Reflections: Malay/Muslims in Singapore – Then, Now, Beyond

July 16, 2006

I recently attended the book launch of Malays/Muslims in Singapore: Selected Readings 1819-1965 at the National Library. This included a panel discussion where Mr Iskandar Mydin, Mr Zulkifli Mohamed, Mr Yang Razali Kassim and Mr Ibrahim Hassan were guest speakers talking about issues concerning the state of Malay development today. Mr. Zainul Abidin Rasheed, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs himself was the Guest of Honour at the event.

I arrived quite late for the event, only wanting to buy the book to read. However, once I heard the last few minutes of the discussion, I knew I had missed out on a lot, especially on the views of the Malay community given by such esteemed and highly intellectual academics of the Malay community of Today. One view which was emphasized by Mr Yang Razali Kassim was the need to cure ourselves from the “minority symdrome” and for a “paradigm shift” in thinking to ensure the continued development of our community.

Something about the book from the National Library Website:

The Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) is pleased to inform you of our upcoming publication -“Malays/Muslims in Singapore: Selected Readings 1819-1965”. The book is edited by Emeritus Professor Dato’ Khoo Kay Kim, Elinah Abdullah and Wan Meng Hao with a foreword by Professor Wang Gungwu. The book will be launched on 15 July 2006.

To open up the avenue that the past has to offer us, a dynamic understanding of history is needed. We wish to extend this spirit in our upcoming book launch where we can share with our fellow Singaporeans our perception of the past, our reading of the present and our positive hope for the future.

The underlying theme of the launch is “reflections”. Reflections will be the act of an honest inquiry into the contributions of the Malay/Muslim community, their cultural interpretations in heritage and sense of activism. There will be a panel discussion made up of a cultural activist, a practitioner in a history-related area and a media practitioner. Each will be offering a short commentary on the relevant chapter in the book, comparing the situation with present times. With this information in hand, they will offer suggestions for the community to forge forward in the respective areas of engagement. We invite you to be part of this historic event.

I simply cannot wait to read the book, especially since it approaches the history of the Malay community of the past academically and intellectually, without influences of governmental and popular stereotypes.

I could help but notice that there were only quite a handful of people who attended the book launch, mostly older academics and Malay professionals who had directly or indirectly contributed to the book. There wasn’t much people of my age listening to the discussion or buying the book. My sister and I, who thought that it was rather a casual event were dressed rather inappropriately for such a formal Malay/Muslim event. Hopefully there are more of such discussions held in the future. Hell maybe I’ll organise one for myself and invite my own speakers, in an effort to contribute to the Malay academic discourse on our community.