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Stronger together, forging ahead towards the future

Speech by Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs at the 2018 Committee of Supply debate
08 March 2018

Introduction

1. Sir, our Malay/Muslim community has been an integral part of our country from Singapore’s beginning. Our journey has been Singapore’s journey. We strived hard to forge a better life and household incomes grew. The community – from mothers and fathers to Cikgu in every classroom – put great emphasis on education as never before, and significant progress was made.  

2. Our community also emphasised mutual help and cooperation, especially in times of need. The spirit of gotong-royong was the driving force behind our community’s setting up of Singapore’s first Self-Help Group in 1982 to uplift education outcomes. Today, MENDAKI’s education programmes support over 20,000 students every year. Our community also worked hand in hand with our Government to build the legal and institutional foundations of our socio-religious life through the Administration of Muslim Law Act, or AMLA. 

Our challenges

3. Sir, this generation faces challenges no less trying than in the past. We are in the midst of another economic transformation, brought about by a digital revolution no less fundamental than the industrial revolution. We must prepare our industries and our workers for the future economy, and we must make sure that no one is left behind. 

4. We must also face an ongoing threat to our faith. The spread of extremist ideologies abetted by social media and the acts of terror by ISIS have set Muslims against non-Muslims in many societies. Misguided religious preachers have spread insidious ideologies preaching segregation and a rejection of a modern life and the secular state. This is surely the road to alienation, marginalisation and ruin. In Singapore, we must stand united against such ideologues and ideologies, and against Islamophobia.  

5. Sir going forward, we have three key strategies. First, we will continue our efforts to support our families and children, with an emphasis on early childhood education and helping the vulnerable. Second, we will enhance the socio-religious foundations of the community, by strengthening religious education and our key community institutions. And thirdly, we will build a future-ready community that embraces technology.

Supporting our families and children

6. Sir, we want to ensure that every child has the best start in life. Good early childhood education is critical for a child’s long-term development. We urge our parents to send their children to quality preschool education. 
 
7. To Mr Saktiandi Supaat’s question, the importance of early childhood education is why MENDAKI has, in recent years, focused more on supporting the development of our children between ages 0 to 6 years old. Last year, MENDAKI held its inaugural Education Symposium, supported by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) and the Learn SG seed fund. Over 250 participants benefited from discussions ranging from learning through play to preparing for primary school. 

8. Following the symposium, Mdm Irma Iryanti Juri, an adjunct lecturer at SEED Institute, which trains early childhood professionals, and Mdm Shaireen Selamat, a doctoral researcher from the University of Warwick, volunteered to lead the setting up of a network of professionals and educators from the preschool sector to share best practices and learn from each other. Today, this network has become the MENDAKI Alliance of Preschool Professionals, or MAPP, comprising about 30 professionals who actively support MENDAKI’s School-Ready programmes. Mdm Irma and Mdm Shaireen are examples of passionate individuals taking the initiative to make a difference.

9. Sir, given this encouraging response, MENDAKI will be organising a second run of the Education Symposium and a Playfest for Preschoolers next month. Playfest aims to generate awareness about the benefits of play, and provide parents with ideas on setting up an age-appropriate stimulating learning environment at home. 

10. We want to help more low-income families enroll their children into full-day childcare, as this provides a conducive environment for the child’s development. The “Back-to-Work Women” programme is a key strategy in this effort, as it aims to help mothers to be gainfully employed. Besides enhancing the family’s income, they will be able to tap on more childcare subsidies, and quality preschool education will indeed be more affordable. MENDAKI will also work with ECDA and MSF on ways to study how we can assist low-income families enroll their children in quality childcare and preschool education.  

11. Both Mr Saktiandi and Assoc Prof Fatimah Lateef asked about how we can best support our students’ education. Sir, 20 years ago, less than half of Malays entered post-secondary educational institutions. Today, almost all Malay students do so. We are committed to help as many as we can, to ensure that our young have a brighter future, and can access more opportunities than before. For primary and secondary school students, the MENDAKI Tuition Scheme, or MTS, offers highly subsidised tuition sessions for students from lower income families. For the past 5 years, MTS has been helping over 10,000 students every year, across 89 centres island-wide. 

