2007-09-04

two fundamentalisms under an authoritarian state

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by Neil Godfrey

Recently remarked on one aspect of Robert Pape’s study that potentially explains why Singapore has not been a target of suicide bomb attacks. But there’s another possible explanation also raised by Pape. And it may relate to the reason Christian fundamentalists have failed to push their Intelligent Design assaults on scientific reasoning in the public education sector in Singapore.

Terrorists opt for suicide bombings in countries that have fairly strong democratic structures. No-one has ever read of suicide terrorists attacking targets in China. There would be no strategic point. Suicide terrorist targets are chosen for their power to cause publics to ply pressure on their leaders to change government policies. That’s how and why they work. The first suicide attacks worked for this very reason. They were conducted from the 1980’s by the Hezbollah against the Israeli occupation forces in Lebanon so that the Israeli public would eventually force their government to withdraw their invading force. They worked. They worked again in Spain to force the government to yield to popular pressure to withdraw their contribution to the invasion of Iraq. There is no point planning them in countries whose governments are not susceptible to public pressure and they don’t happen in those countries. (That is not to say that in authoritarian states there are not sabotage and other attacks from time to time — but not the targeting of unsuspecting victims by suicide bombers.)

While Singapore is technically a democracy its government is nonetheless known to wield considerable power to keep its citizenry politically well-behaved — and well-spoken.

So I wondered about the irony and possible impact that other fundamentalism might have in a nation with a world reputation for its advanced educational policies. If Christian fundamentalism is on the rise among the youth in a country where the youth are among the most highly educated in the world, aren’t there at least clashes of some sort between the educational establishments and the new so-called “Intelligent Design” (ID) theory. This unscientific PR re-write of Creationism is making inroads in western universities and schools. I recently learned that a new internationally networked database being built for evolutionary biology studies is requiring special technological responses to recent attempts by ID’ers to sabotage it. (It obviously wasn’t enough for Christians to stop at demolishing the great ancient libraries at Alexandria and elsewhere.)

A citizen of Singapore who had lived and worked there 16 years informed me that there was little chance of the ID conflicts surfacing in Singapore. The government was content for fundamentalists to express their views among each other in their churches and communities, but not to be so “discourteous” as to “rudely” make an issue of them in public.

Vague rulings have enabled such “politically impolite” troublemakers to be kept locked securely away until they cool off.

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Neil Godfrey

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