Would you rather that someone be open and honest with you, or that that person is pleasant and agreeable in front of you but say all sorts of un-sayable things behind your back? I think most, if not all, would rather the former than the later. But there are people who are so unsure of themselves, so sensitive and so lacking in self-confidence that you'd better watch what your are saying. They would rather the latter because if you tell them the truth, they cannot handle it (which reminds me of the movie, "A Few Good Men"). I am referring to the sensitive nerves that Mr Lee Kuan Yew has (again) managed to prick among Singapore's northern and southern neighbours, which are majority Muslim countries. Mr Lee made the 'offending' remarks in the newest book on him "Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going". And I agree with what he has said. There was a time when, growing up in a multi-racial community, one didn't think that a Malay or an Indian or a Chinese made that much difference.
Sure all of us looked different, spoke different languages, believe in different gods and exhibited peculiar mannerisms that one can put down to culture, social habits of particular peoples, and yes, religion. But beyond that, we called them friends, some even best friends though there were some who we didn't get along with. We just avoided these, err, let's just say disagreeble, people's company. I certainly didn't avoid them because of religion, nor they me. We, at least I, felt that whatever you believed is a personal matter and should not form any kind of barrier to good relations. I even got invited to meals at these different friends' homes. That was a much more enlightened period if only because religion was not a barrier that it is today, and here I must agree with Mr Lee. Islam in the last 2 decades or more, has become exclusive. Not only that, in some quarters they have become so sensitive about the exclusivity of their faith that they cannot tolerate others. What had happened between then and now? I will not venture an answer. Historians are probably more qualified to do an objective analysis and provide some answers, some day.
For me, I can only reminisce of the time when the many peoples in my neighbourhood, in the worst case, just live and let live.