ST Online Forum: SMU students' launch of booklet on gays: We need to be more open minded (Nov 6)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Nov 6, 2007
SMU students' launch of booklet on gays: We need to be more open-minded

I AM writing in reply to Miss Low Xiang Jun's article, 'Allowing SMU students to launch booklet, event on gays sends wrong message' (Online forum, Nov 3).

Miss Low wrote to disapprove the launching of a booklet, done as a project by SMU first-year students, that discussed the discrimination faced by homosexual youths in Singapore. She said that the book launch condones an alternative lifestyle and will create a negative impression on the values of SMU students.

I am a conservative but I must disagree with her words.

I strongly believe that a university should be an environment within which any perspective and idea can be discussed. In that setting, our learned faculty will provide necessary guidance. For university students, this is the time to learn about the world and be exposed to new ideas and thoughts. We should understand that there are individuals within our society that pursue an alternative lifestyle.

The project was a booklet that sought to discuss the issue of homosexual prejudice as well as to facilitate understanding. It was not a parade that cajoled students into turning gay.

Being in a conservative society does not mean that we should isolate ourselves from what some may believe to be negative influences. While we must hold fast to our values, we do not gain from being insulated.

The liberality in United States colleges is not something granted to its students. It is a culture of tolerance born from a society that has grown and learned from a history of prejudice and racial segregation. I believe that this culture is a mark of strong values and ethics and is not an unwholesome symptom of a decayed moral compass. We are entitled to our views as conservatives but as members of a plural society, we must seek to understand others who may hold differing beliefs on sexuality, religion, politics, philosophy and so on. Let us come together and agree to disagree.

Seeking to understand the people we may disagree with draws the fine line between tolerance and ignorance. I believe that SMU students, being socially responsible citizens and future leaders, understand that tolerance is a necessary ingredient for harmony and peace. I also believe that we will continue to uphold this value with pride.

Ahmad Firdaus Daud
SMU Students' Association
Singapore Management University