xenophobia, or expressed support for such behaviour.

The other question which Alex raised – about taking a stand on xenophobia – is also besides the point. As I said off the bat, and Martyn as well, the forum is not intended to be an “anti-xenophobia movement.” Also, there were no discussions about taking a stand against it. What we could do is to express our personal stands on this. Perhaps we should do so in future forums but that would require the bloggers to agree that taking a stand on an issue is something we want to do collectively.

The intention of the forum is to generate debate and discussion online and offline. So, fire away.

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