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Towards a community of success

Speech by Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs & Minister for the Environment and Water Resources at Minister's Hari Raya Get-Together

Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean,
Deputy Prime Minister Mr Heng Swee Keat, 
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Ms Grace Fu,
Mufti of Singapore, 
Your Excellencies, 
Ladies and gentlemen,

  1. Assalamualaikum wr wb.  Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri. It is my pleasure to welcome you tonight to our annual festive dinner. From this podium, I can see many familiar faces. I see many who have given time and effort to help our community. I see individuals whose achievements have made our community and country proud. And I see friends from other communities, with whom we have enjoyed years of partnership. This is a room full of people who exemplify the virtue of service, who inspire us by their impact on others, and who have made Singapore a better home for all Singaporeans.
  2. One of my other responsibilities is to oversee environmental matters and water resources. Before that I had a stint in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In those roles, I was constantly reminded that Singapore is a small country. Therefore, every policy we put in place seeks to ensure that Singapore punches above its weight, because we believe, as Mr Lee Kuan Yew put it, “we can make up by quality for what we lack in quantity, just as we make up in geographic and strategic location what we lack in size.”1 Today, we are globally renowned for our high levels of development, education, cleanliness. Just last month, it was announced that for the second time in a row, the World Children’s Report named Singapore the best country for the level of healthcare, nutrition, education and safety we can provide for children. But these achievements did not come easy, especially for a country of many and different communities.
  3. Muslims are one of many communities in Singapore – and a minority one at that. Therefore, I was struck that throughout my stint in the Government, many foreign leaders, including those I met in my first year as Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, not only knew of our community, but held us in high regard.  Many scholars and foreign dignitaries are even familiar with our institutions like MUIS and Mendaki. This is no small feat because we often hear of minority communities being described as “VERB” communities, V-E-R-B. V for Victimisation, that they are Entitled, that they need Rescuing, and that they always Blame others for their problems. V-E-R-B, VERB communities.
  4. Muslim minorities everywhere live in times that are challenging. Indeed, this is true even for Muslims in Muslim countries. The Middle East continues to be turbulent. Extremism and violence have been brought to the doorsteps of societies around the world, and the backlash against Muslim immigrants by ultra-nationalist politicians in Western societies have shone a harsh spotlight on Islam and Muslims.  Many Muslim communities who are also minorities not only have to contend with the VERB syndrome, they also have to reckon with challenges that come with having to balance preserving their culture and integrating with society. They suffer from the VERB syndrome, because many Muslims from these communities also grapple with uneven socio-economic growth, and are stuck in an under-class. They lack access to quality education and good jobs. Consequently, and I would say also tragically, many have been influenced to think that living apart and differently from mainstream society is a commendable norm for minority Muslims. Many choose to live as outsiders in their own homeland. If these conundrums are not resolved, these communities will find it harder and harder to become part of the societies they live in. Such communities have proven to be easy entry-points for extremism; some have gone on to perpetrate terrorist attacks in their homeland, as happened in Sri Lanka, Belgium, Paris and London.
  5. But the Singapore Muslim community is not that kind of community. When I was in Egypt three months ago, I met both the Grand Imam of Al Azhar and the Grand Mufti of Egypt. Both of these esteemed Islamic scholars told me how impressed they were with the observance of Islam here, and the harmony in which our Muslim community lived with the rest of Singapore. They felt that our Muslim community was a model of success for other minority Muslim communities living in plural societies.
  6. When I visited the University of Jordan, where a good number of our madrasah students study, I also met the President of the university, Prof Dr Abdel-Karim Al-Qudah. He asked me many questions about our education system, because our students had so impressed him and his colleagues.
  7. Indeed, in the last couple of years, we hosted a number of visitors from the US and European countries who are also grappling with issues of religious harmony and the integration of their Muslim communities. They chose to come to Singapore because they see in our community a model they can learn from. We should be proud of the distinction we have achieved. Allow me to continue in Malay.
  8. Hadirin sekalian, seperti yang diingatkan Mufti dalam khutbah Hari Rayanya, kita di Singapura harus bersyukur bahawa kita dapat menikmati dan melaksanakan kehidupan beragama dalam suasana yang damai di kalangan masyarakat majmuk. Tidak seperti di negara lain, masyarakat kita tidak dipalit imej negatif disebabkan perbuatan kumpulan pengganas walaupun ada yang turut diberkas kerana berpandangan extremis. Namun, apa yang membezakan, ialah kita sama menolak dengan konsisten dan sekeras-kerasnya fahaman pelampau ini. Sikap kita terus berwaspada, bekerjasama dengan pihak agama dan pihak berkuasa untuk membendung masalah dan menanam keyakinan warga. Inilah cara kita buktikan kepada semua bahawa kita, orang Islam mahu hidup aman damai. Justeru, perbezaan masyarakat Melayu/Islam dengan kaum minoriti Islam di banyak negara lain begitu ketara. Dan ini bukan sekadar sikap menolak pengganasan. Kita bersama mengejar kemajuan di negara ini dengan warga lain dan kita tidak menyifatkan diri kita mangsa keadaan. Sebaliknya, kita diyakini dan dihormati masyarakat umum Singapura. Kita bukan masyarakat bermasalah kepada negara. Sebaliknya semakin ramai masyarakat kita maju menyumbang kepada ekonomi dan negara, menjadikan kita masyarakat yang yakin dan dapat menyelesaikan masalah kita sendiri. Malam ini, saya mengajak kita bersama meninggalkan tanggapan negatif kita terhadap masyarakat dan diri kita sendiri. Tidak ada pasukan yang akan menang jika bertemu lawan dengan merasakan serba kekurangan. Tidaklah masuk akal apabila pembesar luar negara memuji pencapaian kita, tetapi kita hanya melihat kepada kelemahan kita. Malam ini, saya mengajak tuan-tuan dan puan-puan bersama dengan berani dan megah mengatakan bahawa kita adalah sebuah Masyarakat Gemilang! Masyarakat Gemilang yang berdiri atas tiga dasar yang kukuh, yang saya singkatkan Dasar 3K, iaitu Keperibadian, Kemahiran dan Kewarganegaraan kita.

