“Maintaining racial and religious harmony will always be a work-in-progress. The Sunset Grill & Pub incident is a case in point. It was a dispute over halal food that did not involve a single Muslim.”

The recent kerfuffle over halal certification at Sunset Grill & Pub shows how a little understanding and patience can go a long way in soothing any racial or religious tensions that will inevitably crop up at any time. Singapore is a cosmopolitan city-state that is open and tolerant of all cultures. But that does not mean that everything is hunky-dory all the time.

To cut a long story short, a customer of Sunset Grill & Pub “Chun Fong Avril” FB-messaged the establishment to ask on behalf of their Muslim friends if they were halal-certified. Unfortunately, she received a snarky reply that said “This is Singapore, not Saudi Arabia” and it was a “pork-loving restaurant”. The reply from the eatery was widely shared and expectedly received much flak online.

To the eatery’s credit, they have apologised on their FB page, correctly pointing out that their reply was “excessively sarcastic” and that they “are not racist or prejudiced against any religion”.


So that brings a quick end to a needless dispute. Could this have been averted?

Certainly.

For one, it was a rather strange query to the restaurant. Any reasonable person would know that a pub will never be able to obtain a halal certificate by the simple fact that it serves alcohol. It was a silly question but it definitely did not deserve such a barbed reply from the eatery. A simple “no, we are not a halal-certified establishment” would have sufficed.

This brings up some questions about the customer service of Sunset Grill and Pub. You do wonder about how much they value their customers if they can reply in such a manner. Furthermore, some have pointed out that the owners hang a Confederate flag on their premises. The Confederate flag was flown during the American Civil War and its display has long been controversial in the US, due to its association with racism, slavery and white supremacy.

In the end, it was an amicable resolution to the incident. But it showed how lack of understanding from both parties had led to this. The customer could have easily checked with her Muslim friends about halal certification which she clearly had little understanding of. On their part, the eatery clearly did not understand that halal certification does not mean that we are like Saudi Arabia. The most glaring difference is that our women are allowed to drive. So how are we like Saudi Arabia again?

These are deep seated sentiments and stereotypes, in which no one will admit it when asked in the face.

Why then do people criticise government efforts to make this better? Would they rather hope and pray and appeal to the better side of human nature that Singaporeans will eventually take steps in the right direction?

So naive.