Harmonious Pluralism? Legal Mechanisms in the Case of Singapore



Wiglesworth, Kathryn

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The small island nation of Singapore is home to nearly six million people. Dubbed the ‘melting pot’ of Asia there are a multitude of different ethnicities represented within the populations make up. As of the previous census roughly 74% of the population is ethnically Chinese, 13% are ethnic Malay, 9% are ethnic Indian, and 3% are recognized as other. Within the ethnically diverse population arises the religious pluralism. A survey conducted in 2015 found that the majority of the population of Singapore represented four of the major world religions: Buddhism/Taoism, Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism. The same survey indicated that 1% of the population identify with lesser known religions and 18% of the population recognise or affiliate themselves with any religion at all. These ethnic and religious divides can become an unmanageable situation for any government who does not attend to it with diligence and respect. In a nation that lacks landmass there is not much room for error in managing a population with this kind of diversity. Despite these challenges, and the young age of the country, Singapore is an example where divides have not proven to be a nuisance onto the country’s governance. The goal of this paper is to ascertain in what way the country’s use of specific pieces of legislation have had a positive impact upon the country’s religious stability and to what extent the country’s multi religious population expresses tolerance and promotes stability/harmony with one another.



Singapore, Religious harmony, Legal anthropology, Religious pluralism, Authoritarianism, Legislative review