    Keperibadian Masyarakat

  9. Keperibadian masyarakat iaitu satu dari ciri 3K yang kita titikberatkan. Jika akhlak mencorak identiti seseorang individu, keperibadian masyarakat pula terbentuk dari kelakuan kolektif setiap individu yang mencerminkan identiti masyarakatnya.
  10. Di Singapura, kita telah lama membina identiti masyarakat kita dengan ciri-ciri Islam dan budaya Melayu. Justeru itu, Identiti Muslim Singapura atau SMI telah diolah MUIS berdasarkan lima kualiti yang berkait rapat dengan prinsip ajaran Islam. Singkatan dalam Bahasa Inggerisnya adalah RICAP. Dalam Bahasa Melayu pula, ‘berdaya tahan dalam hal keagamaan’, ‘bersifat inklusif’, ‘suka menyumbang’, ‘mudah menyesuaikan diri’, dan ‘berfikiran progresif’. Dengan RICAP dan etos Rahmatan Lil Alamin, masyarakat Islam Singapura telah hidup dengan harmoni dengan kaum yang berbeza agama bukan sekadar mengamalkan sikap toleransi, tetapi dengan menghormati pandangan yang berbeza.
  11. Sebagai kaum terbesar dalam masyarakat Islam Singapura, orang Melayu dan budaya Melayu banyak mencorak amalan orang Islam di sini. Selain sopan santun orang Melayu yang masyhur, sifat bergotong-royong dan rajin membantu mereka yang memerlukan adalah nilai orang Nusantara yang harus kita kekalkan dan lestarikan. Ini juga sesuai dengan seruan agama agar kita memperbanyakkan amal jariah, dalam membantu satu sama lain, kerana banyaknya amal adalah ukur sebenar kejayaan orang Islam, bukan setakat banyaknya harta atau besarnya kuasa dan pengaruh kita. Sebaliknya, sebagai masyarakat, pincanglah kita jika semakin ramai dari kita maju, tetapi semakin ramai pula yang hanya mementingkan diri sendiri. 
  12. Justeru, saya sangat gembira dengan sambutan hangat kepada inisiatif M3. Sejak dilancarkan setahun lalu, hampir 200 asatizah, tampil menyokong projek-projek M3 seperti Bersamamu dan Fitrah termasuk dari para Naib Kadi dan kaunselor agama. Saya juga berbesar hati kerana di samping itu, hampir 200 karyawan dan orang awam tampil menjadi sukarelawan untuk berbakti walaupun mereka sibuk mengimbangi pelbagai komitmen lain. Mereka termasuk golongan jurutera, peguam, karyawan teknologi, pendidik, pakar bidang kesihatan, pemimpin kesatuan sekerja, anggota perkhidmatan berseragam, dan banyak lagi. Saya telah mengundang sebahagian daripada mereka hadir malam ini. Ayuh pasukan relawan M³ sila berdiri!
  13. Selain para sukarelawan, telah lama badan-badan Melayu/Islam (MMO) dan India Muslim (IMO) gigih membantu memenuhi keperluan sosial masyarakat kita khususnya golongan yang kurang berdaya. Malah sebahagian besar ditubuhkan lama sebelum adanya MUIS dan Mendaki, dan merupakan nadi penting masyarakat kita, dan memastikan tiada golongan yang terpinggir. Ini termasuk warga tua, wanita dan kanak-kanak yang kurang bernasib baik serta mereka yang sedang menjalani pemulihan. 
  14. Saya ingin merakamkan setinggi-tinggi penghargaan saya kepada semua yang ada di dewan ini atas budi baik dan sumbangan yang anda curahkan kepada masjid, madrasah, MMO dan IMO, serta pegawai perkhidmatan awam kita. Bakti anda kepada masyarakat dan negara, sangat-sangat disanjungi. Kini usaha anda diperkukuhkan lagi dengan tampilnya barisan baru, karyawan yang sama membantu dalam projek-projek M3.
  15. Mungkin ada pula yang mengkritik, apakah kita sudah dapat berbangga hanya kerana karyawan mula ramai tampil ke hadapan. Malah mereka akan berkata lagi kita seharusnya berasa segan menggelar masyarakat kita sebagai Masyarakat Gemilang kerana jumlah karyawan dan yang cemerlang masih jauh lebih kecil berbanding masyarakat lain. Kepada mereka saya katakan, lihat sahaja pada sejarah awal Islam. Meskipun jumlah Muslimin ketika itu kecil, namun mereka dapat mengatasi cabaran yang sangat besar, yang sangat luar biasa apabila mereka bersatu dan yakin. Amatilah peristiwa di mana adakalanya kaum Muslimin tewas meskipun jumlah mereka ramai kerana mereka gagal bersatu hati dan memiliki matlamat yang tidak tepat atau apabila mereka mementingkan diri sendiri.
  16. Keperibadian masyarakat kita yang murni menimbulkan semangat kesatuan yang membuat sumbangan besar kepada masyarakat. Buktinya? Kita mula dengan melihat pada pungutan Zakat kita. Pada 2018, masyarakat kita yang kecil ini menyumbang sebanyak $43 juta kepada MUIS dan membantu ramai keluarga yang memerlukan. Pada tahun lalu juga, masyarakat kecil kita ini menyumbang $18 juta untuk membina masjid. Kalau kita jumlahkan dana untuk pembinaan masjid sejak 1975, jumlahnya melebihi $250 juta. Ini belum termasuk derma yang dihulurkan di masjid-masjid secara seharian, yang jumlahnya juga berjuta-juta dolar. Masyarakat kecil kita, jika mahu membina masjid baru, atau menaiktarafkan masjid yang ada, kita kendalikan sendiri acara mengumpul dana, dan tidak mengharap dana dari pihak luar negara mahupun dari pemerintah. Cuba kita lihat pula pada aset hartanah wakaf yang dikumpulkan oleh generasi perintis kita. Pada 2018, aset wakaf kita sudah bernilai lebih $940 juta. Hasil pulangan wakaf pula telah memanfaatkan ramai umat Islam di Singapura dan di merata dunia. Kalau kita jumlahkan zakat, dana pembinaan masjid dan dana wakaf, masyarakat kecil kita mengendalikan aset-aset yang melebihi satu bilion dolar! Itulah berkat bersatu dari keperibadian masyarakat kita yang dibanggakan. Zakat dan wakaf adalah tanda murah hati masyarakat kita.
  17. Justeru, masyarakat Melayu/Islam kita kuat bukan kerana ramainya yang berpendapatan tinggi dan peniaga jutawan di kalangan kita, tetapi kerana nilai-nilai murni yang kita pegang. Ini terserlah juga dari semangat sukarelawan kita. Walaupun masyarakat kita kecil, kitalah yang paling banyak melakukan kerja sukarela di Singapura. Ini juga keperibadian masyarakat yang kita banggakan.

