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

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.


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

  1. Faris Ilmiya says:

    I just discovered your blog a few moments ago….
    I am quite intrigued by the issues that have been raised pertaining to the Bangsa.
    I dare say that most if not all my views mirror yours….
    I was part of the Student Council in my Junior College and I joined because I thought that I could make the difference and give power to the people and the minorities. I was wrong.
    The Student Council was a horrifying image of a decandent Parliament or Senate with certain individuals controlling more political and social clout than others and there were political factions that fought for power. I was the lone voice for the oppressed and their branded me as the much hated sole opposition councillor amidst their desire to control events and others to their liking. They resent me for fighting against the rich and the powerful and for being proud of being Malay despite my mixed ancestry and for being a Muslim. I was a victim of a controversy concerning Catholic High bloggers who wrote racist comments and was constantly plagued by a traitor of the Malay race by his rumour-mongering. I been through hell and back when I fought in their political games and always never seem to lose to an extent as they expected. After all, the lone voice of social righteousness is easily identified by others and strongly opposed by people with a vested interests to maintain the status quo of their political and social hegemony over others. Me fellow councillors had the power to discriminate openly against the Indians but could only do so secretly against the Muslims and Malays while I was in their midst. I know that you or some others may call me folly for jeopardising my political or social or economic aspirations but I feel that something must be done by potential members of the so-called “Malay Intellectual Elites” to reverse their pathethic trend of social apathy towards their brothers. I am proud to be a Malay and I will never stop fighting for greater clout and acceptance by the mainstream. I often feel sad when people from other races asked whether I was Indian or Eurasian or even Thai or Burmese. The look on their faces when I said I was a Malay and proud of it gave the impression that the majority are in a disgusting state of denial of the true potential of the Malays.

  2. Faris Ilmiya says:

    I would therefore seek to meet you, maybe in the near future and discuss our common interests and beliefs. I feel that the time of the Malays is coming but whether the people would be willing to accept the mandate of Allah of their destiny is another matter. The saddest thing that could ever happen is if the Malays deny such an opportunity and even ridicule their leaders who wish to change their mindsets and lead them to a path of greatness that they rightfully deserved. Thank you.

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