Forum contributor Cheng Choon Fei called for a ban on commuters playing religious music out loud on MRT trains and buses on their personal electronic devices (Listen to religious music on trains, buses in private, Sept 18), I understand his concerns.
However, there are already laws in place against making excessive noise on public transport. For example, Section 14 of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act prohibits the making of noise in such a manner as to cause or be likely to cause annoyance or inconvenience to the occupier of any premises in the vicinity or to any person lawfully using any public road or in any public place.
Regulation 17 of the Rapid Transit Systems Regulations also provides: "No person shall conduct himself on any train or in any part of the railway premises so as to cause a nuisance or annoyance to other passengers."
On the other hand, a ban specifically targeted at the playing of religious music on public transport may amount to unlawful discrimination against religion or the religious, violating the right to non-discrimination and religious freedom under Articles 12 and 15 of the Singapore Constitution.
I once took a taxi in which Buddhist chants were being played on the audio player. The driver asked if I was all right with the playing of chants and was prepared to turn them off if I was uncomfortable.
When I replied that I had no issues with it, a meaningful dialogue that lasted the rest of the journey ensued, where I shared my perspectives as a Christian while he shared his Buddhist perspectives.
While the context of my experience with the taxi driver is different, the same lessons of mutual respect, accommodation and understanding apply.
Singapore is a multiracial and multi-religious society where people of different races and creeds coexist. With an attitude of restraint on the one hand and tolerance on the other, we can help to expand the common space for all in society.