Pluralism involves more than just tolerance, for tolerance does not ensure harmony. In the same way, pluralism is more than the notion of diversity. Diversity merely acknowledges that different groups exist. Pluralism then requires the willingness to understand diversity.
With ten national religions which include the Bahá'í faith, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism, Taoism and Zoroastrianism, Singapore could be deemed the poster child for diversity and with this diversity, pluralism is tantamount. The need for understanding and open discussions as well as being able to hold our religious differences not in isolation but in relation to one another is an important aspect ensuring that pluralism be maintained in Singapore. Numerous religious groups have realized that providing a platform for open dialogue would help dispel the myths commonly held by others. The Singapore Inter-Faith Youth Forum provides precisely this platform. Youth from the ten national religions engage in active, open discussion on a regular basis. This helps youth to understand other religions and obtain a more accurate view on the religions being practiced.
One of the forays of this group was to the An-Nahdhah mosque which houses the Harmony Centre in Singapore. In the current environment of perplexity about Islam, the centre aims to cast aside the misconceptions regarding Islam and Muslims. The mosque offers tours and has three floors of exhibition space to showcase Islamic art and architecture from around the world, discoveries by Islamic scholars as well as insights into the religious practices of Muslims. The Harmony Centre, the mosque also provides visitors with information on the other religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism and the importance that Islam places of pluralism.
The exhibits in the mosque go a long way to dispel the myths about the role of women. Many visitors to the mosque were initially of the opinion that women were accorded a lower status in Islam. However, at the An- Nahdhah mosque, an entire area has been devoted toward women and their role and their elevated status in Islam. The exhibit features numerous images attesting to the role of women in Islam.
Other exhibits highlight the golden age of Islam in which Muslim scientists and explorers were at the forefront of discoveries. These exhibits feature prominent Muslim scientists such as Ibn Sina and Omar Khayyam. The vast amount of knowledge ranging from astrology to medicine spread by Muslim scientists surprised many visitors to the Harmony Centre.
The Harmony Centre resembles a museum with its exhibits, audio-visuals and artefacts divided into four main sections: Images of Islam, Civilisational Islam, Essence of Islam and Islamic Lifestyle. Visitors can go on a guided tour of the Centre, led by trained docents who are the reference resources for queries.
Although the display at the An-Nahdhah Mosque is on a relatively small scale, it has helped to promote a greater understanding among the youth; Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It is inter-faith ventures like these that promote and sustain pluralism in Singapore.