12. To Assoc Prof Fatimah’s question about students who face challenges in receiving help from Self-Help Groups, MENDAKI provides a wide range of assistance schemes, as long as they meet the criteria. Any Muslim student can apply to MENDAKI for interest-free study loans and a wide range of bursaries and scholarships, while the best students, who excel in both academic and non-academic areas, would receive the Anugerah MENDAKI award. Sir, MENDAKI also administers the Education Trust Fund that supports the lower income. Since 2003, $22.9 million from the Fund has been disbursed to support 91,000 students from preschool all the way ITE.  

13. As Mr Saktiandi mentioned, a key Government policy that supports the education of low-income Malay students is the Tertiary Tuition Fee Subsidy scheme, or TTFS. Mr Muhammad Azhari Bin Mohammad Zain is one beneficiary who, despite his challenging financial circumstances, graduated with First Class Honours in Biological Science from Nanyang Technological University. He is now a scientist at AVA. We are committed to helping all who deserve and seek assistance. 

14. In this regard, I am pleased to announce that we will revise the TTFS income eligibility criteria. Sir, we recognise that the Per Capita Income, or PCI, of families have risen over the last few years. As such, we are revising the income bands upwards:

a. Students from households with PCI of $1,400 and below will receive 100% subsidy, 
b. those with PCI between $1,400 and $1,700 will receive 75% subsidy, and 
c. those with PCI between $1,700 and $2,000 will receive 50% subsidy.

15. Sir, the revisions will take effect for Academic Year 2018/2019. MENDAKI will provide more details. 

16. Sir, Mr Muhammad Faisal Abdul Manap spoke about the Malay identity. For such matters, the Government takes a practical approach bearing in mind the interest of the community and the wider society. No matter how Malayness is defined, what matters is how we grow and sustain a strong community. In this regard, the quality of our Malay/Muslim Organisations, or MMOs, is indeed critical. I am glad that many of our MMOs, and even our mosques, are serving not only our community, but also reaching out to non-Malay/Muslims. MMOs like Jamiyah, 4PM and PPIS offer assistance to those in need, regardless of race or religion. Such efforts must continue, and as a community, we must support the good work of our MMOs. 

17. Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar and Mr Azmoon Ahmad asked about the Malay/Muslim Community Development Fund, or MMCDF, which was established to support all MMOs. The MMCDF has evolved over the years. In its last review in 2014, the Government reallocated a portion of the matching grant for MENDAKI and AMP towards increasing its matching grant for the MMCDF, to provide greater support to MMOs that have less resources. The MMCDF also shifted its focus towards helping organisations build their capabilities. 

18. Between 2015 and 2017, $10 million were disbursed, benefiting around 55 partners per year. Some of the initiatives that receive MMCDF funding include the Debt Advisory Centre by AMP, the Rising Star Project by PERTAPIS, and the Family Therapy Institute by PPIS. Sir, these are key projects that serve the community in important areas, and I strongly urge and encourage our community organisations to continue tapping on MMCDF.  

19. While we support our established MMOs, I share Dr Intan’s view that we must also provide the opportunities and support for our talented youths to step up and contribute to the greater good of both the community and society. MENDAKI has several platforms to support this. The CLF LABS allow youth-led organisations and groups to test-bed innovative ideas with MENDAKI’s seed funding. The inaugural Socialthon, held last July, brought together close to 100 youths to develop solutions in areas such as start-up culture, health and technology. These platforms will help our youth hone their ideas and leadership skills, with the community and Singapore at heart. 