    Kemahiran

  18. Keperibadian masyarakat itu adalah teras masyarakat gemilang. Namun untuk hidup dengan makmur, kita juga harus mempunyai kemahiran, sebagai individu dan juga anggota masyarakat. Kita harus menjadi masyarakat yang menyumbang, dan bukan sekadar menerima. Contohnya, Puan Bibi Fatima, seorang suri rumah yang terpaksa menggalas tanggungjawab setelah suaminya jatuh sakit dan tidak boleh lagi bekerja. Puan Bibi tidak mahu menjadi beban pada sesiapa. Beliau mengambil kursus menaip, dan mendapat pekerjaan sebagai kerani di SingPost. Berkat usaha gigih untuk mempertingkatkan diri, beliau berjaya menampung keluarganya sehingga anak-anaknya lulus pengajian tinggi – ada di tahap sarjana muda, ada juga yang meraih diploma. Syabas, Puan Bibi Fatima!
  19. Jelas, seperti Puan Bibi Fatima, ciri khas masyarakat Melayu/Islam Singapura ialah mahu mencurahkan segala-galanya pada pendidikan. Kerana masyarakat kita peka bahawa pendidikan menjadi asas kemahiran kita. Hal ini telah kita sedari sejak dahulu lagi, lalu kita menggembleng aset masyarakat untuk memastikan pendidikan yang baik buat anak-anak kita. Ada di kalangan kita mungkin teringat bagaimana pada tahun-tahun 80an, kita berjaya menggandakan peratusan pelajar Melayu/Islam yang berjaya meraih kelulusan dalam lima subjek di GCE ‘O’ dalam masa kurang sedekad. Ini kerana setiap orang Muslim menyumbangkan hanya 50 sen kepada Mendaki setiap bulan untuk membiayai tuisyen yang pelajar kita perlukan pada zaman itu. 
  20. Pada zaman ini pula, Pemerintah komited untuk memberi ruang dan peluang untuk terus meraih kejayaan, agar sesiapa sahaja boleh mencapai potensinya tanpa mengira latar belakang mereka, termasuk mereka yang tertinggal peluang mencapai pendidikan yang sempurna. Contohnya, Encik Firdaus Abdul Hamid. Beliau tidak datang dari keluarga yang senang. Sebagai seorang remaja, Encik Firdaus tidak berpeluang untuk menghabiskan pendidikan menengah. Sebaliknya, beliau terpaksa bekerja untuk menampung keluarganya. Pada 2017 pula, beliau ditimpa kemalangan. Pada masa itu, beliau sedar bahawa kaunseling memainkan peranan yang genting dalam mencorak pemikiran seseorang. Ketika berusia 38 tahun, beliau kembali ke sekolah memburu diploma dalam bidang kaunseling. Untuk membantu menampung yuran sekolah, Encik Firdaus menerima Anugerah Pendidikan Mendaki. Kini, Firdaus memanfaatkan kemahiran barunya untuk mendampingi dan membimbing golongan belia sebagai seorang mentor. Tahniah Firdaus!
  21. atu lagi contoh ialah Encik Arif Rahman yang terpaksa meninggalkan bangku sekolah setelah menduduki GCE Peringkat ‘N’. Beliau melakukan pelbagai pekerjaan, termasuk menjadi pemandu kereta sewa privet. Tetapi, beliau minat pada bidang IT, dan inginkan kerjaya yang lebih baik. Beliau mengikuti Program Penyerapan dan Penempatan Pekerjaan dalam Bidang Teknologi yang dikendalikan IMDA. Kini, beliau merupakan karyawan teknologi dalam syarikat pemula (start-up) block chain antarabangsa. Bagi Arif, kembara pembelajaran sepanjang hayat yang diikutinya sangat menarik dan seronok. Syabas Arif!
  22. Di Singapura, mencapai kejayaan adalah lebih mudah berbanding di negara lain kerana kita ada sistem dan infrastruktur pendidikan bertaraf dunia, dan ia terbuka kepada setiap warga Singapura. Kita ada universiti, politeknik dan ITE yang dibangunkan untuk memacu pertumbuhan di setiap tahap. Justeru, sebagai masyarakat Melayu/Islam, kita mempunyai dua misi. Pertama, kita harus pastikan bahawa setiap pelajar Melayu/Islam boleh sekurang-kurangnya memasuki dan lulus ITE. Ini adalah “garisan merah” iaitu kita tidak mahu sesiapapun mundur di belakang “garisan merah” ini. Kedua, kita harus berusaha bersama supaya semakin ramai dapat melepasi “garisan biru” iaitu memasuki universiti. Kedepan, tugas utama Mendaki bersama masyarakat memastikan “garisan merah” ini terkawal, dan “garisan biru” ini ditingkatkan lagi.
  23. Justeru, MUIS juga akan melabur dalam mempertingkatkan keupayaan profesional bagi sektor agama, dengan bermula dari memastikan seramai-ramainya pelajar agama kita melewati “garisan biru” juga. MUIS akan berusaha lebih dari itu. Awal tahun ini, kami membentuk Jawatankuasa Asatizah Masa Depan (COFA), yang bertanggungjawab untuk memahami tren sosio-agama yang menjejas masyarakat Melayu/Islam, dan memberi saranan mengenai bagaimana kita boleh membangunkan para asatizah untuk menjadi pemimpin masa hadapan yang berkeyakinan. Ini menjangkaui di luar bidang-bidang tradisional di masjid dan madrasah. MUIS akan memastikan agar asatizah sebagai karyawan juga dapat merebut peluang kerjaya yang bermakna dan di laluan-laluan baru.
  24. Kemahiran masyarakat kita akan membuat golongan pekerja kita lebih berdaya tahan dan boleh merebut peluang jika kita terus mempertingkatkan diri, lebih-lebih lagi dalam keadaan ekonomi dunia yang deras berubah. Hari ini, kita harus berbangga kerana semakin ramai anak-anak Melayu/Islam diberi tanggungjawab yang besar dan anak-anak Melayu/Islam memainkan peranan penting dalam kemajuan Singapura di sektor privet dan awam seperti menjadi pengurus besar, sebagai penjawat awam ataupun sebagai pemegang jawatan politik di kementerian-kementerian dan seperti Presiden Halimah Yacob, yang menjadi ketua negara.

