The Karyawan — April 2021 Issue

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PUBLISHED BY: AMP SINGAPORE • VOLUME 16 ISSUE 2 • APRIL 2021 • MCI (P) NO: 078/07/2020 • ISSN NO: 0218-7434

The Dialectics of Digitalisation





COVER STORY The Dialectics of Digitalisation by Muhammed Shahril Shaik Abdullah


Cultivating a Dialogical Society: Reflections of IPS' Singapore Perspectives 2021 by Dr Shamsuri Juhari, Aisyah Yusoff and Amanina Hidayah


Budget 2021: A Glimpse into Our Future by Muhammad Faris Alfiq Mohd Afandi


COVID-19, Pandemics and Vaccinations by Dr Norhisham Main


Surrendering of Religion to Technology by Sheikh Mohamad Farouq Abdul Fareez



“Hardest Decision in My Life”: Stories of Premarital Abortion by Nabilah Mohammad Preserving Social Harmony: Lessons from the Marrakesh Declaration for Minority Muslims Living in Non-Muslim Countries by Ustaz Dr Muhammad Haniff Hassan



Adults: The Silent Victims of Cyberbullying by Siti Raudhah Ramlan


Unconscious Bias in the Workplace by Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices


Being Emergency Ready with Muhamed Ridzuan by Nur Diyana Jalil


The Importance of Historicity and Historicising: Review of Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir Munshi: His Voyages, Legacies and Modernity, Volume 1 by Dr Nuraliah Norasid

SUPERVISING EDITOR Dr Md Badrun Nafis Saion EDITOR Zarina Yusof EDITORIAL TEAM Muhammad Faris Alfiq Mohd Afandi Nabilah Mohammad Nur Diyana Jalil Ruzaidah Md Rasid Sheikh Mohamad Farouq Abdul Fareez Winda Guntor

We welcome letters, comments and suggestions on the issues that appear in the magazine. Please address your correspondence to: Editor, The Karyawan AMP Singapore 1 Pasir Ris Drive 4 #05-11 Singapore 519457 T +65 6416 3966 | F +65 6583 8028 E

The Karyawan is a publication of the AMP Singapore. The views expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect those of AMP and its subsidiaries nor its directors and The Karyawan editorial board.


Far-Right Extremisms and Prejudice: Global Islamophobias and Antisemitisms by Assoc Prof Paul Hedges

© AMP Singapore. 2021. All rights reserved. Permission is required for reproduction.


We have witnessed increased digitalisation of our human experiences since the advent of digital technology. From real, offline connections, we have since moved into an amalgam of realities in the digital world and in our everyday lives. Measures driven by the COVID-19 pandemic such as safe distancing and countrywide lockdowns, have driven many aspects of our lives into digital environments much faster than we thought possible. Our work is suddenly online 24/7, while our children are having lessons remotely. More intriguingly is the fact that even the experiences that we initially viewed as being far from digitalisation, such as attending weddings, family gatherings, counselling sessions, tourism or work conferences, are now taking place online. But what do these changes of human experiences mean? And what will the future of technology hold for us? How can we traverse this acceleration of human-technology integration? Writer, Muhammed Shahril wrote about this and more on Page 5. While we have yet to understand the long-term effects of digitalisation on our society as a whole, we need to prepare ourselves for a more rapidly digitalised world. I hope you’ll enjoy reading this issue!



Reflections of IPS’ Singapore Perspectives 2021 BY DR SHAMSURI JUHARI, AISYAH YUSOFF & AMANINA HIDAYAH

The recently concluded Singapore Perspectives 2021 conference organised by the Institute of Policy Studies has created an impact on the Singaporean intelligentsia. Among the topics discussed was the issue of ‘Chinese Privilege’ touched upon by panelists discussing the theme of ‘Identities and Cohesion’ 1. One speaker expressed she was “agitated” with the use of the term within Singaporean society. She and a few like-minded members of the panel argued that Chinese privilege is not “useful” as a concept, as it involved a direct “importation of ideas” from the original notion of ‘White Privilege’ developed in the US. Their fear is that we dismiss our own “thinkers and indigenous

government. Specifically, this occurred during the earlier period of Singapore’s development when “the Chinese community was told by Lee Kuan Yew that they should set aside their claims for majoritarianism and accept that Chinese would not be the national language even though they were the overwhelming majority population”. Another example was the community’s reluctant though eventual agreement to the 1980s merger of The discussion was given further impetus the Chinese-oriented Nanyang University in a subsequent panel where the concept with the University of Singapore to make of ‘Chinese Privilege’ was highlighted as way for the establishment of the English language-based National University of “not useful”, as the majority Chinese in Singapore empathise with the plight of Singapore. It was emphasised that the the nation’s minority groups as they had event had been “painful” for the Chineseeducated community as students had to experienced a similar situation where they had to give in to the demands of the attend classes in English, a language intellectual traditions”. They explained that simply transplanting such ideas of privilege into Singapore society “bring[s] in the history of another society without being critical” of our own. This led to various rejoinders through online articles on Coconuts and Mothership and local podcasts, such as Thinking with Thambis and Walid Jumblatt’s Instagram video discussion series, Teh Tarik with Walid.