20. Sir, strong families are critical to the well-being of children. While the proportion of minor marriages has declined from 10% of Muslim marriages in 2007 to 3.6% in 2017, this group still needs support. We amended AMLA last year to make it compulsory for minor couples to complete marriage preparation programmes and to obtain consent from parents or guardians, prior to making an application for marriage. So, to reply Ms Rahayu Mahzam, MSF is working with ROMM and INSPIRASI Hubs. The Hubs are centres dedicated to preparing minor and young couples for marriage, and to raise awareness of these new requirements and the importance of marriage preparation and parental support. MSF is also working with the Hubs to enhance the marriage preparation curriculum. The new requirements will apply to minor marriage applications from 1st October this year. The programme will benefit about 200 minor couples every year.

21. Sir, to better support step-families, MSF will work closely with PPIS Vista Sakinah, the centre for remarriages and stepfamilies. Vista Sakinah will collaborate with agencies serving low-income step-families and waive the remarriage preparation programme fees for their participation. They will provide step-family awareness talks at key touch points, such as our mosques and other community agencies, and leverage on social media and radio. Additionally, Vista Sakinah will enhance its programme effectiveness by strengthening its evidence-based content, building trainer capabilities, and enhancing its programme evaluation. 

Laying strong foundations for our community

22. Sir, our community is committed to developing strong institutions to support the socio-religious life of our community. 

23. So, I wish to assure Mr Zainal Sapari and Mr Amrin Amin that we are committed to continually enhance our full-time madrasahs. Our madrasahs play a dual role in nurturing future asatizah for the community, and in preparing those who opt for careers in the non-religious sectors. I will share plans to strengthen two of our madrasahs.

24. Madrasah Wak Tanjong, founded by the late Ustaz Mohd Noor bin Taib, is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. Its students have a history of excelling in religious studies, and taking up religious leadership roles. One example is Ustazah Hilwani binte Mohammad Abdul Halim. She is the daughter of the late Ustaz Mohammad Abdul Halim, who was the Principal of Madrasah Wak Tanjong for 5 years. She does her late father proud by teaching Islamic Jurisprudence and Arabic at Madrasah Wak Tanjong. Hilwani holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Islamic Jurisprudence from the University of Jordan, but she is determined to better herself as a teacher. She is now enrolled in a specialist diploma programme in Applied Learning and Teaching at Republic Polytechnic under MUIS’ sponsorship, and will graduate in August this year. So, we wish Hilwani all the best and look forward to her wider contributions to the community. 

25. Sir, I am pleased to share that MUIS will be providing Madrasah Wak Tanjong with a Comprehensive Assistance Package that includes an extension of its lease at its current premises, and the provision of additional funding to strengthen its curriculum and professional development. The strong support signals MUIS’ ongoing commitment to further professionalise and strengthen the madrasah sector as a whole. 

26. Sir, I am also happy to present the design of the new Madrasah Al-Arabiah Al-Islamiah campus. It has a sustainable and green design that is complemented with Islamic and nusantara architecture. MUIS will hold a project launch later this month, and has committed $10 million for this project. So, I urge the community to support the madrasah’s fund-raising efforts, to ensure that the campus can be operational by 2020. 

27. Sir, as we strengthen the infrastructure of our madrasahs, we pay close attention to curriculum development and teacher training. First, the introduction of a Government-supported financial incentives for madrasah teachers in secular subjects has benefited more than 170 teachers. Similarly, over 500 students received the Madrasah Student Awards just last month in recognition of their educational excellence.

28. Second, Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah is on track to offer a small cohort of 27 students an International Baccalaureate curriculum in 2019. School leaders, IB coordinators and teachers have been hard at work in equipping themselves with the necessary skills and qualifications. 

29. Third, MUIS has worked with the madrasahs to strengthen the holistic development of their students, so that they are exposed to areas such as youth volunteerism, service learning projects and outdoor education. Sir, we want our students to go beyond the classroom, to interact with and contribute to the larger Singapore society.

30. Sir Chairman, our madrasah graduates are our future asatizah. In this regard, we have been looking into plans to develop an Islamic college in Singapore. Dr Intan Azura and Dr Fatimah asked for an update. In recent months, officials from MUIS and myself visited institutions of higher learning in the Middle East such as in Egypt, Jordan and Turkey, as well as universities in multi-religious, plural societies, such as the US and Canada, to study the different models of tertiary Islamic education. 

