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SINGAPORE — Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong on Tuesday (3 May) night took to social media to express his dismay at having his earlier Facebook post of a scarecrow dressed in traditional Malay costume "misinterpreted".
The original post, published on Monday night, contained a photo of Goh and his wife posing next to the scarecrow at HortPark and was captioned "Selamat Hari Raya Puasa to all our Muslim friends".
It went viral with some 760 shares but drew criticisms from several netizens who described it as "tone-deaf" and "disgraceful".
Facebook user Rhys Ting wrote, "I think this is why Malaysia didn’t wanna keep us in the '60s." Another, by the name of Safudin Bin Suhadi, said, "I guess that’s what we are. A scarecrow."
The former prime minister explained on his Facebook page on Tuesday that he was struck by the scarecrow's change of attire and took a photo to “send my greetings to all Muslim friends”. He also uploaded a photo of it dressed in different clothes, purportedly taken in January.
"I am dismayed that some have misinterpreted the post as portraying Malays/Muslims as 'scarecrows'. This is far from my mind. I spent my political lifetime working for a harmonious multi-racial society," Goh wrote.
He added that the online furore "reminds us that strengthening multi-racialism is always (a) work in progress" and that "All of us have to do our part. Scary, isn’t it?".
Goh also noted that Singapore's public spaces celebrate the festivals of its various communities throughout the year.
His post on Tuesday drew support from some netizens who noted that social perceptions of issues have changed and become more challenging to address in current times.
Facebook user Fian Fazlie Bonali wrote, "Those social justice warriors are always stirring sh*t even on joyous occasions...My festive celebration is not the time for them to virtue signal."
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