Sin, Y. Racial and Social Identity Issues Will Pose Constant Challenge: Observers. The Straits Times. 2021, January 15

they were not equipped to handle at the tertiary level. Because of this similarity of experience, the assertion is that the term ‘Chinese Privilege’ will not be suitable for Singapore society, as it implies ignorance of the state of affairs by the majority group. This is not a correct reflection of the situation on the ground. Nevertheless, there was an admission by the panel that minorities in Singapore “face racism, including institutional racism”.

emotional toll arising from feelings of unequal treatment. This makes it necessary to embark on discussions relating to the root causes of such turmoil. In this respect, we will agree to the vision of a Singaporean dialogical society as conceptualised by Ambassador Mohammad Alami Musa.

A DIALOGICAL SOCIETY According to scholars Hermans and Hermans-Konopka, a dialogical society is premised on each individual’s reflexive With the first argument, we agree on process of self-awareness brought about the point that context matters. A good by interacting with others different from example to illustrate this was an on-air the self. This is in contrast to a layperson’s banter heard during a show by a local definition of a “dialogical society”, which English language radio station some time points only to the increased facilitation back. A DJ was giving her review of the of dialogue among citizens. The former movie Crazy Rich Asians during its first is more complex as it necessitates the few screenings in Singapore. She was application of intrapersonal mechanisms lamenting the fact that apart from of introspection and subsequent two minor roles, there were no other interrogation of the self. This encourages characters in the Chinese-dominated cast oneself to be more conscious of one’s representing Singapore’s minority races. own mental shortcomings and biases. She used the term ‘People of Colour’ to refer to these ethnic communities in We have noticed a worrisome trend of contrast to the country’s dominant Singaporeans at risk of unreflexive Chinese population. The DJ was probably labelling as our community adjusts to not critically aware that the term, which accommodate progressively diverse originated in the US, is used to delineate opinions on specific issues. This the non-White from the White residents. development mirrors the evolution of In that social context, the term ‘People of a globalised marketplace of ideas and Colour’ does, by default, encompass all beliefs that expands apace with the people of Asian origin including ethnic cosmopolitanisation of societies. The Chinese. Taking aside our aversion to any latter has been unavoidable despite form of ethnic labelling, this example political leaders decrying how the import validates the panel’s objection against of foreign ideas are undermining their any direct transplanting of labels borne local societies. For example, when forced out of another society’s circumstance. to confront the countenance of Western liberalism, France’s politicians and public We are, however, reluctant to agree with intellectuals denounced what they see as the second rationale that the concept does uncontrollable US’ woke extreme-leftism not have a place in Singaporean society and cancel culture that had taken root in because of past events where the Chinese their country’s socio-political landscape. were at the receiving end of similar unfair treatment. By virtue of this emotional Similarly, the Digital Age has enabled familiarity, the argument reasons out discussions to spill onto the online that the dominant community should world leading to a deluge of casual yet not suffer guilt arising from notions unstructured conversations on various of privilege since there is already an themes. Once gone viral, remarks on understanding of the situation on their issues relating to race and sexuality by part. From our perspective, this is a laypeople often outshine grand forums flawed argument as awareness of the reported on traditional media. The digital impact of a situation does not absolve world is a double-edged sword. On the one of the fact that problems exist. one hand, forums, comment sections, parody videos and online community Even if the intersectionality between race, groups’ comment threads across class, gender and achievements may align platforms like Reddit, Facebook, TikTok differently between our Singaporean and Twitter have become platforms that society and the US, no one can deny the democratise information access and

provide citizens the opportunity to both flex their communication muscles and exercise reflexivity. This allows for moral sensibilities to be shaped by public reason, and vice versa. On the other hand, digital platforms have also exacerbated clashes among users, which are unfortunately reinforced by algorithms which create echo-chambers that bolster biases and impede reflexivity. A cursory glance through local online forums and websites tells us that Baby Boomers and Gen Xs are as vocal and present in the cyberworld as are the Millennials and Gen Zs. It tells us that although network access, digital literacy and structural issues are concerns of many countries, the number of digital outcasts in Singapore is actually shrinking; a result of updated school curriculums, numerous campaigns, upskilling programmes and free-for-public digital literacy training packages. While the current situation raises the need for sustained and open dialogue to mitigate the caustic effects arising from the clash of opinions, here lie some questions: As we welcome the values of a dialogical society, how can we ensure that discussions shed light on society’s blind spots and shortcomings while considering the complexities of age divides, culture, ideology, history and structures of power? What happens when we speak the same language but are mutually unintelligible? The way in which the young and old communicate online already tells us of a communication gap. The writings of the older generation are more formal than the younger digital natives who are more likely to express emotions via text with adaptations made by spelling innovations and capitalisation. The more matured Boomers, for instance, may miss the mocking tone of texts presented through the Gen Z’s utilisation of random capitalisation. The alternate use of text form in the following: “ChiNesE pRiviLege is nOT usEFul aS a coNCept as iT iS...” is intuitively seen by most digital natives as a mockery of the speaker. But digital ‘immigrants’ and ‘outcasts’ who are not familiar with this meme may simply see it as a typo. In another forum on Soul of the Nation, Professor Audrey Yue remarked that “a culture of communication essentially

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binds Singapore citizens together” 2. The consensus was that a shared culture of communication nurtures the soul of the nation. With this aim in mind, community leaders in Singapore must aspire to helm productive dialogues among people of varying convictions in hopes of uniting them. It is becoming common for the public to take part in structured dialogues such as town hall meetings and forums with a presupposition that citizens are given space to express their views. These dialogues are conducted with a moderator opening up a predetermined topic of discussion with a panel of experts whose intended function is to inform and advise. The formulaic selection of topics, presence of moderator and panel of experts have become the cornerstone of structured dialogues in Singapore.