    Kewarganegaraan

  25. Sejauh ini, saya telah berkongsi bagaimana kita telah membangunkan masyarakat Islam Singapura dengan keperibadian murni dan kemahiran kukuh. Namun, untuk membangunkan Masyarakat Gemilang, kita juga memerlukan satu lagi sifat “K” yang ketiga, iaitu semangat Kewarganegaraan. Nilai inilah yang akan memperkukuhkan ikatan masyarakat kita kepada warga lain dan meterai masyarakat kita sebagai aset penting kepada Singapura. Justeru, sebagai Masyarakat Gemilang kita tidak harus puas hanya sekadar berintegrasi kerana tahu sifat kewarganegaraanlah yang dapat menyemai kepercayaan antara warga demi mencipta kemakmuran untuk semua dan memperteguh jadi diri kita sebagai anak watan Singapura.
  26. Yang menjadi persoalan adalah apakah model kewarganegaraan orang Islam sebagai masyarakat minoriti? Ini adalah persoalan penting. Oleh kerana ia tidak banyak difikirkan, ramai masyarakat Islam yang hidup sebagai kaum minoriti, kurang faham bagaimana mereka dapat hidup secara rukun dan sejahtera apalagi dalam masyarakat majmuk sambil berpegang teguh pada ajaran Islam. Akibatnya, ramai yang hanya berpaut pada hak beragama dan tidak yakin untuk sempurnakan tanggungjawab sebagai warga dan Muslim yang baik dengan selari. Hasilnya juga, ramai memilih hidup secara terasing. Yang lebih memburukkan keadaan ialah apabila pemerintah atau kaum majoriti memaksa mereka untuk berasimilisasi. Di sini ingin saya berkongsi panduan daripada seorang Ustaz.
  27. Sejarah Islam telah menunjukkan bagaimana masyarakat Islam awal di Habsyah tinggal di negara yang majoriti penduduknya adalah beragama Kristian. Yang kurang kita tahu ialah mereka turut keluar mempertahankan negara itu daripada berbagai serangan dan ancaman musuh. Justeru mereka dihormati dan dilindungi oleh pemimpin dan penduduk asal negara itu yang beragama Kristian. Mereka hidup tanpa penindasan.
  28. Episod dari sejarah ini boleh memberi kita panduan. Jelas, masyarakat Islam Singapura harus dipandu oleh nilai-nilai keagamaan serta kemasyarakatan yang positif. Tetapi ia hanya akan dapat dihargai apabila diterjemahkan menjadi inisiatif serta langkah konkrit yang mana manfaatnya dapat dirasai ramai. Seperti mana kaum Muhajirin di Habsyah keluar perang bersama mempertahankan tanah pelindung mereka, kewarganegaraan masyarakat Islam Singapura serta nilai yang menjadi pegangan mereka akan diukur oleh sejauh mana kehadiran mereka dapat membawa harapan, kesejahteraan serta pembangunan untuk semua. Oleh itu, amat sesuai sekali apabila seorang Muslim hendaknya menjadi ibarat pepohon kurma yang akarnya berpegang teguh pada bumi, manakala pepohon daun dan buahnya dinikmati ramai.
  29. Kita beruntung, kerana kitalah satu-satunya masyarakat minoriti Islam, yang mempunyai tidak kurang dari 4,500 tenaga ahli agama dalam berbagai bidang yang membimbing kita. Lebih 2,500 dari mereka pula merupakan asatizah yang bertauliah. Saya ingin menggalakkan asatizah setempat untuk bekerjasama dengan Pejabat Mufti serta kepimpinan masyarakat yang lain untuk bersama memandu masyarakat Islam Singapura. Matlamatnya adalah memastikan bahawa masyarakat Islam di Singapura dapat terus hidup dengan penuh keyakinan.
  30. Dengan berbekalkan keyakinan keagamaan inilah, kita akan dapat turut sama menyumbang dalam aliran perdana masyarakat Singapura dan mewujudkan sikap kewarganegaraan yang kukuh. Kita tidak lagi disibukkan dengan kebimbangan bahawa menghadiri upacara keagamaan teman atau mungkin saudara sekeluarga yang berlainan agama itu satu masalah keagamaan. Bahkan kita turut sama mengucapkan selamat kepada mereka pada keramaian keagamaan atau budaya mereka. Keagamaan yang lebih jitu, akan meramaikan lagi kita yang aktif menyertai aktiviti sosial sama ada di tempat kerja, kejiranan mahupun sekolah kita.
