12 April 2009

From now on, be wary of AWARE

The group that recently seized control of AWARE, the women's group, is believed to have a religious, anti-gay agenda. Perennially laid-back liberals may now have a fight on our hands. Full essay.

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you Yawning Bread for yet again eloquently formulating the dilemmas of a community who love and believe in what a secular, democratic, pluralistic, inclusive Singapore can be. However, I am not so pessimistic. I believe this is a moment where we need to stand up and be counted and fight this fundamentalism. It's happening everywhere, in our university campuses, schools, organizations. And yes the tactics are most sophisticated. But regardless of however many thousands they pull in, we have to fight back .This is not just a matter of AWARE. This is a matter of "first they came for AWARE.. " If we do not defend AWARE's founding values, we will be next.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,

Am very glad to see your post today. I have been unduly worried about whether you met the same scenario with po the panda.

All the best.

Anonymous said...

I definitely agree with the sentiment behind the article - the recent news has left me worried as a young person and I've seen friends who were thinking of joining AWARE and are now completely disheartened.

But having said that... "Christian Taleban" is a bit too much of a loaded word isn't it? No matter how much we genuinely believe it, I'm sure they genuinely believe that the LGBTQ crowd is as insane and bent on destroying Singapore as we might think they are; at least we shouldn't invite time-wasting battles over Who Is More Evil.

I am all ears for a new organisation to take AWARE's place if things continue though.

mathialee said...

Hi Alex

I've been one of those actively involved in the sexuality education program of AWARE, and I can assure you that as long as I am there, we will continue to bring secular, responsible, and non-discriminatory messages to educational institutions.

I'm hoping that this ST report does not damage AWARE's reputation too much, because AWARE does not just consist of its exco, but also a lot of other committed members. Now all the more, we need the support of the public and other vocal people like you to help push across the secular, responsible and non-discriminatory messages to the public

Robox said...

Re: "It's a brilliant victory for Singapore's Christian Taliban, in their long term aim to make this place a Christian theocracy."

Thank you for calling a spade a spade.

I had warned about this during the S 377 debates; the escalation of Christian Taliban politics is strikingly similar to the experience of their Afghan counterparts.

The Afghan Taliban received their training in a extreme interpretation of Islam in their madrasahs; the Christian Taliban learn to hate from places of worship to their God - that is, if it is God that they worship.

The graduates of the Madrasahs started infiltrating various institutions like the government, the military, educational and social institutions, etc. So have the Christian Taliban and we are seeing one more act of infiltration albeit this one is not a gradual one but a hostile takeover.

They then started wielding their influence and abuse their power from those institutions. Ditto with the Christian Taliban.

And as they say, the rest is history.

Robox said...

This is a cut and paste from two different sources: my own as well as from [percole] writing in fridae. I have his permission to do this.

Re: "...the AGM was properly conducted under the society's constitution."

Alex, that may be so, but the question of the ethicality of this hostile takeover has not yet come under enough scrutiny.

AWARE is a feminist organization based on feminist philosophy and provides services to women based on feminist therapy models.

In Singapore, we tend to shy away from terminology that accurately describes our political affiliations. That's not surprising given that any type of politics that is not in perfect alignment with the PAP's has been all but criminalized.

The resulting stigmatization of politically descriptive terms - like "feminist" - could be the reason that we don't refer to AWARE as a feminist organization; it's probably also the reason that AWARE itself doesn't.

Worldwide, feminists have always been the staunchest allies of the gay movement, which probably explains the coup. (A rabidly homophobic Christian fundamentalist I once knew referred to feminism as the 'mother ideology' of gay activism.)

The Christian fundamentalist coup consists of people who don't have a modicum of feminism in them, and are likely to be clueless about feminist therapy models either.

Is there such a shortage of Christian Taliban spaces in Singapore that they would have to do this?

What about the 'alternative' space for sexuality education provided for by Focus on the Family?

Providing services to women without a focus on her experience as a woman is akin to reparative 'therapy' for gays.

AWARE's funding Ministry needs to be held accountable for this - the funds after all do come from the taxes we pay.

Robox said...

Re: "An interesting question arises: Shouldn't the Registrar of Societies step in if it is later shown that a society is being used for a quasi-religious agenda?"

Yes, we should lobby against this on the grounds that it is anti-secular.