31. So, for example, both Al-Azhar University and the University of Jordan traditionally produce religious teachers, while the latter also trains its students with broad-based skills for employability in the non-religious sector for the wider economy. The Turkish universities take an academic approach in teaching classical Islamic sciences and the humanities, while its Diyanet, or the Turkish central religious authority, like a MUIS, separately provides religious vocational training. On the other hand, Zaytuna College and Notre Dame University in the US, and McGill University in Canada, take a rigorous, academic approach to produce scholars. The different learning approaches provide useful learning points and each is suited to its own society and context. An Islamic college in Singapore would adapt appropriate features from overseas institutions, so that we will, in time, produce Islamic teachers and scholars who balance a deep learning of the Islamic sciences with broad-based skills and knowledge, and more importantly are rooted in the belief and the practice of Islam in Singapore’s multi-religious and multi-racial context. 

32. Sir, we also took the opportunity to meet our Singaporean students studying in these institutions. The students highlighted how social issues have become more complex and perspectives are more diverse. They emphasised how, for Singapore, religious teachers must be able to guide Muslims in living out the religion as members of our modern, plural society. They shared their concerns about employability, safety, and the cost of education. Sir, I appreciate their frank views, which we will consider carefully in developing a high quality tertiary education. 

33. Sir, I believe we can succeed in developing our very own Islamic college. It would not be easy. But with hard work and taking time to carefully study this undertaking, I am confident we can develop an institution that will nurture future asatizah whom our community looks up to, and supports wholeheartedly. Sir, in the coming months, MUIS will be engaging the community for their views, so that our first Islamic college in Singapore will be a centre of excellence for the learning of Islam that we can all be proud of.

34. While we plan for the future of religious education, we wish to encourage talented young asatizah to engage our youths. So, I agree with Mr Zainal Sapari that we must inoculate our young from extremist and segregationist views. We must not allow such ideologies to take root in Singapore. We must start early and focus on upstream work. The Asatizah Youth Network, or AYN, was formed last year with 11 asatizah to offer support and guidance to our youths on social media as well as the first touch point for those in doubt. Ustaz Tarmizi Wahid belongs to this pioneer batch. He is the CEO and founder of Safinah Institute, a private Islamic learning centre with a strong digital media presence, especially on Instagram. Safinah also operates a digitally device-friendly platform called Soul Academy, where participants can virtually interact and discuss issues with trainers and peers. 

35. Sir, the AYN has been active in increasing outreach both online and offline. In October 2017, they collaborated with the Religious Rehabilitation Group, or RRG, and PERGAS to organise a Seminar on Strengthening the Religious Resilience of the Singapore Muslim Community for about 300 asatizah and community leaders. In December, they produced a video series #TheProphetIKnow, featuring the AYN asatizah promoting the values that the Prophet stood for and how Muslims contribute to the larger society. This video production was done following AYN’s participation in a workshop on effective counter-narrative and digital engagements conducted by Google Singapore. Over the next 5 years, MUIS aims to grow the AYN membership, conduct drop-in sessions for youths at Al-Falah Mosque in Orchard Road, and continue training asatizah in digital media engagements and counselling techniques to counter youth radicalism.

36. Sir, MUIS is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. In fact, MUIS was formed on 1st of July 1968. MUIS has grown its scope of work in serving the socio-religious needs of the community. This includes increasing prayer spaces in mosques, distributing zakat and facilitating hajj and korban. In doing so, MUIS has endeavoured to maintain strong partnerships with stakeholders. September 11, the spectre of extremism and the emergence of charismatic Internet-age radical ideologues have made MUIS’ mission all the more difficult. But MUIS has stayed the course in nurturing a Singapore Muslim Identity – one that honours the Islamic faith, the aspirations of our community, and the relationships and the identities that bind us to Singapore, our home. 