The accepted norm should not only be for minority groups to assimilate themselves into the larger society, but for the majority to take the step forward to empathise and understand potential differences in culture and practice. Individuals and social institutions alike should see value in diversity and meet each other in the middle.

The principles behind a dialogical society imply the need to genuinely acknowledge the existence of underlying problems in society before proceeding to come up with ideas to mitigate them. Participants must challenge the inherent antagonisms as they appear in our discourses. Such undertakings also imply that participants must communicate in a manner which is socially acceptable and abide by house rules. Arguably, if done well, structured dialogues provide a conducive environment for citizens to practise public reflexivity, easing the local solidarity with each other. The accepted community into an elevated culture norm should not only be for minority of communication that pre-empts the groups to assimilate themselves into formation of a dialogical society. the larger society, but for the majority Similarly, in discussing issues surrounding to take the step forward to empathise ‘Chinese Privilege’ (we unfortunately will and understand potential differences have to use this term until an alternative in culture and practice. Individuals and social institutions alike should see can be agreed upon), participants value in diversity and meet each other must first admit their awareness of in the middle. discriminatory undertones and structural inequalities in society which Second, to set the framework for fair marginalise those from minority ethnic groups. First, dialogue participants need discussions, a dialogical society must ensure that the normative standards, to understand that inequality is not which minority groups are measured shaped or experienced equally by individuals and social groups. Instead of against, are critically evaluated. For instance, minority rights should not competing to put each other down the be looked upon as an afterthought of way activist Elizabeth Martínez had dominant narratives. The Malay-Muslim expressed as ‘Oppression Olympics’ 3, community is a case in point. Often participants instead need to stand in 2

mistakenly perceived by outsiders as a monolithic entity, the everyday experiences of its individual members should not be generalised as a litmus test of what is ‘backward’ or ‘progressive’ for the entire community. Such perceptions are especially flawed when judged against overly secular and humanistic values of dominant traditions. Articulations should be appropriately applied to the local context and not be simply forced upon in a dialogue. In conclusion, self-awareness, reflexivity and empathy are excellent tools to cultivate in a dialogical society. By engaging in productive dialogue, problematic assumptions and prickly definitions can be contested leading to the creation of an informed nation.

arch Fellow hari is a Rese Dr Shamsuri Ju ies (IPS) ud St y lic te of Po apore. with the Institu ng Si of l University at the Nationa ch focusing on ar se re in s He specialise mmunity. alay-Muslim co Singapore’s M Assistant with is a Research Aisyah Yusoff (IPS) at the ies ud St Policy the Institute of e. She holds or ap rsity of Sing from the National Unive gy lo cial Anthropo an MPhil in So e. idg br m University of Ca

Amanina Hidayah is a Res earch Assistant with the Institute of Pol icy Studies (IPS) at the National University of Singapore. She does research on ethnic minority issues, specifically on the Malay-Muslim community, as well as on heritage and culture.

Vignehsa, K., Koh, J., Takano, A., Winslow, M. and Yue, A. Forum 6: Soul of the Nation, of Singapore Perspectives 2021: Reset. Institute of Policy Studies. 2021. Available at: 3 Davis, A., & Martinez, E. Coalition Building Among People of Color. Inscriptions. 1994. pp. 42-53


The Dialectics of Digitalisation BY MUHAMMED SHAHRIL SHAIK ABDULLAH

“A specter is stalking in our midst whom only a few see with clarity. It is not the old ghost of communism or fascism. It is a new specter: a completely mechanized society, devoted to maximal material output and consumption, directed by computers; and in this social process, man himself is being transformed into a part of the total machine, well fed and entertained, yet passive, unalive, and with little feeling.” — Erich Fromm1


Fromm, E. The Revolution of Hope: Toward a Humanized Technology. Harper & Row. 1968

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It was around half a century ago that German social psychologist and humanistic philosopher, Erich Fromm, sounded the alarm about the coming of a new society in which, at the dawn of the second Industrial Revolution, human thought would be replaced by the thinking of machines. Fast forward to the present day, the world is still struggling to come to terms with the Fourth Industrial Revolution which is fundamentally changing the way we think, live, learn, work and relate to one another. This latest change in society is enabled by extraordinary technological advances that are merging, and at the same time, blurring the boundaries between the physical, digital and biological worlds in ways that are unprecedented in human history2.

in ways that reinforce pre-existing inequality3; the ways tech giants exploit our personal data for their own ends, undermining personal autonomy and eroding democracy through surveillance capitalism4; how this rush to monetise and profit from data is comparable to the land grabs perpetrated by colonialists of the past5; and how the sociopathy of these powerful corporations, run by well-intentioned human beings, have made them betray their founding principles6. These books warrant us to take a step back, to challenge the dominant narrative surrounding digital transformation, and to think of how we can resist and protect ourselves from the dark side of digital technology.