  31. Kerana sistem dan model yang membolehkan kita mengecapi kehidupan yang makmur sebagai masyarakat minoriti Islam adalah sesuatu yang selalu dipantau dan boleh dikongsi sama, saya ingin mengumumkan satu persidangan di Singapura tentang masyarakat gemilang pada tahun hadapan. Antara lain ia akan membahaskan panduan agama untuk minoriti Islam hidup secara warga yang dihormati. Ini kerana sumbangan MUIS, para alim dan asatizah kita selama ini sangat kaya dari pengalaman, fatwa dan irsyad dan boleh dikupas dan dibangunkan bersama ulama arif dari setiap pelusuk dunia. Singapura boleh beri sumbangan yang bermakna kepada dunia.
  32. Seperti mana kaum Kristian Habsyah bergantung kepercayaan pada kaum Muhajirin, kewarganegaraan dan kepercayaan kita dibuktikan dengan kita berkongsi nilai yang dipegang oleh warga Singapura. Baru-baru ini, saya mengunjungi Pameran 200 Tahun Singapura, dan diingatkan bahawa nilai-nilai tersebut telahpun diterapkan dalam masyarakat kita sejak 700 tahun dahulu. Tiga nilai yang dikongsi bersama, ialah i) keyakinan kita tentang manfaat kepelbagaian budaya, ii) komitmen untuk menentukan nasib kita sendiri, dan iii) keterbukaan kita kepada perubahan. Nilai-nilai ini telah mencorak sikap dan minda orang Melayu/Islam di Singapura juga hingga kita berbeza dengan orang Melayu di Nusantara. Tidak hairanlah, walaupun dialog silang agama belum menjadi satu norma atau kebiasaan di rantau ini, namun, di Singapura, Moulana Abdul Aleem Siddique dengan berpandukan penghayatannya pada ruh Islam, yang pada akarnya bermaksud kedamaian, menganjurkan kerjasama yang lebih baik di kalangan agama yang berlainan, telah mempengaruhi penubuhan Persatuan Silang Agama atau (IRO) 70 tahun yang lalu. 
  33. Semasa lawatan saya ke pameran 200 Tahun Singapura, saya melihat dengan jelas simbol kewarganegaraan orang Melayu/Islam Singapura tertukil dengan pengorbanan Leftenan Adnan Saidi. Leftenan Adnan dan rakan seperjuangannya dari Regimen Melayu menghadapi satu-satunya pertempuran sengit dengan tentera Jepun demi mempertahankan Pasir Panjang. Walaupun Regimen Melayu kekurangan makanan dan air, mereka tidak putus asa dan terus berjuang. Semasa pertempuran itu, Leftenan Adnan ditembak di lengannya, dan walaupun kehabisan peluru, beliau terus menentang musuh hingga ke saat-saat akhir. Malah, beliau bukan sahaja berani, tetapi bijaksana. Antara kisah yang dikongsi mengenai beliau adalah bagaimana beliau berjaya menggagalkan rancangan tentera Jepun untuk menyelinap masuk ke Regimen Melayu dengan memakai seragam British. Saya amat terharu dengan kisah Leftenan Adnan, kerana pengorbanan beliau merupakan contoh terunggul ketiga-tiga “K” yang saya sebutkan, iaitu keperibadian murni, dan kemahiran bermanfaat, manakala sifat kewarga-negaraan Leftenan Adnan pula dibuktikan melalui pengorbanannya mempertahankan negara daripada musuh.
  34. Tokoh seperti Leftenan Adnan serta kisah-kisah inspirasi yang saya kongsikan tadi mencerminkan nilai-nilai yang telah membina Masyarakat Gemilang kita. Sambil kita berhimpun untuk menyambut Hari Raya Aidilfitri pada malam ini, kita juga meraikan pencapaian masyarakat kita yang membanggakan. Kita bukan masyarakat bermasalah, tetapi masyarakat yang mampu menyelesaikan masalah kita sendiri. Kita masyarakat minoriti yang memberi sumbangan yang sangat besar dan bermakna. Bilangan kita yang kecil tidak menjadi hambatan. Tujuan saya malam ini ialah untuk menunjukkan bahawa kita mesti hapuskan sebarang tanggapan negatif kita terhadap masyarakat kita sendiri kerana banyak yang harus kita syukuri dan banggakan. Cabaran akan sentiasa wujud. Namun, seperti askar, kita tidak boleh masuk ke medan pertempuran bersikap ragu-ragu tanpa keyakinan diri. Maka tewaslah kita. Ayuh, kita bangkit dengan semangat baru yang membara berlandaskan keperibadian murni, kemahiran kukuh dan semangat kewarganegaraan yang jitu kerana kita sememangnya Masyarakat Gemilang.
  35. Saya akhiri ucapan saya dengan tiga rangkap pantun,

