Conversations with the Community
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We are pleased to share with you our report: ‘Suara Musyawarah: Conversations with the Community’. Click here to download the report.
Executive Summary of the Report
The Suara Musyawarah Committee engaged with members of the Malay/Muslim community from a broad range of backgrounds. During the engagement process, the issues raised and discussed were as diverse as the people we met and heard from. The Committee takes each view seriously and with respect, but for the purposes of this report, we focused on matters that were repeatedly raised during our engagement sessions and those which the Committee considers critical to the community’s development. The findings were summarised into three broad themes in the report and where possible, recommendations were made, fully recognising that these were very much directional in nature and would require further deliberation.
It is clear that the Malay/Muslim community has a strong sense of belonging to Singapore. For some, this is due to a sense of history and heritage. For others, especially the young, this is a given — they have grown up in this country, and many of their experiences, from school to national service — are shared with other Singaporeans. However, there is a sense that stereotypes, generalisations and certain negative perceptions about the community persist and these sometimes manifest into what could be perceived as discrimination. While the Committee accepts that this is part and parcel of living in a diverse, multiracial society, we believe that it is an important issue for the community and that more attention could be given to this — so that everyone can feel equally Singaporean, regardless of race, language or religion.
The community has made significant progress in all aspects of life — in educational achievement, standard of living, social and spiritual development. Statistics show this progress and the community acknowledges and understands that this has been due to the concerted efforts of many — past and present. However, progress has not been across the board. Gaps still exist and some segments in the community remain vulnerable.
The Committee made efforts to reach out this these groups and was heartened to note that there was a desire to progress, a common understanding that educational achievement is important and a realisation that the inculcation of strong values from young is required. The Committee also met participants who have prevailed despite encountering adversities and was pleasantly surprised that these participants spoke up in our focus group discussions to encourage others that it was possible to do the same. The Committee thus feels positive that the community can continue to progress further and tackle underlying issues. We believe that the focus should be on the most vulnerable groups, particularly in reaching out to them and removing real or perceived obstacles to development — from early childhood intervention in vulnerable families to ensuring that workers continue to upgrade and remain relevant to the demands of the economy. The Committee also notes that some of the issues faced by these groups are not unique to the community. Some issues may be structural in nature given the development of the economy and educational system and thus may require more in-depth thinking and adjustments at a national level. Concerted efforts from national agencies may be needed. Nevertheless, as a community we should continue to do whatever we can to ensure that everyone in the community achieves their full potential.
The community clearly cares. There is a strong sense of social consciousness manifested by the numerous organisations set up to help the community, block committees and grounds-up, sometimes spontaneous self-help initiatives. One participant attributed this to the Islamic concept of Fardhu Kifayah — where members of the community who are able to are religiously obliged to help others in the community. The Committee believes that this spirit should continue to be nurtured. Even while building on existing efforts and encouraging bottoms-up and community-driven initiatives, community leaders could also take a more strategic view to ensure that efforts are aligned, resources are optimised and support is provided where they are most required and where they could make the most impact. It is within this context that the Committee has made several recommendations. While existing efforts are important, as a community we have to continue to look forward, anticipate future challenges and opportunities and make the necessary changes to prepare ourselves for the future.
The Committee also notes that in addition to the observations above, the importance of youth and mainstream media came up in many discussions. The community is in a unique position demographically – it has the largest youth base among all the communities in Singapore. As such, it is important that this potential asset be fully realised. The Committee therefore believes that in both developmental as well as preventive or intervention initiatives, the younger generation should be given deliberate and special focus. Mainstream media — especially radio, TV and the press — have significant potential not only to support but also drive the development agenda of the community. While the Committee acknowledges the need to balance commercial considerations with social ones, we echo the sentiments of some of the people we met that more attention and thought could be given on how mainstream media can play a larger role in community development.
In summary, the Committee believes that while the community will inevitably continue to face challenges, the sense of belonging and commitment, the desire to continually do better and that the community cares and is willing to help those in need augurs well for the community.
 For all intents and purposes in the context of this report, the Malay/Muslim community refers to Singapore Muslims of all ethnicities.