37. Dr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim asked about plans for this significant milestone. The theme “Semarak Langkah, Berjiwa Rahmah” or “Striving with Confidence, Serving with Compassion” is apt in portraying the spirit of MUIS’ service to the community. Sir, MUIS will be holding a special MUIS 50 Dinner and Awards Ceremony, and present awards that honour individuals who have been instrumental to MUIS and Singapore, and also who inspire our youth. MUIS will also hold an International Religious Conference at the end of the year to rally the community on the important role of religious scholars and institutions in shaping a progressive religious life. MUIS is currently engaging the community through the ongoing MUIS50 conversations for ideas to strengthen MUIS for the future. Sir, more details will be shared at MUIS’ Work Plan Seminar next month.

Forging a future-ready community

38. Sir let me elaborate on our third strategy of forging a future-ready community. Ms Rahayu Mahzam asked about what more can we do to support our students and workers. MENDAKI partnered the three ITE colleges for its Future First Programme, or FFP. Benefitting about 240 ITE students currently, the FFP complements ITE’s education and career guidance and life skills curriculum. MENDAKI will be expanding the programme to even more ITE students, partnering Polytechnics and the wider youth community. And this would include the launch of a Future-Ready Starter Kit in August 2018 on workplace expectations, and strategies to remain relevant in the future economy.  

39. With improving educational attainment by Malay students, we have seen a higher proportion of PMETs in the Malay workforce. The proportion of PMETs has increased from one in four in 2007 to one in three in 2017, with a majority in education, health, social services and public administration. Of these, about two thirds are associate professionals and technicians. We also see that Malays have a higher than proportional share of placements under the Adapt and Grow initiative, which includes the career centres run by Workforce Singapore and NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute.

40. Sir, we want to help our workers and encourage skills upgrading. So I have asked Senior Parliamentary Secretary Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim and Parliamentary Secretary Amrin Amin to lead a PMET Outreach Committee to create a support network for Malay/Muslim PMETs’ retraining and employability needs. The Committee has leveraged on key platforms such as SENSE PMET Jobfair@Grassroots Club and the “Secangkir Kopi bersama MENDAKI” dialogue and networking sessions. The Committee produced and distributed more than 3,000 copies of the “Handy Guidebook for PMETs” to raise awareness on support schemes. The Committee intends to do more engagements, with 4 “JUMP! Career Fairs” to offer assistance and raise awareness about growth sectors in Singapore. 

41. Sir, as Mr Zaqy Mohamad has highlighted, digitalisation is a key driver of growth in the future economy, and our community must adapt quickly to remain relevant and competitive in this age of disruptive technology.

42. MUIS and MENDAKI have already started using digital tools to improve service delivery and accessibility. For example, MUIS has placed the Asatizah Recognition Scheme, or ARS, procedures online, on the LicenceOne portal to make it easier for registration and to undertake data analytics on the asatizah sector. MENDAKI’s Tuition Scheme Online Programme Registration System and Loan Management System have enhanced user convenience and organisational productivity. And in fact, the data collected through the tuition registration enables the team to analyse the profiles of students and their families, and help MENDAKI to tailor programmes and outreach according to the students’ performance. 

43. Sir, I am pleased to share that MENDAKI has set up a Digital Transformation Department that will help facilitate the digital transformation of our MMOs, so that the community can ultimately benefit. One MMO that has started its digitalisation journey is PPIS. PPIS currently serves about 500 students across 7 centres and they want to attract more families with preschool going children. So PPIS is partnering MENDAKI on a data-analytics project to better understand the profiles and the needs of client families, so that PPIS can offer higher quality and relevant services.

44. Sir, going digital is vital for our SMEs too. I had the opportunity to engage members of the Singapore Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, or SMCCI. It is heartening to see Malay/Muslim SMEs such as Frozi, an F&B establishment that serves frozen yogurt, and Spear Security Force, a security company, making good progress with their first use of digital solutions to increase revenue and improve productivity. We want to encourage more, if not all, Malay/Muslim SMEs to take that first critical step. We have been working with SME Centre@SMCCI, supported by IMDA’s SME Digital Tech Hub, to organise workshops for members. With SMCCI taking the lead to help their members tap on IMDA’s SMEs Go Digital programme, I believe more Malay/Muslim SMEs will come on board. 