    Makan nangka makanlah jerami,
    Tinggal seulas ingatlah kami;
    Keperibadian masyarakat, mengukuh silaturahmi, 
    Kemahiran umat memperkukuh ekonomi.

    Maaf dipohon di pagi raya, 
    Sudah menjadi adat nan kawi;
    Kewarganegaraan benteng negara
    Demi Singapuraku bumi pertiwi

    Membeli ketupat di Geylang,
    Dijadikan bekalan anggota tentera; 
    Masyarakat kita Masyarakat Gemilang,
    Berpadulah kita Membangunkan negara. 
  36. Sekian. Terima kasih dan wassalam. 


    English Translation of Malay Speech
  1. As Mufti reminded us during his Hari Raya sermon, Muslims in Singapore should be thankful that we can practice our religion peacefully in a multi-religious society. Unlike in other countries, Muslims are not viewed with suspicion because of the acts of terrorists who claim to be Muslim. Yes, our community too has not been spared from the influences of extremist ideologies. But what differentiates us is that our community condemns such ideologies. Our vigilance against extremism and our cooperation with the authorities to curb problems earn us the trust of others.  This also demonstrates our desire to live harmoniously in a plural society.  Hence, we are very different from other Muslim minority communities. We need not be apologetic for terrorism, nor do we need to see ourselves as victims. We are not liabilities; rather, we contribute to the nation and the economy, and we solve our own problems. We have the trust and respect of society.  Tonight, I want us to cast off our doubts about our community. We need not dwell on our weaknesses, when leaders around the world laud our achievements. In fact, tonight, I invite all of us to proudly say that our community is a Community of Success – a community of character, competence and citizenry, three Cs.

    Character

  2. Let’s start with the first “C” – Character, one that we have emphasised as a community. Morals shape an individual’s identity, and the collective behavior of individuals shape the community’s identity.
  3. In Singapore, we have long developed our own distinct Singapore Muslim Identity, founded on five qualities drawn from the teachings of Islam.  We have an acronym for it in English, RICAP, and it stands for: religious Resilience, Inclusivity, Contributiveness, Adaptiveness and Progressiveness. The RICAP values and the ethos of Blessings to All enable us to live harmoniously in multi-religious Singapore where do not merely tolerate each other, but instead, we respect differing views.
  4. The Malay culture has had a large influence on the practice of Islam here, given that the majority of Muslims in Singapore are Malay. Graciousness and the gotong-royong spirit in helping those in need are traits of the people from our Archipelago, and we should cherish these traits. They are fully in line with Islam’s guidance that success is measured by one’s good deeds, not by our wealth or power. Therefore, as a community, we would have failed if despite having more successful individuals among us, there are more of those who only look out for themselves.
  5. In this regard, I am gratified by the support given to the M³ initiative. Since we launched one year ago, almost 200 asatizah, including naib kadi and religious counsellors, have come forward to support M³ initiatives such as Bersamamu and Fitrah.  I am gratified that another 200 professionals and members of the public have come forward to serve despite having to juggle many other responsibilities and commitments. They include engineers, legal professionals, tech professionals. educators, healthcare professionals, union leaders, uniformed services officers and many more. I have invited some of them here tonight. Team of M3 volunteers, please stand up, and let us give them a round of applause!
  6. Beyond these volunteers, I would be remiss not to point out that many Malay/Muslim and Indian-Muslim Organisations have long dedicated themselves tirelessly to addressing the social needs of the community, particularly the vulnerable. Many pre-date MUIS and Mendaki, and are important nodes in the community. They ensure that no one gets left behind – this includes the elderly, vulnerable women, underprivileged children, and those in need of rehabilitation.
  7. I wish to express my deepest appreciation to everyone in this room – for your contributions to our mosques, our madrasahs, our MMOs and IMOs, and to public service. Your contribution to the community and country is much appreciated. And now your efforts are further strengthened by a new group of professionals who have stepped forward to help in M³ projects.
  8. Now, the more critical among us may question if we can be proud simply because our professionals have started to come forward. They would also point out that the number of professionals in our community is much smaller than that in others, and ask if we should really be referring to ourselves as a Community of Success. To them I will say, take a leaf from the early days of Islam. Even though Muslims were small in number then, they overcame extraordinary obstacles when they were united and confident. But there were also instances when great defeats were suffered despite there being large numbers of Muslims, because they were divided, selfish and unable to work together towards a common goal.
  9. The good character of our community can be further seen in the solidarity in our community’s giving. The proof? Take the Zakat contributions paid to MUIS for example. In 2018, our community contributed $43 million to MUIS to help vulnerable Singaporean households. In the same year, our small community contributed $18 million towards mosque building. If we tally the contributions made towards mosque building since 1975, the amount exceeds $250 million. This does not even include the donations made directly to mosques on a daily basis, which are in the millions!  Today, when we want to build a new mosque or upgrade an old one, we conduct our own fundraising events, and are not reliant on donations from abroad or from the Government. Let’s look at our wakaf assets next. In 2018, the value of the wakaf assets of the Muslim community stood at over $940 million.  The returns from wakaf have benefited many Muslims in Singapore, as well as those around the world. If we combine zakat, mosque building funds and wakaf, we are managing assets that amount to over one billion dollars! This must surely be the result of the cohesiveness of our community and the strength of its character. Zakat and wakaf are surely signs of our community’s generosity.
  10. We were able to raise these funds not because there are many high-income earners or millionaires amongst us, but because of our values. Malay/Muslims also punch above our weight in the volunteerism sector; we have the highest volunteerism rate of all communities in Singapore2. This is something we are proud of.