Re: "You can bet the government will rush in the moment that agenda is Islam-related."

How true!

The PAP is fully accountable in this matter for emboldening the Christian Taliban to the extent that this can happen.

Secular is a word that the PAP uses only to roll back Muslim aspirations.

However, when it comes to acts involving the Christian Taliban they have emboldened, they conveniently forget the word even exists.

Anonymous said...

Your christophobic posts have become more and more entertaining, if not ludicrous. How is pre-judging someone based on her religion and speculating a host of non-sequiturs anymore less objectionable than the uninformed, homophobic rants you've been fighting against?


"In a way, it has to do with the way liberals think. We are by nature accommodating and pluralistic"

"We forget that even if a wild animal might not have our moral and intellectual credentials, it can still be bloody dangerous"

How very accommodating and pluralistic indeed, Mr Liberal. *rolls eyes*

Anonymous said...

To anon 13 April, 2009 11:42:

The only prejudgements are from
you.

The article was clear what these
people are after. Extracts:

'When asked if they believed in equality, they kept repeating they were
there to support women and to make sure they got ahead and got
all the opportunities given to them,' Ms [Dana] Lam said.

But one outspoken new member from the floor, who identified herself as
Angela Thiang, said questions about the new office bearers'
religion and their stand on homosexuality were not relevant.

Dr Chin and Ms Thiang both wrote letters to caution against
the risks of promoting the homosexual lifestyle.
(comment - what does repealing an unfair law have anything to do
with this).

Constance Singam, the past president (twice) of AWARE,
told me she was extremely traumatised by the result of
the AGM. I feel for her and can certainly understand the impact.
She and her colleagues have spent decades building this organisation,
only to have it snatched from them.

Jaunty Jabber said...

I like your title and I would like to make it more likeable for myself: "All along, I am wary of AWARE".

Sometimes, a person polished up big noble topics to the public when on the other hand, at personal level, behaved with contradiction to what was advocated.

Was the over-taking of so many new faces there a form of housekeeping?

Solo Bear said...

Hi Alex,

I think gays are shotgunning. A takeover of society by christian fundies?

Oh boy, the gays are howling again

Anonymous said...

my 2 cents'
1. why don't the aware members who don't like the new admin start their own new aware? maybe they can call it beware.. 2. since they're not using my resources, what aware does is not really my business if they're religious or not , hetero or homo..

Anonymous said...

To anon 13 April, 2009 14:50:

"The only prejudgements are from
you"

>> Haha. What did I prejudge? Do you know the meaning of the word?


"But one outspoken new member from the floor, who identified herself as Angela Thiang, said questions about the new office bearers'
religion and their stand on homosexuality were not relevant"

>> Errrr yes, how is it relevant? Is AWARE a gay-rights group? Is AWARE a religious organization? Secular organization cannot have people who have religious beliefs? And that's "liberal", "accommodating", "pluralistic"? Think la please.


"Dr Chin and Ms Thiang both wrote letters to caution against
the risks of promoting the homosexual lifestyle.
(comment - what does repealing an unfair law have anything to do
with this)"

>> This is almost hilarious. What does THIS (writing letters against 377A to the ST) have anything to do with them heading AWARE? On a separate note, whether 'the homosexual lifestyle' is risky has indeed a lot to do with whether s 377A should be repealed. If there are indeed public ramifications they ought rightly to be considered/debated. So you're wrong. I'm someone who believes the law should be repealed btw, but I think arguing for one camp doesn't mean we totally ignore the strength of the arguments of the other. To me, that's what 'liberalism' means. Not "uhhh...I self-declare my moral and intellectual credentials, and oh, you're a wild animal because you disagree with me".


"Constance Singam, the past president (twice) of AWARE,
told me she was extremely traumatised by the result of
the AGM"

>> Why? Reasons? Evidence? Justifications? If not, it's just a "my ah-ma says" argument.

Anonymous said...

hi, thanks for the article. i'm worried too and i agree with your observations that the liberals are disorganised. we are individuals and sometimes it is hard to come together. but i think that when it is so unbearable, this ideological repression, we will come together naturally and fight to preserve our differences.

Anonymous said...

This sends a shiver down my spine and reminds me of a poster I saw on the notice board of the medical faculty, then at Sepoy Lines, in the late 1970s, that loudly and boldyly declared, "Towards a Christian Nation" (by the Navigators, a militant group of Christian students).