As with the earlier industrial revolutions, the digital revolution has brought with it both potential and risks. Many have benefitted, along with a few who have profited, from its convergence of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), autonomous vehicles and 3D printing. Conversely, many others have been left behind as a result of its disruptive force that exacerbates pre-existing social inequalities. Across the globe, workers are at risk of losing their jobs to machines as automation replaces physical labour. In addition, the digital divide resulting from the third revolution grows wider as those early adopters of digital technology would have the means and resources to sustain and upgrade their digital lifestyle and consumption.

The government along with tech leaders and pundits have written and spoken so much about the need for companies to transform their businesses and for workers to upskill themselves in order to stay relevant and competitive. Community leaders have called upon the community to change their mindset, to embrace digitalisation and to upgrade themselves by learning advanced skills that will make them competent users of digital technology. Children as young as five are taught how to code, while students in schools are encouraged to pursue careers in science, technology, math and engineering. Just like in the legend from the town of Hamelin, everyone is compelled to march to the tune played by the pied pipers of Silicon Valley, leaving behind those who are lame, deaf and blind to the whole fanfare. Because to do nothing in the face of change makes everyone anxious.

How should we respond to such radical change? Do we ride the wave and join the revolution, or do we adopt a critical posture and tread cautiously instead in the digital minefield? Several works published in recent years have analysed the digital era from a critical lens, bringing to light its dark side and the ‘evils’ of big tech companies. Amongst others, they include how big data algorithms are increasingly being used

The idea of change being a constant in life is perhaps one that is hard, if not entirely impossible, to dispel. It could have been conceived as early as perhaps the dawn of reason itself. The 19th century German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, had claimed that change alone is eternal, perpetual, and immortal, following the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, who established that everything flows and that nothing stands still. Such austerity

2 Schwab, K. The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond. World Economic Forum. 2016, January 14. Retrieved from: O’Neil, C. Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy. Great Britain: Allen Lane. 2016 4 Zuboff, S. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. London: Profile Books. 2019 Couldry, N. & Mejias, U.A. The Costs of Connection: How Data Is Colonizing Human Life and Appropriating It for Capitalism. California: Stanford University Press. 2019 6 Foroohar, R. Don’t Be Evil: How Big Tech Betrayed Its Founding Principles - and All of Us. UK: Penguin. 2019 3



Many have benefitted, along with a few who have profited, from its convergence of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), autonomous vehicles and 3D printing. Conversely, many others have been left behind as a result of its disruptive force that exacerbates pre-existing social inequalities.

in observation, however, perceives change as something of a natural process; something which is given and hence, beyond human accountability. In an organisational change, for instance, globalisation and trade liberalisation have often been referred to as the chief drivers of change and a convenient basis for mergers and acquisitions, which have led to restructurings and layoffs. As much as such change is seen as inevitable due to external pressures (globalisation, economic recession, technological advancement, etc.), the issue of accountability warrants attention. This is because, apart from those who benefit from change, there are others who suffer from it. In the case of globalisation, it has brought different things to different people. There are winners and losers, and not everyone gets to decide who wins, or who loses. With the onslaught of digitalisation, this undemocratic way of decision-making simply gets an upgrade, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Within a year into the global crisis, the Zoom application has quickly turned into a verb, allowing anyone to ‘zoom’, be it for work meetings, job interviews, classroom lessons, marriage solemnisation ceremonies, family gatherings and even reunion dinners. Annual festivals, seminars and conventions, which would typically draw thousands of people onsite, have now been downsized to fit the screen of a computer or mobile device. Flexibility in working hours and workplaces has blurred the lines between private life and working life. All these happened overnight without any violent protest, at least not in Singapore.

our lives not under circumstances of our own choosing. The more urgent task, rather, is to develop a blueprint for us and our future generations to survive the digital age. As opposed to technological planning in which the aim is ultimately to maximise efficiency, productivity and profit, what we need is humanistic planning that puts human development as the supreme principle of social organisation7. There needs to be collective resistance against a mechanised society and a collective vision towards a humanised technological society which, as defined by Erich Fromm, refers to: “the change of the social, economic, and cultural life of our society in such a way that it stimulates and furthers the growth and aliveness of man rather than cripples it; that it activates the individual rather than making him passive and receptive; that our technological capacities serve man’s growth.” 8 To achieve this, we must make the effort to reclaim our role in the decisionmaking process and not leave it to digital technologies to help us choose and decide. Though it can be convenient at times, be it using Google Maps to find our way or shopping for groceries online using the Lazada app, we must be careful not to end up outsourcing the responsibility to think for ourselves, especially when it comes to making political and moral decisions.

