Saudari saudari sekalian My fellow Singaporeans, Happy National Day! This year we are commemorating our bicentennial I am happy to see many community groups organising various activities to look back at our rich history going back several centuries. For example, in April Republic Polytechnic’s Pentas Karyawan group staged “Kurun yang Hilang” that centres around the Kingdom of Singapura in the 14th Century. This coming October, the Malay Heritage Centre is also organising a festival and a special exhibition to showcase the diverse origins of the Malay Community. The Malays came to Singapore in large numbers after the arrival of Stamford Raffles. They included the orang laut, Malays from Johor and Riau, Minang,
Bugis, Javanese, Baweanese, plus Arabs from Yemen, and some people from India Here is a Baweanese family in the early 20th century, dressed in their traditional garb. Known as the Boyanese, they were originally from Pulau
Bawean in East Java But because of the English pronunciation the Bawean became Boyan They were a tight-knit group who initially lived communally in pondoks, in areas like Rochor and Tanjong Pagar. Now they are very much a part of the larger Malay community, and indeed of Singapore too And it is also the case, with the other groups Your cultural and historical ties with our neighbouring countries enabled Singapore to understand and get along with the people of these countries. At the same time your influence of Singapore society help shape your national identity as a multiracial country in Southeast Asia In this process, Singapore Malays have been able to develop your own unique identity and you have become distinct from other Malays in the region, or Muslims elsewhere in the world. Just from the way you speak, you can tell, ah, this is a Singaporean Malay! There are several characteristics define the Singapore Malay identity Minister Masagos recently described them as the three Cs citizenry, competency and character Tonight, I will talk about two Cs: Competencies, and the realisation on the importance of education. in uplifting the community. and character, which you have formed in the way you practice your religion. in our multiracial context. First competency or education. Our Malay community has progressed because of your emphasis on education Each successive generation of Malays has been better educated, thus hold better jobs, and led more prosperous and meaningful lives compared to the previous generation As the idiom goes, bit by bit, it will become a hill, and perhaps even a mountain! I can cite many examples As you can see in this photograph taken in 2007, we all looked young the number of Anugerah Mendaki the number of Anugerah Mendaki or Mendaki award recipients who graduated with first class honours was only 7 people. But look at this picture taken last year! There were 70 people, In a matter of 10 years, there’s been a 10 fold increase. It went up 10 times! Well done to the Malay community! It’s proven , a younger generation of outstanding Malays are now holding important positions in the community Among them, several are scholarship recipients including the CE of MUIS, the Mufti as well as their deputies. And this year, we have a Malay President’s Scholar Muhammad Dhafer Muhammad Faishal Dhafer not only excels academically but also has a heart for the community In his free time, Dhafer gets involved in volunteer work Here he is, helping children at Pertapis Children’s Home with their homework To Dhafer and his family, including his father, SPS Faishal Ibrahim, congratulations! And his grandfather as well! More Malay parents have been sending their children to pre-school because they understand the importance of a good foundation before entering primary school More Malay parents and their children are also attending KMM or [email protected], organised by the M3 organisations However, it would be even better if more parents sent their children to pre-school even earlier, from the ages of 3 and 4. We have improved the quality of pre-schools and ensured that they are more affordable. Actually with the government support, the cost of full day nursery or kindergarten for a needy family can be as low as $3. $3 a month not a day. We will also ensure that the pre-school education remain affordable for the middle income families. I will elaborate more on this in my English Speech later. Malay students are also showing better results in schools More Malays now graduate with diplomas and degrees compared to before Some are upgrading their skills after completing ITE and polytechnic This will help them climb the career ladder and gives them more career options. For example, Mohammad Abdillah shown in this picture. He had failed his PSLE twice, he then went on to study at Northlight School On the first day at Northlight, Abdillah was asked what was his ambition. He said ‘Designer’ Deep in his heart, Abdillah doubted he would ever achieve his dream But encouraged by his teachers, he excelled at Northlight, and went on to ITE to study animation. In ITE Abdillah did very well, and went on to Nanyang Polytechnic, where he obtained a diploma in motion graphics Let us see a montage of Abdillah’s work . Very impressive! I am confident Abdillah will be a successful graphics designer. Well done Abdillah! Abdillah is not alone, A large proportion of ITE graduates go on to upgrade themselves It is important, because the demand for workers with better skills and knowledge is ever rising Among ITE students, 7 in 10 of them upgrade over the course of their careers. This is a good statistic, but even better if we can make it 10 out of 10 MOE will soon announce expanded pathways for ITE students to upgrade themselves In general, more students are making it to polytechnics and universities. Many do not come from well-off families Therefore, we must make sure that the fees for our polytechnics and universities are as affordable as possible, even to the poorest families. I will elaborate more on this later in my English speech. Another pillar of our Malay community is your religious belief. Islam is one of the great religions of the world. It is a religion of peace, with almost two billion followers around the globe Different Muslim communities practice Islam in different ways, depending on their histories and traditions. In Singapore’s plural society, Islam is practised in a spirit of mutual respect, tolerance and inclusiveness. Our asatizah play a central role in nurturing a progressive Muslim community. One asatizah that exemplifies this is Ustaz Zahid Zin. As the CEO of the Muslim Youth Forum (MYF), he takes a fresh approach in his religious classes. This includes inviting non-Muslims to share their views with Muslim youths. DPM Heng Swee Keat participated in one such dialogue Beyond that, Ustaz Zahid also takes an active part in MESRA-led activities, and serves on the M3 Aadvisory Ccouncil Recently, one of his distant relatives – a non Muslim, passed away Ustaz Zahid visited the family to convey his last respects, the wake was conducted in the Buddhist tradition. In his Facebook post, Ustaz Zahid wrote on how all cultures and beliefs must be respected, and how his experience would become a valuable and teachable moment for his children Actually, this is a teachable moment for all of us, whatever our religion or our age. Last year, Ustaz Zahid received the MUIS50 Inspiring Youth Award. I hope he will continue to inspire all of us. Can Ustaz Zahid? Definitely! We want our asatizah to maintain high standards and be confident leaders in the future Dr Maliki Osman is leading a committee to review ways to enhance their professionalism, as a way to build on the Asatizah Recognition Scheme. I am looking forward to their recommendations. MUIS plays a crucial role in our Malay/Muslim community Next year, MUIS will launch the Postgraduate Certificate in Islam in Contemporary Societies (PCICS) This course is for returning religious teachers who were educated overseas and returning home. It is meant to train them in the application of what they have learnt overseas in our Singapore context We also hope to explore new approaches and pedagogies in teaching and learning Islam This will help us develop a model for our own Islamic College, which will one day train a new generation of asatizah in Singapore. Because of our success in building harmonious racial and religious relations, the Malay/Muslims here are well regarded and they are also a model for other Muslim and minority communities. Recently, we organised an International Conference on Cohesive Societies (ICCS) Our scholars and practitioners had the opportunity to exchange ideas with their foreign counterparts The conference served as a reminder to many of us that we should persevere in strengthening our religious harmony, even as race and religion are causing serious conflicts in many other societies. Ladies and gentlemen, you can all be proud of your achievements. Over several centuries, you have built a strong community and enriched our history. The Malay community has progressed together with the nation Now, as Malays you hold on strongly to your own distinct identity At the same time, you have integrated with other communities, and have a sense of shared citizenry as the sons and daughters of Singapore. The Bicentennial is an opportunity for all of us to mark the contributions of the Malay community and celebrate your achievements I am confident you will continue to progress year after year The Government will be with you every step of the way, supporting your aspirations, so you can continue to be a Community of Success. Thank you.