Indian-origin Scholar Criticises Singapore Minister, Apologises
SINGAPORE: An Indian-origin independent scholar and activist has called Singapore's Law and Foreign Minister an "Islamophobic bigot" who thinks Malay-Muslims are a threat, but apologised later after he mulled lodging a police complaint against her for "twisting" his remarks.
Sangeetha Thanapal, 33, on Friday took issues with the comments that K Shanmugam, also of Indian origin, made a day earlier at a Singapore Press Club talk, where the minister spoke of growing polarisation in Malaysia, with mainstream schools "becoming more and more Malay and Islamic."
Shanmugam's point was that trends in the education system made integration among the different races a challenge, with Chinese children attending Chinese-medium schools, while Malay children go to mainstream schools in neighbouring Malaysia.
But Thanapal wrote: "The only reason you would consider this important enough to make statements about, is if you are an Islamophobic bigot who thinks Malay-Muslims are a threat."
On Friday night, Shanmugam said he intended to make a police complaint as the post misrepresented his remarks.
He said that what Thanapal wrote was "inaccurate and seditious, and attributes to me sentiments that I do not hold and have never held."
"She unfortunately twisted what I had said," The Sunday Times quoted Shanmugam as saying.
An exchange between Thanapal and Shanmugam on her Facebook page followed, after which the minister said he held "no personal animosity" towards her, and would be happy to speak to her.
Thanapal replied: "I am very sorry for all that has happened. The post took on a life of its own, and came out differently from how I intended. Thank you so much for agreeing to speak with me."
Yesterday, Shanmugam met Thanapal for a chat, according to the weekly. Thanapal told the minister she had re-read his remarks and realised her comments were untrue.
Thanapal then wrote on her Facebook page, "I would like to offer an unreserved apology to minister K Shanmugam for what I had done. I had posted an article in haste.
"What I had posted about what he had said was untrue, and my comments were unjustified. On reflection, I am sorry for what I have done. I have since met the minister and offered my apology to him, which he has accepted," The Sunday Times quoted her as saying.
The minister said his decision to drop the police report was not prompted by her apology, but because she did not have the intention to cause ill will between races.
"People go and say things without really thinking about what they intended to say, and end up saying all sorts of things which are untrue," said Shanmugam. "We left it at that."