    Competence

  11. Good character is the basis of a community of success. But to lead lives of dignity, we also need to be competent, as individuals, and as a community. We should be a community that contributes, not a community that merely takes. For example, Mdm Bibi Fatima, a housewife who had to step up after her husband became ill and could no longer work. Mdm Bibi refused to be a burden to others. She took courses to learn how to type, and got a job as a clerk in SingPost. Through her determined efforts to upskill, she managed to take care of her family, and put her children through school. All three of them have now graduated with degrees and diplomas to their name. Congratulations, Mdm Bibi Fatima!
  12. Like Mdm Bibi Fatima, the Malay/Muslim community in Singapore chooses to invest in education because we know it is the foundation of competence. We recognised this decades ago, when we pooled our assets as a community to ensure that our children have good education. Some of you will remember how, in the ‘80s, we succeeded in doubling the percentage of Malay/Muslim students who achieved at least 5 GCE “O” Level passes in less than one decade.  This was because every Muslim agreed to donate 50 cents every month towards Mendaki, so our students could have the tuition they needed at the time.
  13. Today, the Government is commitment is to provide pathways and opportunities so that all Singaporeans can fulfil their potential, regardless of their background, including those who did not have the opportunity to complete their education. Take for example, Mr Firdaus Abdul Hamid.  Mr Firdaus did not come from a privileged background. As a youth he had no opportunity to complete his secondary school education, and had to take up odd jobs to support himself and his family. In 2017, Mr Firdaus unfortunately met with a traffic accident. During his hospitalisation, he realised the critical role that counselling played in supporting recovery, and what he was going through made him more empathetic towards others, and more resolved to help others. After his recovery, he sought to plug gaps in the social support system. At the age of 38, Mr Firdaus decided to go back to school to obtain a diploma in counselling. To alleviate his financial burden as he headed back to school, Mr Firdaus received the Mendaki Study Award.  Mr Firdaus now uses his new skillsets to mentor and guide our youths. Well done Firdaus!
  14. Another example is Mr Arif Rahman, who had to leave school after taking the GCE “N” Levels. For a time, he did odd jobs, including working as a private-hire car driver. But he had a keen interest in IT, and wanted better career prospects. So he signed up for the Tech Immersion and Placement Programme. Today, he is a tech professional and has a job in an international block-chain start-up, which he describes as an exciting, never-ending learning journey. Congratulations Arif!
  15. In Singapore, the formula for success is simpler than in many other countries because we have a world-class education system that is made available to every Singaporean. We have universities, polytechnics and ITEs set up to facilitate education at every level. As a community, we have two missions. One, we need to make sure that all Malay/Muslim students can, at the very least, enrol and graduate from an ITE. This must be the red-line, and we must not allow our students to fall behind it. Two, we must strive to get as many of our students as possible to reach the blue-line, that is, to get into university. Mendaki must continue to work with the community to make sure that we hold our red-line and push our blue line for all our students in the national schools.
  16. Similarly, MUIS will invest in uplifting professionalism and building new capabilities and capacity in the religious sector. It was start by ensuring that as many religious students as possible reach the blue-line. Earlier in the year, we formed the Committee on Future Asatizah (COFA), which was tasked with understanding the socio-religious trends impacting the Malay/Muslim community, and making recommendations on how we can develop asatizah who are confident leaders of the future. This would also allow asatizah to take advantage of new career opportunities and pathways beyond traditional areas in the mosque and madrasah, and evolve to serve our community more effectively.
  17. Our competence will help our workers stay resilient in volatile times. Today, we should be proud that more of our young generation are taking on greater responsibilities, and that the Malay/Muslim community plays an integral role in Singapore’s progress: from the private sector to the public sector, from general managers and CEOs, and political offices from Ministers to President Halimah Yacob.