45. Sir, we can also use digital technology to harness the richness of our heritage and culture. Kampong Glam has historically been an open community and welcomes people of different ages and cultures. We want to see if we can enhance the customer and retail experience and transform the overall visitor experience at Kampong Glam. So, as I mentioned in my MCI COS speech, IMDA is working together with SMCCI, One Kampong Gelam Association, and other partners to create Singapore’s first digitally enabled retail neighbourhood. For a start, we will guide Kampong Glam merchants on how they can digitalise to improve their business operations. Today, there are already existing merchants doing so. Take for example, one of my favourite stores, Wardah Bookstore. Wardah sells a wide range of books from Islamic history to philosophy. It actively uses social media; it has also digitalised its processes so that data accounting is integrated between its physical and online stores. The presence of an online store not only directs traffic to the physical store, but boosts its reach to overseas customers in Malaysia and Brunei.

46. So, digitalisation will be a key anchor for our economy’s future growth. And this is why I urge our workforce to be future-ready, our community organisations and SMEs to transform, so that we and our future generations can continue to achieve our hopes and aspirations. Sir, allow me to continue in Malay.

47. Masyarakat Melayu/Islam Singapura terus mengorak langkah ke hadapan dengan penuh keyakinan. Seiring usaha untuk maju bersama masyarakat lain, saya telah lakarkan tiga strategi. Pertama, menyokong institusi keluarga dengan memberikan tumpuan khas kepada pendidikan awal kanak-kanak selain membantu keluarga yang memerlukan. Kedua, memperteguh asas kehidupan sosio-agama masyarakat dengan memperkukuhkan pendidikan agama dan institusi keagamaan masyarakat kita. Ketiga, membentuk masyarakat Melayu/Islam yang selesa menggarap teknologi supaya bersedia bagi jenis pekerjaan baru serta pelbagai peluang yang tersedia dalam era Ekonomi Digital.

Menyokong keluarga dan kanak-kanak

48. Keluarga kukuh adalah tunjang negara. Kita mahu memastikan setiap anak di Singapura diberi peluang terbaik untuk memulakan kehidupan mereka dengan jayanya. Oleh itu, pendidikan pra sekolah yang bermutu tinggi adalah genting bagi merangsang perkembangan jangka panjang kanak-kanak. Justeru, MENDAKI kini memberi tumpuan kepada pembangunan kanak-kanak dari bayi sehingga usia 6 tahun, demi membantu ibu bapa Melayu/Islam memastikan anak-anak mereka siap ke sekolah rendah – boleh membaca, menulis dan mengira serta mantap dari segi sosio-emosi pula.

49. Oleh itu, MENDAKI akan melipatgandakan usaha bekerjasama dengan para pakar dalam sektor ini untuk “pukul canang” bagi tingkatkan kesedaran umum serta menggalakkan perkongsian amalan terbaik di kalangan para pendidik dan karyawan serta ibu bapa tentang peri pentingnya pendidikan awal kanak-kanak. 

50. Tuan Pengerusi, kaedah pembelajaran melalui permainan, serta memupuk minda berdaya cipta atau maker’s mindset, sebenarnya tidak asing bagi orang Melayu. Pantun pusaka serta lagu-lagu warisan kami, banyak mempamerkan kearifan leluhur dalam “Melentur Buluh dari Rebungnya”. Sebagai contoh, lagu “Satu Satu Aku Sayang Ibu” dan “Satu Tangan Bilangan Lima” memperkenalkan konsep bilangan atau mengira dalam nyanyian selain memupuk pentingnya institusi kekeluargaan. Lagu “Layang Layang” pula menggalak budaya bertukang dalam kemahiran jitu pembikinan layang-layang. Malah, acara seperti ‘PlayFest’ atau Pesta Permainan untuk kanak-kanak pra sekolah diharap saling melengkapi usaha kita untuk menyediakan pendidikan bermutu tinggi lagi seronok bagi anak-anak kita.