Anonymous said...

But you see, there is the problem of confirming their inclination and motive.
I read Wayang Party's blog and I think it might be right, to say that it is just an attempt by the old members, (and perhaps the people too used to PAP's consistent winnings that suddenly when an unexpected result turn out, people can easily point fingers at the unexpected elects and easily rally against them and accuse them of being this and being that, quite typical of PAP's "branding of people", to demonise the new members.

Anonymous said...

I should continue to support AWARE for its feminist push and all...
When its anti-gay stance "really surface" and gets into an intolerable state, then we act...
Isn't that how a democratic society should behave?
Now the thing is that we don't know if they are anti-gay. Just a few members writing to the press to air some views which PAP themselves have aired (pro-family, etc.) doesn't constitute to the whole organisation being "anti-gay".

Anonymous said...

Think about it.
Why does the mass media of Singapore, supposedly anti-gay, suddenly so supportive of the old guard against the new allegedly "anti-gay" members?
Firstly, they are not anti-gay.
Second, PAP doesn't like these new members because of their "agreesiveness", not because of their "anti-gay"
Third, typical of PAP tactics, they like to "demonise" and "brand" people as "this" and "that", eg. Marxist, communist, seditious, stooge of the west, lauguage chauvinist, etc.

Anonymous said...

Would anyone here kindly provide a list of the new AWARE Exco members?

Dee aka D1 said...

For an article that so discusses pluralism, it sure sounds fascist. It was an interesting read no doubt but I would rather this diatribe or "article"(for neutrality's sake) be read for entertainment and not to find any serious discourse considering its partisan stance despite acting otherwise.

Perhaps the strong words used reveal another personal agenda that has gone unnoticed even by the author?

This comment is not even going to direct itself at the material discussed but more towards how the whole message is being put forth in order to skew readers in another direction close to fanning dissent.

Chew on it.

Chris said...

Notice that some Christian extremists tend to use abbreviated names like "George Lim", even though the ST Forum page requires forum letter writers to "include your full name (as in IC)".

These guys are scared of bloggers like you! Good job!

ben lim [father of two] said...

If heaven gets populated by people like this - self-righteous, bigoted, intolerant - I'd rather burn in hell for all eternity.

Robert L said...

Is there anybody who still doubts that there had been a hostile takeover? Some of the comments posted here in response to Yawning Bread's article seem to be circumvating this simple point.

Now, if sanity prevails, and it is accepted that there has been a hostile takeover, then is there any doubt that such an action must of necessity be perpetuated by a well-organised group? If readers can accept these two simple facts, then we can carry forward the debate beyond the facts revealed so far.

For example, where does this group come from? Is it the church in Queenstown?

Some bloggers have suggested that it's the Christian Taliban. Well, if it is so, then the next few weeks will be very interesting. For example, will the other religions and those who are non-religious sit back and allow this group to take over the AWARE? We will see the results in the EOGM. We will see if there are enough numbers in this group to outnumber all those who do not wish AWARE to be slanted on religious basis.

Even more interesting, we will see if the moderate/progressive Christians sit back and allow the public to see that their religion is being represented by the extremist group. Much like the Muslims are discomfited to see their Islam religion being represented by the terrorist groups. This will be the conclusion if the AWARE EOGM keeps the current new faces in power.

Moderate Singaporeans have all along believed that the right-wing Christians are but a vocal minority, we will see if this is fact or fiction, whether the minority turns out to be majority. We will see if there are any moderate Christians to reject the will of this minority to become their representative.

This is something that goes far beyond AWARE, far beyond gay or straight, even far beyond religion. It's going to tell us if Christianity in Singapore is taken over by a group of ultra right-wing.

gentlelanb said...

Someone apparently heard of their plans and hatred of AWARE over lunch after church service at COOS a long time before the AGM.

Seems like a strong support at this church backing the move. With 4,000 members, its a strong movement.

They talk of a homosexual aggenda because they themselves have an insidious aggenda.

ann said...

Im surprised that some ppl still cant see how having those new members in Aware is going to hurt the discussion of sex ed and homosexuality.. esp among teens (when they give talks in school etc).
It is sneaky, sophisticated yes but very sneaky. And this is how fundamentalists will go about, trying to push their agendas down other people's throat.
Aware needs to be secular and inculsive, they need to educate and inform in a non-discriminatory manner.
We dont have to agree with everyone's lifestyle or choices but we have to make sure that the messages being conveyed are not discriminatory or certain information are withheld just because someone has an issue with say, homosexuality or abortion.

happyteachers said...