When the positive COVID-19 cases spiked in March last year, Singapore had to undergo a circuit breaker period during which all schools were closed, and students shifted to full home-based learning (HBL) for about a month. What is rather troubling, at the same time amusing, was how it had been imagined as reflected by some of the posts from The task ahead then is not so much of parents on social media: our children changing the mindset within the having to sit in front of the computer community in getting them, especially screens for the entire day, every day the vulnerable groups, to embrace during the HBL period and thenceforth digitalisation. Because at this juncture, the family having to conform to this every one of us has become vulnerable new routine and their lives subjugated and at risk of losing our very humanity by the online learning schedule. It didn’t if we allow ourselves to be constantly coerced by digital technologies into living have to be. There are many ways to make

7 8

The more urgent task, rather, is to develop a blueprint for us and our future generations to survive the digital age. As opposed to technological planning in which the aim is ultimately to maximise effciency, productivity and profit, what we need is humanistic planning that puts human development as the supreme principle of social organisation. There needs to be collective resistance against a mechanised society and a collective vision towards a humanised technological society.

Fromm, E. The Revolution of Hope: Toward a Humanized Technology. Harper & Row. 1968. p.103 Ibid

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the experience less dehumanising for the family in the event we must undergo another period of HBL. In between or once the children have completed the online tasks given by teachers, for instance, parents can take over the curriculum and get them to learn some home-based life skills. Start with the kitchen. Cook a simple dish together. Show them how to skin the fish. Let them the difference between a whole bulb and cloves of garlic. Show them how to mince the garlic and the different ways to cut an onion. Bake bread. Let them marvel at the process when flour is mixed with water. Show them how to knead the dough. As the saying goes, a family that cooks (and bakes) together stays together. The HBL is nothing but the imposition of a temporary measure, albeit necessary during the circuit breaker period, by an institution we call school. It is never meant to replace the home or the family. Digital technology is indeed a useful tool to support learning. However, let us not allow it to dictate how we conduct our lives and steer us towards the destructive path where we end up being ‘alone together’ at home. As Sherry Turkle had once warned us, our devices are not only changing the way we communicate and interact with each other, but also who we are as human beings9. It is, after all, HomeBased Learning, not Computer-Based or Technology-Based Learning.

In learning new skills, what is urgent at this day and age are critical thinking skills that will empower the community to resist media misrepresentations of race, ethnicity, gender, class and other forms of cultural differences, and not merely stressing on the need to be conversant with digital technologies in order to be proficient in the use of new tools for study, work, play and living.

In learning new skills, what is urgent at “when groups often underrepresented or misrepresented in the media become this day and age are critical thinking skills that will empower the community investigators of their representations and creators of their own meanings, the to resist media misrepresentations of learning process becomes an empowering race, ethnicity, gender, class and other forms of cultural differences, and not expression of voice” 10. merely stressing on the need to be conversant with digital technologies in These are important steps that must be order to be proficient in the use of new taken immediately lest we evolve into tools for study, work, play and living. happy and satisfied automatons bound by It is important for leaders to recognise the shackles of stupefaction normalised the need to empower the community by the unquestioning embrace of digital to be involved in the production of technology “and its normalisation leaves meanings and representations, for us singing in our chains” 11.


9 Turkle, S. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less From Each Other. New York: Basic Books. 2011 Kellner, D. & Share, J. Toward Critical Media Literacy: Core Concepts, Debates Organizations and Policy, in Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, Vol. 26, No. 3, September 2005. pp. 369-386 11 Zuboff, S. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. London: Profile Books. 2019. pp.8-11


Muhammed Shahril Sha ik Abdullah holds a Master of Education (Le adership, Policy & Change) from Monash University and works in a library. His resear ch interest includes critical pedagogy, radical children’s literature and democratic education.


2021: A Glimpse into Our Future

BY MUHAMMAD FARIS ALFIQ MOHD AFANDI After an unprecedented four Budgets in 2020 (namely Unity, Resilience, Solidarity and Fortitude) to cushion the impact of COVID-19, Singapore is in a better position to Emerge Stronger Together, an apt name for Budget 2021.

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Other than setting the direction for Singapore for this financial year, the Budget too provided a glimpse of challenges and opportunities for Singaporeans in the coming future. This year’s Budget is not solely about bouncing back and recovery, but an anticipation of and preparation for what is to come next. This article gives an overview of the policies that were introduced in the Budget and what they mean for the future. POST-COVID REALITY After a 5.8 percent contraction of Singapore’s economy last year as compared to 1.3 percent growth in 2019, Singapore slid into its worst recession in history1. Even after much intervention by the government through various efforts, such as Jobs Support Scheme (JSS), SG Traineeships and others, some sectors are still badly affected, namely aviation, hospitality and the arts2. With that, the government will continue to support these industries through the JSS for the next six months and have allocated S$700 million for it. Other targeted assistance and packages are also injected to support workers and businesses in the aviation, aerospace, private hire drivers and the arts. S$5.2 billion was also allocated for the Job Growth Incentive (JGI), which will be extended to September this year. The JGI is expected to increase hiring of up to 200,000 locals. As the schemes targeted workers and industries, S$4.8 billion was allocated to the healthcare industry to support operations in our road to recovery – such as vaccination, contact tracing and COVID-19-related facilities. This is a reminder that as much as the government tries to cushion the impact of COVID-19 on our economy and livelihood, challenges will persist. Some industries may never fully recover.