51. Bagi anak-anak di peringkat pengajian tinggi pula, ada berita baik. Saya gembira untuk mengumumkan bahawa Skim Subsidi Yuran Tuisyen Pengajian Tinggi atau TTFS yang disediakan oleh Pemerintah dan diuruskan MENDAKI, telah disemak semula. Semakan ini bermakna lebih ramai anak-anak Melayu dari keluarga bergaji rendah, layak menerima subsidi ketika melanjutkan pelajaran di peringkat diploma atau ijazah di menara gading. Ia akan berkuat kuasa mulai tahun akademik ini. 

Memperkukuh asas masyarakat

52. Tuan Pengerusi, pemerintah komited dalam membantu masyarakat Melayu/Islam membangunkan institusi yang menampung kehidupan beragama kami termasuk institusi madrasah. Saya gembira mengumumkan bahawa MUIS akan menawarkan sebuah pakej bantuan menyeluruh kepada Madrasah Wak Tanjong Al Islamiah. Ini termasuk bantuan bagi melanjutkan tempoh pajakan premisnya di Sims Avenue untuk 30 tahun akan datang. Di samping itu, dana tambahan diperuntukkan bagi pembangunan kurikulum dan kemahiran professional kakitangan madrasah. 

53. Saya juga berbesar hati membentangkan reka bentuk indah kampus baru Madrasah Al-Arabiah Al-Islamiah yang dijangka siap menjelang tahun 2020. MUIS bakal menyumbang $10 juta dan akan melancarkan projek pembangunan semula ini pada hujung bulan nanti. Saya mengalu-alukan sokongan padu masyarakat dalam usaha pengumpulan dana selanjutnya.

54. Tuan Pengerusi, antara matlamat utama madrasah ialah melahirkan golongan asatizah yang mampu membimbing masyarakat Islam setempat melayari kehidupan yang semakin pesat lagi mencabar. Hasrat masyarakat untuk membina kolej Islam kami yang pertama di Singapura, sedang berjalan lancar. Saya serta kakitangan MUIS telah berkunjung ke beberapa universiti terkemuka di Timur Tengah seperti di Mesir, Jordan dan Turki, serta di Amerika dan Kanada. Banyak pengajaran yang kami timba daripada kunjungan tersebut. Yang paling menyerlah ialah pendekatan pedagogi dan kurikulum yang berbeza-beza dan disesuaikan dengan konteks negara dan masyarakat masing-masing. Semua ini akan kami nilai dan yang baik bakal diterapkan ke dalam pelan kolej Islam nanti supaya kami dapat melahirkan golongan asatizah yang berkeyakinan, pakar dalam ilmu pengajian Islam dan kemahiran lain seperti kaunseling atau kerja sosial, sedar tentang realiti cabaran dunia kontemporari, dan yang lebih penting, menghargai konteks kehidupan masyarakat majmuk di Singapura. 

Mencorak masyarakat siaga masa depan

55. Tuan Pengerusi, strategi ketiga ialah merangsang masyarakat Melayu/Islam untuk celik teknologi digital supaya kami juga boleh merebut peluang yang tersedia dalam era Ekonomi Digital. Budaya ini juga perlu segera disambut golongan peniaga kita. Hari ini, sebahagian besar peniaga Melayu/Islam masih beroperasi dengan cara lama. Jika mereka tidak segera mencipta-semula perniagaan mereka melalui teknologi, saya bimbang banyak perniagaan Melayu turun-temurun, termasuk nasi padang kami yang lazat, akan pupus ditelan arus persaingan yang sengit. Namun saya gembira kerana berpeluang mendekati anggota Dewan Perniagaan dan Perusahaan Melayu Singapura atau SMCCI untuk menekankan betapa pentingnya menggarap teknologi digital jika tidak mahu terjejas kemudian hari. 