    Citizenry

  18. So far, I have talked about how we have developed Singaporean Muslims with good character and competence. However, to truly be a community of success, we also need the third “C”: citizenry. Citizenry is what binds the community to other citizens, and vice versa.  It is what makes our community an asset to Singapore. We cannot be satisfied merely with peaceful coexistence with other communities. There must be active efforts made to build trust and friendship across racial and religious lines, to enable all communities to conceive of the common good, and to nurture a deep sense of belonging to Singapore, our home.
  19. The question is whether there is a model of citizenry for Muslims living as minorities. This is an important question. Because it is not well thought through, many minority Muslim communities cannot comprehend how they can live harmoniously with others while practicing their religious norms.  Many cling onto religious rituals and practices but have only a shallow understanding of understanding.  They do not have the discernment and confidence to be both good Muslims and good citizens. Consequently, they choose to isolate themselves. But isolation is never a practical solution. In some countries, the situation is worsened when the government or the majority forces them to assimilate. Let me share a lesson I received from an Ustaz.
  20. Islamic history has shown how the early Muslim community in Abyssinia stayed in a predominantly Christian-majority country. What is not commonly known is that they also fought alongside their Christian countrymen to defend the country from attacks and threats. Thus, they were respected and protected by their leaders and the indigenous Christian residents, and lived without discrimination.
  21. We can draw good lessons from this episode of our history.  We may pride ourselves on the religious and social values we hold as a Muslim community, but such values can only be appreciated when they are brought to life through initiatives that benefit everyone. This is similar to how the people of Muhajirin in Abyssinia went to war to defend the land of those who protected them. The citizenry they exhibited contributed to the peace and development for the country as a whole. Therefore, one could say that a Muslim should be akin to a date tree – its firmly anchored roots nourish, but do not hinder, the glorious crown and fruit and that provide shade and enjoyment to others.
  22. Our asatizah are critical in nurturing a discerning and confident community. We are fortunate that, even though we are a minority community, we have an asatizah community of more than 4,500 who can guide us in various religious fields, of which more than 2,500 hold at least a diploma in Islamic studies. I would like to encourage our asatizah to work with the Office of Mufti as well as other community leaders to guide the Singapore Muslim community, so that Muslims in Singapore can go about their religious practice with confidence.
  23. Having the discernment and confidence in the soundness of our practice of Islam nurtures a strong sense of citizenry, and enables us to continue contributing to mainstream Singapore society. We do not have to worry if it is a religious problem to attend milestone celebrations or life events of friends or even family members of a different faith. In fact, we should wish them well during their festivals.  More confidence in our faith will also allow more of us to participate actively in social activities at our workplaces, neighbourhoods and schools.
  24. The system and model that has allowed us to live prosperously and harmoniously as a Muslim minority community is well-regarded internationally, and should be shared with others. As such, I intend to hold a conference on the theme of being a community of success next year. It will discuss the development and application of religious guidance for Muslim minorities who wish to live as dignified and contributing citizens in their societies. MUIS, as well as our religious scholars and asatizah, can contribute their wealth of experience, fatwa and irsyad. These can be discussed by other religious scholars around the world. This can be Singapore’s contribution to the world.
  25. Just as the Muhajirin Muslims earned the complete trust of their non-Muslim countrymen in Abyssinia, it is our citizenry and belief in shared values that enable us to be one with the other communities in Singapore. Recently, I visited the Singapore Bicentennial Exhibition, and was reminded of the values that have already been inculcated in our community since 700 years ago. First, our confidence in our place in our multicultural society; second, our commitment to determine our own destiny; and third, our willingness to embrace change. These have shaped the attitudes and worldview of the Malays in Singapore, and we are distinct because of it.  For instance, interfaith dialogues are not a norm in this region.  However, in Singapore, the late Moulana Abdul Aleem Siddique, guided by his knowledge of Islam, which in its essence means peace, preached greater cooperation amongst religions, and his efforts eventually led to the formation of the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) 70 years ago.
  26. During my visit to the Singapore Bicentennial Experience exhibition recently, I could see the strong sense of citizenry of the Malay/Muslims in Singapore in the sacrifice made by Lieutenant Adnan Saidi. Lieutenant Adnan and his comrades from the Malay Regiment faced an intense battle against the Japanese to defend Pasir Panjang. Even though they were facing shortages of food and water, they did not give up and continued to fight on. During the battle, Lt Adnan was shot and ran out of ammunition, but he continued to battle his enemies in hand-to-hand combat till the very end. Lt Adnan was not only courageous; he was also intelligent.  One of the surviving anecdotes from that battle is that he foiled the Japanese attempt to sneak past the Malay Regiment in uniforms stolen from the British Indian Army. Lieutenant Adnan’s story stays with me, because his sacrifice is the highest example of the three “C”s that I have mentioned – character, competence, as well as citizenry, proven in his sacrifice to defend the country from its enemy.
  27. Individuals like Lieutenant Adnan and the other inspirational stories that I have shared are examples of the qualities exhibited by individuals that have built our Community of Success. We gathered tonight to celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri, but we also celebrate our Malay/Muslim community. We are not a community of problems, but a community that solves problems. Our small number is not an obstacle. My aim today is to show that as a community, we should not look down on ourselves, because we have a lot to be proud of. Life will always bring challenges. For Singapore, we cannot forge ahead if we have no confidence in ourselves. If we start feeling less than others, we will certainly fail. Therefore, we must remember that we are a community with the strength of character, with the competence to contribute, and with a strong sense of citizenry. We are Community of Success. 
  28. Allow me to end with a few pantun,

    When you have some jackfruit to eat  
    Don’t forget us, share readily  
    Character warms our communal relationship 
    While our competence strengthens the economy 

    On the morning of Hari Raya we seek forgiveness 
    In a long-upheld tradition
    With our citizenry we build a fortress  
    For our Singapore, for our nation 

    The ketupat we buy in Geylang 
    Give us the fighting strength 
    Our community is a Community of Success
    When we are united for our homeland
  29. Thank you and peace be upon you. 


1 Speech by Mr Lee Kuan Yew at the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, Serangoon Gardens, 11 Dec 1965

2 “Individual Giving Study 2018”, National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre, 16 May 2019.


Speeches Community 2019
Last updated on 20 June 2019