Indeed, COVID-19 has accelerated the push for digital adoption but how quickly can companies transform? This is especially concerning for companies or businesses that have yet to adopt digital transformation processes. As the country pushes for digital adoption and transformation, traditional brick-andmortar businesses that have been in existence might lose out. It is ever more important then to ensure a more equitable vision of digital transformation across the various business sectors.

The outlook, however, is not all doom and gloom.

transform companies while the Emerging Technology Programme will co-fund companies in adopting new technologies. Another initiative, Chief Technology Officer (CTO)-as-aService, will give access for companies to engage IT experts and consultants in adopting digital solutions.

Some industries and jobs have shown signs of recovery after a year. However, changes are abound.

Beyond the digital push and transformation, innovation seems to be a key driver for companies in Singapore for the future.

RECREATE, REDESIGN, REVIVE Digitalisation has been the buzzword for a few years now and Budget 2021 does entail support for companies and Singaporeans to embrace and adopt digitalisation.

The Corporate Venture Launchpad will be initiated to push new innovative ventures for companies. The Open Innovation Platform will also match companies with consultants to find solutions and give the perspective of a startup.

The question is how long and how much more can the government support the various industries while dealing with the long-term impact of the pandemic on Singapore’s economy.

For starters, the Digital Leaders Programme will fund companies that hire workers who are able to digitally

Indeed, COVID-19 has accelerated the push for digital adoption but how quickly

1 Phua, R. Singapore Economy Shrinks a Record 5.8% in a Pandemic-Hit 2020. CNA. Accessed 2021, March 30: Phua, R. Budget 2021: Aviation Sector to Get S$870 Million in Aid This Year. CNA. Accessed 2021, March 30:


To support costs of living, eligible Singaporeans and households will receive the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Vouchers, as well as U-Save rebates. In addition to that, there are also top-ups made to the Child Development Account, Edusave Account and Post- Secondary Education Account to support the costs of raising children in Singapore for couples.

can companies transform? This is especially concerning for companies or businesses that have yet to adopt digital transformation processes. As the country pushes for digital adoption and transformation, traditional brickand-mortar businesses that have been in existence might lose out. It is ever more important then to ensure a more equitable vision of digital transformation across the various business sectors. BEYOND THE ECONOMY The Budget covered quite a fair bit on businesses, but it did not neglect the social and human aspects of living in Singapore. To support costs of living, eligible Singaporeans and households will receive the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Vouchers, as well as U-Save rebates. In addition to that, there are also top-ups made to the Child Development Account, Edusave Account and Post-Secondary Education Account to support the costs of raising children in Singapore for couples. Another announcement that was made was the need to raise GST in the coming future. DPM Heng mentioned that the


hike was not going to be implemented this year as the pandemic took a hit on Singaporeans but that it will be raised in the near future3. Understandably, raising taxes is an unpopular move all around the world but it seems to suggest that Singapore needs to find more sources of revenue to sustain itself in the future. Yes, we have a healthy reserve for use in times of need, such as last year, but as we move forward, there are other challenges that lie before us that require a good amount of resources.

use of more electric vehicles by lowering the registration fee and adjusting the road tax for electric vehicles (EVs). Other than encouraging the adoption of EVs for a greener Singapore, the government will also increase petrol prices by 10 and 15 cents per litre, according to its grades. This is to reduce reliance on private vehicles and to encourage a greener future for Singapore. As laid out in the Budget, the increase in petrol prices, the push for EVs and developing the EV infrastructure signal that Singapore is committed in combatting climate change and there will be more initiatives and policy rollouts in the coming years. HOW WILL THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE? Overall, based on Budget 2021, it seems like Singapore is firm on the path of digitalisation and sustainability. In the meantime, the battle against COVID-19 and its impact still remains a concern, particularly how well and quickly our economy will recover.

FACING CLIMATE CHANGE We have seen in the Budget a glimpse of what the future holds – digitalisation, the need to increase revenue, and living post-COVID-19. The Budget speech also included an important aspect that highlights another focus for the coming year: tackling climate change. Policies were laid out during the Budget to ensure that Singapore remains committed to its sustainability goals.

Muhammad Faris Alfiq Mohd Afandi is a Research Analyst at the Centre for Research on Islamic and Malay Affa irs (RIMA). He specialises in the discour se on Islam in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, sociology of Islamic law, and politica l Islam. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Mal ay Studies from the National University of Sin gapore (NUS).

With that, there is a push to develop green transport infrastructure, as well as agriculture transformation in Singapore. The government will also encourage the

Co, C. Budget 2021: GST Hike to Happen Between 2022 and 2025. CNA. Accessed 2021, March 30:

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COVID-19, Pandemics and Vaccinations BY DR NORHISHAM MAIN

More than a year has passed since the first cluster of COVID-19 infection was reported in a province in China. That first cluster occurred just around the time of a festive season that traditionally had many people going home to spend time with their loved ones or travel overseas for holidays. This contributed to more clusters occurring elsewhere around the world, leading to what has now become a global pandemic.

person. The spread from person to person leads to clusters of infected persons, especially when it occurs rapidly. Many clusters of infection within a geographical area or in a population is known as an epidemic.