56. Saya juga teruja dengan rancangan untuk jadikan Kampong Glam, kawasan kejiranan runcit pertama beroperasi secara digital sepenuhnya. Sejak dahulu lagi, kawasan ini terkenal di kalangan pelancong dan penduduk setempat. Tapak Masjid Sultan, Istana Kampung Gelam dan Gedung Kuning serta tempat persinggahan rombongan Haji dahulu, ada menyimpan tarikan dan kisah-kisah menarik yang tersendiri. Bersulamkan teknologi, pendigitalan kawasan Kampong Glam mampu membantu para peniaga merancakkan perniagaan mereka dan pada masa yang sama, menguar-uarkan kekayaan khazanah sejarah dan budaya di Kampong Glam kepada generasi muda Singapura serta ke seluruh dunia. Setiap pengunjung bakal menikmati pengalaman unik ketika di sana termasuk peluang menyelusuri jejak warisan yang menjadi kebanggaan kita bersama.

57. Tuan Pengerusi, hasrat di sebalik usaha-usaha ini, bukan sekadar untuk meraih manfaat teknologi pada zahirnya, tetapi sebenarnya ia mencerminkan iltizam murni yang lebih mendalam masyarakat Melayu/Islam untuk terus memperkasakan diri, keluarga dan masyarakat kami seiring dengan kemajuan negara kita. Ayuh kita orak langkah seiring pantun berikut: 

Ke ladang sudah menuaipun sudah,
Sudah berlalu menyingsing lengan;
Sidang sudah bincangpun sudah,
Tiba waktu ganding perjuangan. 

Conclusion

58. Mr Chairman, in closing, our community has come a long way on its journey towards a Community of Excellence. Over the years, Sir, we have painstakingly laid the building blocks for current and future generations to grow and realise their fullest potential. 

59. But Sir, the journey has not always been smooth. It was with hard work and sacrifice that we achieved progress against the odds. It was with pride and love that we stayed strong as a community honouring our traditions. It was with wisdom and courage that we forged our own model of what it means to be Muslim in modern, multi-racial and multi-religious Singapore. 

60. The statistics show that we have come very far. But one does not see hopes and dreams, nor struggles and victories in statistics alone. For me, what gives me relentless optimism in our future is in the life stories of so many Malay/Muslim families that I have met, who have overcome immense odds and made out better lives through their efforts in the everyday. 

61. And so sir, I return to the story of Mr Fadli Sidek, whom I spoke about in my MCI COS speech. His is a story of gumption and resilience, of not wanting to accept defeat and of achieving his dream in an emerging growth area. He is in cybersecurity, a field that is growing and is a key enabler in our vision to be a Smart Nation. From being a student in ITE, he is now an analyst at an MNC. Fadli, and many like him, embody all that we believe in and the values and principles that have gotten us here thus far. 

62. Sir, we must focus not only on the destination, but also on the journey. We cannot truly say that we have arrived, until we have paved the way for all those around us to succeed. Only then will our entire community succeed. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that no one gets left behind. 

63. Sir, I call upon those who have achieved a measure of success to step forward and inspire others around you. We have been blessed with selfless and dedicated community and religious leaders who have worked tirelessly in their own capacities, be it in our mosques, madrasahs, community and voluntary organisations. We need more to come forward to contribute in whatever way you can. 

64. As the Prime Minister had mentioned in his New Year message, let us use the occasion of the Bicentennial Celebrations next year to reflect on what it means to be a Singaporean. As we move forward as a community in a multiracial nation within the larger Nusantara, let us ponder on the values that we hold dear as a community, on all the subtle things that define who we are, and on all those links that we have built, as well as the many that we have yet to build, with those around us and in the region. 

65. Sir, I am proud and honoured to have been a part of this journey, working hand in hand with all of you. Much remains to be done, and we all need to continue to play our part, in whatever way we can. So, let us work together, as one people, always striving to make Singapore the best home for all.

66. Thank you.
Last Updated: 26 March 2018

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