They are "Christian Taleban" if they come from the same church. This is an obvious proof. They make use of religion to achieve personal agenda. The Christian extremists are as dangerous as the Islamic extremists if they exploit their religious followers for personal objective. The new president tried to hide and lie but she used the word we instead of I when she said we came in to .... This means they came in as a group to take over AWARE.
AWARE being a secular organisation should have a balance of believers and non-believers or a balance of committee members of different religions. The ROS need to do something to create this balance to prevent misunderstand between people of different religions.
To strengthen religious harmony more secular organisations should be formed. Singapore progressed because we have a balance among all the religions. Look around and you will notice a country with a single religion is more backward. Religious people tend to forget that they have two feet resting on the ground!

Robox said...

To Dee aka D1:

Re: "For an article that so discusses pluralism, it sure sounds fascist."

I don't see what is fascist about speaking up against harm-generating ideologies like the Christian Taliban one.

Yes, they do INTEND harm befalling gays; they are the true fascists.

Your energy will be better spent directing responsibility where it belongs.

Anonymous said...

What is Sacrifice?
The word sacrifice is made of two parts. The first part of the word, sacri, comes from the Latin root word sacrare meaning, “to make sacred or holy”. The second part of the word, fice, means “to make” or “to offer”. So, the meaning of sacrifice is to make one holy or sacred by making an offering.
External sacrifice at the highest level is to offer one’s life. Many freedom fighters gave up their lives. Parents offered their sons to fight for freedom in France, America, India, China and many other countries.
Others sacrifice by giving their possessions.
Many parents sacrifice for their children.
Sacrifice at the lowest level is to offer a lamb by killing it. In fact, this is a misinterpretation of sacrifice by someone with the scapegoat mentality. If this scapegoat interpretation is popular, it is because many people have the scapegoat mentality. Our belief is a reflection of our mentality.
This religion is a teaching of scapegoatism for people and by people having the scapegoat mentality. “Birds of a feather flock together”. The offering of the lamb as a sacrifice is a ritual based on the story of Abraham. This story must be written by someone with the scapegoat mentality. In the Bible, John 3: 16, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was given a scapegoat interpretation!

Sacrifice at the highest level leads one to the inner sacrifice. External sacrifice is a means leading finally to an inner sacrifice. When we throw our imperfections into our conscience, the inner flame, Agni, we become more perfect and holy.

Anonymous said...

when has the pro-life stand been condemned as 'religious fundamentalism'? does no other beliefs respect life?

Anonymous said...

The Bible, the basis of Christian beliefs, also states categorically: ‘Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.’- Taken from Alice Cheong in Wonderland Blog
nor the greedy - who are these people ?
The definition is not clear. What is written in the Bible can be misinterpreted.
Who wrote the New Testament in the Bible? Not Jesus Christ and not even his disciples. They are the Roman priests who supported the cruxification of Jesus!
Religious people are dangerous because they are like "sheep" who are easily exploited.
We can still be good if we are guided by the universal values like honesty and compassion. We do not have to follow any religion to be good. The article on sacrifice is enlightening. We become more perfect and holy by offering. That means be more generous and less selfish. Becoming more perfect and holy makes a person wiser and when a person is wiser, he is happier.

Robert L said...

Anonymous of 22 April, 2009 12:20 said:
["when has the pro-life stand been condemned as 'religious fundamentalism'? does no other beliefs respect life?"]

LOL! What an odd question! Is it possible that there are readers who do not know what pro-life means?

Respect for life is one thing, it's a good thing. But pro-life has taken on an extremist meaning: pro-life views that terminating a pregnancy is wrong. No matter what. Even if the feotus is malformed. Even if the pregnancy is the result of a rape by incest or by stranger. The pro-life stance taken by the fundie Christians is profoundly wrong. It's not a good thing.