Epidemics and pandemics have occurred at various times in the history of mankind. The Black Death Plague of the 14th century and The Great Plague in the 17th and 18th centuries are some of those that have been often described The word pandemic has Greek origins from the word pandemos meaning all (pan) because of the sheer number of deaths caused. In the 20th century, there was people (demos). Thus, further adding to the understanding of a pandemic, which the Spanish flu that claimed at least 40 million lives between 1918 and 1919, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Smallpox pandemic in 1520 defines as the worldwide spread of a new disease. This disease refers to an infectious with 56 million lives lost. A bacterial infection caused the plague, whereas disease from a micro-organism, like bacteria or viruses that causes a person to the pandemics that occurred later were mainly due to viruses. fall ill and can spread from person to 12 T H E K A R Y A W A N © AMP SINGAPORE. PERMISSION IS REQUIRED FOR REPRODUCTION.

Smallpox has earned its name in medical history not only for the pandemic it caused, but it is also known as the first infectious disease to be successfully eradicated. The last known case of smallpox was documented in 1978. This eradication stemmed from a global effort that WHO spearheaded. The World Health Assembly endorsed the successful eradication of smallpox in 1980. Smallpox presents with a fever followed by a rash that develops into sores. It had a high mortality rate of 30 percent and those who survive bear scars from the sores. During the time of smallpox infections, another virus caused a similar but milder illness – cowpox. It is an infection that is transmitted from cows infected with the virus. It was observed that those who had cowpox previously were protected from smallpox. This led

Dr Edward Jenner to experiment with material from cowpox on healthy individuals and found that this protected the individual from smallpox when exposed to it. This was among the earlier forms of vaccination. Today, there are effective vaccines against mumps, measles, rubella, influenza, poliomyelitis and other infections. Vaccination programmes in early childhood have been shown to reduce mortality and morbidity. Similarly, vaccination programmes for the elderly have shown that influenza vaccination reduces hospitalisation and complications in those who are vaccinated. The history of pandemics has provided many lessons in various domains from healthcare delivery, preventive medicine to public health and more. There is also the impact on people’s lives and the economy. Knowledge of infectious diseases, its treatment, and vaccination programmes provide an ever-increasing knowledge base to help overcome future epidemics and pandemics. It is this knowledge that has expedited our progress in dealing with the present pandemic. The virus that causes the COVID-19 pandemic belongs to the family of Coronaviruses, so named because of its crown shape. The virus has been named SARS-CoV-2 and the infection it causes, COVID-19. The extent and severity of the infection have been well reported. Sadly, many lives have been lost as a result of being infected with the virus. The virus spreads through droplets which means that when an infected person sneezes or coughs, small droplets of fluid are generated and expelled from the person. These small droplets of fluid come from the person’s secretions that are produced in greater amounts from the infection. They contain the virus which may then infect others. Wearing masks protects the user from exposure to such droplets. The masks also prevent the spread of the virus if the person is infected. In addition, putting a distance of at least one metre between persons reduces the risk of such droplets reaching another person. This is the rationale for safe distancing.

There have been concerns about the speed of development and implementation of COVID-19 vaccines, especially its safety and effectiveness. There is a mandatory process to develop a vaccine which is regulated by independent agencies. In the past, the process may have been limited by bureaucratic red tape and processes; however, these have been expedited to reduce delays. When infected, the person does not immediately fall ill. Instead, the person undergoes a phase where the virus infects more cells in the body and produces more virus from those infected cells. This phase is the incubation phase, and the infected person may continue to spread the virus to other healthy individuals. Even at this stage, the person is infectious to others, hence it has been termed the ‘pre-symptomatic phase’. The next phase is when the patient starts to become unwell and fever develops, along with acute respiratory symptoms which vary from person to person. These respiratory symptoms include dry throat, cough, runny nose, congestion of nose, breathlessness and loss of taste or smell.

Some develop nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea. There may be fatigue, muscle aches and pains. The symptoms may range from mild to severe. Patients with severe symptoms may deteriorate and require intensive care. Those with chronic illnesses are at risk of developing severe symptoms. They may also develop more complications as a result of their chronic illnesses. The elderly is more vulnerable to such infections. They may acquire it easily and develop more complications. Outbreaks of COVID-19 in nursing homes in some countries have caused more deaths as the residents there are old and have chronic illnesses. It has become noticeably clear that prevention of the spread is necessary in the strategy to contain the virus. Some countries have imposed lockdowns to curb its spread. These were intended to reduce interaction among people that would otherwise have allowed the virus to spread. Measures like quarantine for incoming travellers allows for their isolation until they have passed the incubation period. The period of quarantine is about 14 days. Those who have acquired the infection prior to arrival will not spread the infection as they would be in quarantine. The inclusion of tests during the quarantine allows for earlier detection of those who are infected before they fall ill. They can then be provided with prompt medical care, rather than allowing symptoms to appear. Medical care for COVID-19 infection is largely supportive in nature. Unlike bacterial infections that can be treated with antibiotics, treatment of most viral infections is supportive and medications are given to control symptoms like fever. There are antiviral drugs available which work to disrupt the way the virus spreads within the human body. In an infected person, the virus attaches itself to the cells and stimulates it to produce more copies of the virus which are then released to attack other normal cells. Antiviral drugs trick the virus to attach to it instead of the cells in our body, thus preventing the infection from taking hold of cells. Some may stop the virus from making copies of itself after it has entered the cell. Others prevent the release of the

