[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Saturday, March 15, 2008

[Speech at MAEC]

1 This Seminar cum Workshop is timely. As we discuss the direction the MAEC should take in the coming years, let us set this against the overall progress made by the Malay/Muslim community and Singapore’s future. Although the Malay/Muslim community in Singapore has made huge strides, we still face important challenges. Let me touch on three - international terrorism, globalisation and dysfunctional families.

International Terrorism

2 The escape of Mas Selamat has caused great concern among Singaporeans of all races. He is a dangerous man and having him on the loose is a danger to all of us in Singapore. Muslim and non-Muslim Singaporeans alike also worry that he might have received help from local Malay/Muslims. It is good that Malay/Muslim organisations made a special effort to look out for him.

3 September 11 and the discovery of the JI network in Singapore opened a new chapter in the relations among the different races and religions in Singapore. Understanding the dangers international terrorism posed to our society, religious and community leaders reached out to one another as never before. At all levels and in all parts of our island, activities were organised to promote understanding and bring Singaporeans closer together. We have been very successful so far. But this is a continuing process.

4 The RRG (Religious Rehabilitation Group) has played a major role in helping us maintain the security situation. It has also inoculated the local Malay/Muslim community against the extremist contagion. However, we must expect incidents from time to time which will put us to the test. The greater the involvement in fighting terrorism, the stronger our social immune system will be. Without our mosques, madrasahs and other Malay/Muslim organisations weighing in, we would be in a difficult position today.


5 On the whole, the Malay/Muslim community in Singapore has risen very well to the challenge of globalisation. In all fields, Malay/Muslim Singaporeans have excelled. It is no longer a surprise to see Malay/Muslim students to top examinations. In all the professions, the proportion of Malay/Muslims has gone up. This is reflected in the growth of the Malay/Muslim middle class and its purchasing power.

6 Because Malay/Muslims in Singapore have risen on the basis of merit, they can hold their own anywhere in the world. In recent years, it has become common to see Malay/Muslim Singaporeans hold senior positions in multinational companies both in Singapore and overseas.

7 Recently, a grassroots leader of mine who is spending a year in Australia on a project, emailed me his views about the recent elections in Malaysia. He said he felt proud that he was able to finance his children's university education overseas by his family's own effort. This is a story repeated again and again among Malay/Muslim families. In international science and mathematics tests, Malay/Muslim Singaporeans regularly score very high by international standards.

8 With Singapore becoming more and more an international city like London, the contribution of Malay/Muslim Singaporeans to our economy will grow. Chinese Singaporeans enhance our links to China, Hongkong and Taiwan. Indian Singaporeans enhance our links to South Asia. In a complementary way, Malay/Muslim Singaporeans enhance our links to Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the Middle East. Singapore's multi-racial composition was the result of an earlier period of globalisation under the British. That same mix becomes a huge asset for us in a new age of globalisation in the 21st century. Singapore is hard to beat as a hub of economic and cultural activities because of our racial make-up. Because of good leadership at all levels, down to the grassroots, we are able to turn a weakness into a great strength.

Dysfunctional Families

9 Unfortunately, not all Singaporeans are able to benefit from globalisation. For a variety of reasons, some individuals and some families are not able to cope. They have to be helped. By subsidizing housing, healthcare and education, the Government ensures that there is a minimum safety net. VWOs and religious organisations also lend helping hands. But the key is what these individuals and families are able to do for themselves. In a sense, we must help them to help themselves and strengthen them from within.

10 The problem of dysfunctional Malay/Muslim families is a serious one which we must tackle with determination. The problem has to be analysed dispassionately and objectively so that we can find good, long-term solutions. As those of us who deal with such cases in the mosques, VWOs and meet-the-people sessions know, the underlying causes are usually the same - drugs, divorces, large families with neglected children who turn delinquent.

11 It is good that more and more Singaporeans are devoting time, energy and love to reducing the number of dysfunctional families. It is wonderful that such help often cut across racial and religious divisions. I know many of you here have contributed in ways big and small, often quietly.


12 Good leaders can make a big difference to the well-being of a community or an organisation. Bad leaders in contrast can bring tragedy. We are blessed in Singapore to have good leaders working in MUIS and Mendaki, in our mosques and madrasahs, in the many VWOs, and in our MAEC. This has enabled us to make progress year by year, often painstakingly. In organising our activities, let us always bear in mind our overall goals for the community.

13 I thank you for all the good work that you have done and continue to do.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG


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