Pro-life promotes the enslavement of women through shackling them with the burden of unwanted pregnancies. It's directly in opposite to women's interests, something that we obviously expect AWARE to protect. For an organisation like AWARE to be run by pro-life fundi Christians brings the greatest of shame to the Singapore women.

ann said...

to anon Apr 22
Pro life means absolutely not terminating a pregnancy - even if the women's life is in danger. There are no grey areas. You are expected to what.. pray? Trust in some higher power?
Not everyone believes in a higher power, not everyone is religious. And not everyone who is religious believes that the pro life stance is good for every single woman.
This isnt a religious issue, its a woman's issue. Dont assume that all women share the same values and beliefs.
And how does all of this tie in with the new AWARE?
I expect to see less informative talks on abortion and sex ed and the promotion of abstinence. And the cycle begins again...

Anonymous said...

What the new xco members did is legally right but ethically and morally wrong. Our lives are guided not only by laws but also by ethics and values. What type of values are these Christian extremists imparting to their children?

Anonymous said...

The minister has spoken. We should build a “rainbow coalition”.
Building the rainbow coalition is for the interest of our nation.
I hope members of the new exco of AWARE understand, resign and leave. This is a sensible thing to do.

The AWARE saga shows the danger of religious brainwashing making highly educated people to lose their sensibility. It is good to be moderately religious but dangerous to be extremely religious. Extremists tend to lose their heads in heaven forgetting that their legs are still on the ground.

We need laws when we discard the values. According to the law members of the new exco have won but according the ethics and values they have lost. It is a sad thing that their lives are guided by laws and not by values. As Christians, it is a disgrace that their lives are not guided by values. God guides them through the values. Throw away the values and they will be guided by Satan in the name of God.

Anonymous said...

It is clear the church wants to make use of religion to take over AWARE. This is not an internal conflict among the members. There is infiltration by the church members. The church is interfering in the internal affairs of a secular organization. This is going to cause a religious conflict. The government must do something to prevent the conflict.

Robert L said...

Quoting what I wrote earlier
"Moderate Singaporeans have all along believed that the right-wing Christians are but a vocal minority, we will see if this is fact or fiction, whether the minority turns out to be majority.

We will see if there are any moderate Christians to reject the will of this minority to become their representative."

I am much relieved that AWARE is now back in control of those who have worked for it over the past 20 years. The vote is about 1400 vs 700. I would like to imagine that the moderate Christians have turned up to vote against their extremist/Taliban sisters.

So far, we do not have the fact yet, whether it's the non-Christians who outnumbered the COOS, or whether it's the mainstream Christian who exerted their voice that they will not allow the fundamentalist minority to takeover their religion. I hope it's the latter.

I'll now go off-topic to another matter, somewhat similar and very sensitive, so much so that most Singaporeans are afraid to talk about it. The Muslim community have much to learn from this episode that they must exert their authority over the extremist minority in their midst, so that the terrorist cells hiding within their community will not become their champion. In much the same way that the Christian majority did not allow the COOS to become their champion.

Things are still hazy at the moment, I hope in the following days, the moderate Christians will come out and proudly declare, "we defeated the extremist group". It would be very bad if it turns out that it took the combined resources of the non-Christians to defeat the Josie group.

What I want to emphasise is that the Muslim community must not depend on non-Muslims to counter the extremists hidden in their community, the mainstream Muslims must stand out and defeat the Josie/Thio/Senior Pastor what's-his-name within their own community. Just the same way as, I hope, it was the mainstream Christians who defeated the extremists in the AWARE case.

I apologise that this has gone off-topic, but this is what I meant - when I said in my earlier post that the AWARE issue is far beyond gay or straight, far beyond religion. It's really about whether the mainstream, silent majority sits back and through their inaction, allowed the extremist group within their community take the limelight and become the champion of their religion.

The thing that led me to make this comment is how inspired I was to see the Indian reaction to the recent Madras suicide bombing - the Madras Muslim community actually rejected the burial of the bodies of the terrorists on their soil. This is the VERY first time I see any Muslim taking charge of their religion and rejecting the terrorist claim to champion their religion.

I hope the Christians and the Muslims take heed of my message. I'll say it loud and clear - you cannot depend on the mainstream to fight against the extremists within your community. To do so would be to wait for civil war. Instead, you must fight against the extremists and fundamentalists within your own community. You have the full support of the mainstream in this fight. But you have to be the leader. Do not depend on an outsider to fight your battle.

And for what's it's worth, I have to thank Josie and company for this insight.

And yet again, I apologise for going off-topic, but I see it far beyond the AWARE issue.