SPEECH ON THE OCCASION OF THE ISRAEL — HAMAS GAZA MOTION

Murali Pillai
6 min readNov 22, 2023

My Parliamentary colleagues, Mr Vikram Nair, Mr Alex Yam and Mr Zhulkharnain Abdul Rahim, filed an important motion on the Israel-Hamas war that was unanimously passed in Parliament. I took the opportunity to deliver a speech in Malay. Please find below an English translation of my speech. Briefly, the 2 main points I made were as follows:

  1. I commended the principled stance taken by our Muslim leaders in eschewing the “us versus them” narrative but instead making a clear and unequivocal statement deprecating violence and brutality on civilians committed by anyone and a call to observe international law; and
  2. I acknowledged that, given what is happening across the world, this is not an easy stance to take for .

My speech follows.

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Sir, I support the motion. In my speech, I wish to focus on the response of our Singapore Muslim community, particularly our Malay Muslim community. I would like to pay tribute to them for taking a courageous and principled stance in relation to the deepening humanitarian crisis arising from Hamas’ terrorist attack against Israel on 7 October 2023 and the subsequent Israeli military operations in the Gaza strip.

Across the world, we have seen, troublingly, a deepening divide across religious lines spilling, on many occasions, into overt hate crimes as a response.

In the US, a landlord was charged with murder and hate crime for killing a 6-year-old Muslim boy and seriously wounding his mother in Illinois. The landlord allegedly did so because of their religion and the conflict between Hamas and Israel. There were numerous reports from US-based news agencies pointing to worsening Islamophobia leading to hate-fueled attacks and other discriminatory incidents in the country.

At the same time, antisemitism was also reported to be on the rise across the world. For instance, just on 3 November 2023 in the UK Guardian, it was reported that Jewish people in Britain experienced the worst wave of hate incidents in modern times with more than 1,000 recorded to date. In the US, Reuters reported that antisemitic incidents rose by about 400% in 2 weeks since the Hamas led attack in Israel.

We have also seen demonstrations in many major cities where anger is being openly stoked with binary and very divisive messages.

a. The narrative is often styled on an “us versus them” basis.

b. A number of organisations have propagated violence at the demonstrations which will inevitably lead to even more polarization along racial, religious and also nationality lines.

Singapore is not immune to these developments. Thanks, amongst others, to the principled stances taken by the leaders in our Muslim community, we have largely avoided polarization between communities in our nation.

I was deeply struck by what the Mufti of Singapore, Ustaz Nazirudin Mohd Nasir stated in his letter to the Chief Rabbi of Singapore.

a. He said:

“There is no place and no justification for any form of violence and brutality on civilians by anyone, including those by Hamas, or in any retaliatory response. The right of civilians to live peacefully must be protected at all times”

b. He further noted that both Islam and Jewish scriptures emphasized the human need for mercy and compassion.

c. Finally, he propagated the model of peaceful coexistence amongst communities as an endearing solution to the Middle East crisis.

It is poignant that unlike so many others outside Singapore, the Mufti separated the violent acts of humans from the religions of Islam and Judaism.

a. Religion is not responsible for this crisis.

b. This is worth emphasizing in times like this when lines are drawn precisely on religious lines.

Also, the Mufti deprecated the violence and deaths arising from both the terrorists acts of Hamaz as well as from Israeli military operations.

a. I particularly felt the calling out against terrorist acts of Hamaz was important for a diverse, multi-racial and religious country like Singapore.

b. As was mentioned numerous times by our Government leaders, Singapore is not immune to a terrorist attack.

c. Should a terrorist attack happen here and hostages are taken, we would expect Singapore to retaliate in self-defence in accordance with public international law too.

On the point of retaliation in self-defence, the requirements under international law are clear.

i. Unfortunately, in conflicts, total avoidance of civilian casualty is impossible.

ii. However, there are principles such as necessity, not targeting civilians, proportionality and avoiding unnecessary suffering which, when applied, will have the effect of reducing such casualty.

I also understand from my Muslim friends that Mufti’s message was reinforced during Friday sermons held since and delivered by Imams at our mosques. In these sermons, a call was made to pray for world peace in these troubled times and to advocate “salam dan keamanan”.

I have spoken to a good number of my Muslim community leaders, friends and residents in Bukit Batok on Mufti’s message.

a. Without exception, the Mufti’s message resonated strongly with them.

b. Each of them told me that, personally, they are deeply affected by the humanitarian crisis.

i. The numerous videos and news articles that they have received from social media platforms conveying the brutal tragedy of the war have affected their conscience.

ii. At the same time, they accept that these developments should not affect the peace and harmony with fellow Singaporeans.

c. At the same time, they drew succour from the Singapore Government’s position expressed in voting for UNGA resolutions since 1967 which involved, amongst others :

i. Advocating a 2-state solution where both the states of Israel and Palestine are recognised;

ii. the refusal to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel;

iii. condemning the illegal construction of settlements by Israel; and

iv. calling for an immediate and sustained humanitarian truce to the current crisis.

d. Their response, collectively, has been in form of:

i. Prayers for relief from the suffering of affected people;

ii. Emphasising the Islamic message of peace, compassion, kindness and fairness; and

iii. Providing assistance through trustworthy and credible channels to help those affected by the tragedy.

If ever there is a silver lining to this tragedy, they noted the renewed discussion within the international community on the 2-state solution which is now increasingly seen as a necessity and bulwark against perpetuation of further violence in future.

Mr Speaker, sincere thanks are due to our Muslim community for taking this principled approach in dealing with this humanitarian crisis. We should recognize, with the developments across the world, particularly amongst Muslim countries, this is not an easy position for our Muslim Singaporeans to take.

In 1965, when Singapore was founded, our founding father and 1st Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, exhorted all racial communities, including our Malay community, to build a Singapore for all Singaporeans from all races.

What may not have been sufficiently highlighted then and now is the fact that when Singapore became independent, our Malay community, which was the majority race before independence, became a minority race thereafter.

i. Yet, our Malay community fully embraced the concept of a Singapore for all races and religions.

ii. Thankfully as a result, we secured peace and harmony that contributed to the prosperity and progress of all our people.

This spirit is once again exemplified by the responsible approach and stance that has been taken by our Muslim friends, particularly our Malay Muslim community, in dealing with Gaza crisis.

We should never forget this. My sincere thanks to our Malay and Muslim communities.

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Murali Pillai

Member of Parliament, Bukit Batok SMC, Advisor to Bukit Batok SMC GROs.