Conversion and subversion : religion and the management of moral panics in Singapore
AbstractTo understand the Singapore government's policy in controlling religion, it is first necessary to trace the emergence of Singapore as an independent state and with it the shaping of 'myths of origin' which highlight its vulnerable situation. The concept of 'moral panic' is a useful tool in examining the role of the state in crisis-production and crisis-amplification: the latter serve as a means of generating public concern in order to justify policies which are presented as necessary to rectify some perceived problem. In particular, the issues of multiracialism and political subversion have been highlighted as sources of the precariousness which, it is claimed, is a continuing feature of Singapore's existence. Religion was identified as especially problematic in the latter half of the 1980s for three reasons. First, Singapore's Malay population was argued to have conflicting loyalties to the state and to Islam. Secondly, the growing influence of evangelical Christianity among the Chinese was viewed as potentially destabilising if it provoked proselytising activity among other ethnic groups. Thirdly, the emergence of a socially activist form of Catholicism and its alleged links with a 'Marxist Conspiracy' contributed to the construction of an acute moral panic which involved the deployment of the security services and eventually led to the introduction of legislation constraining religious organisations. The demarcation of the religious sphere by the state derives in part from the logic of instrumental rationality in a culture of managerialism.