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virus from infected cells. Although antiviral drugs are used for COVID-19 infections, they have not been shown to be highly effective. The focus has therefore shifted to preventing the infection. This may be achieved through vaccination. Vaccination is a process that involves giving a person a vaccine to prevent the person from acquiring an infection. The person’s immune system becomes activated with the vaccine and produces antibodies which protects against the infection. This process of developing immunity is called immunisation. Technology and medical science have brought about newer and safer vaccines which are synthetically produced. These are safer than using dead viruses or material from them. In Singapore, there are two vaccines that have been approved for use against COVID-19. They are the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna vaccines. These vaccines use a newer method, which involves messenger RNA (mRNA), for immunisation. mRNA are genetic material that are used to code for proteins. They are not incorporated into the cells’ DNA but instead, are eventually broken down. Cells normally generate mRNA to produce a variety of proteins for the function of cells. In the case of mRNA vaccines for COVID-19, they produce proteins that are found on the SARS-CoV-2 virus which in turn stimulates and teaches the immune system how to fight it. Therefore, if the person does become infected, the body immune system can mount a response to fight it. Vaccination improves a person’s immunity to COVID-19. It prevents the person from getting the infection and spreading it to others. Some people develop a partial response to vaccination and may not be fully immunised, which means that they may get a milder infection with fewer complications. It is therefore important to recognise that vaccination helps most people. Based on the current available evidence, the two vaccines in Singapore have an effectiveness rate of more than 94 percent.

With more people immunised through vaccination, it is anticipated that the return to normalcy will occur sooner rather than later. Nonetheless, it remains that safe management measures should continue. As we move towards normalcy, some new norms will continue – being responsible for our health by seeing a doctor when unwell, wearing a face mask, and washing one’s hands frequently. vaccine alone. Common side effects include pain or swelling at the injection site, fever or chills. These may be relieved with medications like paracetamol. There is a small risk of a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis where a person may develop difficulty breathing and swelling of eyes and lips. This is a serious reaction that requires immediate attention. Fortunately, this is rare.

There have been concerns about the speed Vaccines are considered medications. of development and implementation of Some side effects may occur with vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines, especially its safety which are not peculiar to the COVID-19 and effectiveness. There is a mandatory 14 T H E K A R Y A W A N © AMP SINGAPORE. PERMISSION IS REQUIRED FOR REPRODUCTION.

process to develop a vaccine which is regulated by independent agencies. In the past, the process may have been limited by bureaucratic red tape and processes; however, these have been expedited to reduce delays. There are also trials conducted to ensure that the vaccines are safe for use. The abundance of caution that is seen in the vaccination programmes for COVID-19 indicates a mindful awareness that safety remains paramount. The vaccination programme in Singapore has been conducted in a stepwise manner. Frontline workers, especially those in healthcare, were offered vaccinations first. Healthcare workers have willingly stepped forward to be vaccinated, to reduce their risk of getting infected and to protect their families. Subsequently, those who are vulnerable were offered vaccinations. These would be the elderly, aged 70 and older. Given Singapore’s ageing population, it is imperative that we advocate immunisation to protect the elderly. The programme has since been expanded progressively to those in education, transport as well as delivery and now, to those who are younger. With more people immunised through vaccination, it is anticipated that the return to normalcy will occur sooner rather than later. Nonetheless, it remains that safe management measures should continue. As we move towards normalcy, some new norms will continue – being responsible for our health by seeing a doctor when unwell, wearing a face mask, and washing one’s hands frequently. It is only with everyone’s cooperation that we will be able to overcome this pandemic.

ad of Division Main is the He ne, Dr Norhisham lliative Medici Pa d an re Ca c tri for Supportive ria nsultant in Ge and a Senior Co ne at the lliative Medici Pa d an ne ici Med l. ita sp Ho l Genera Ng Teng Fong

Surrendering of Religion to Technology BY SHEIKH MOHAMAD FAROUQ ABDUL FAREEZ

Modernity has given us unprecedented connectivity to the extent that we can connect families from opposite ends of the world with just a single touch. Unknowingly, modernity has also transformed this connectivity into something fluid where we are constantly connected with the world without having the ability to focus on a single emotion. We have been conditioned to see the world at a fast pace so that we can be up to date and continuously pressured to negotiate between antinomies. It stems from the fear that the lack of information will make us redundant and disenfranchised from the broader society1. Ultimately, we are bombarded with an information glut that has penetrated every aspect of our lives, from the unmissable advertisement boards to the countless notifications on our mobile devices.

1 2 3 4

As much as it is essential for technology to augment the quality of lives, it is equally important to understand that underlying every development in human society is an epistemological, political, or social bias. Sometimes that bias is to our advantage; sometimes it is not2. According to author, Neil Postman, “technological change is not additive, it’s “ecological”, and that in order for us to comprehend, manage, and even embrace the rapid changes brought on by the technological advancement happening all around us, we need to understand that technology doesn’t just add to society, it transforms it.” 3 Technology has altered the way we think of activities that are interested in developing the human being as a whole and not just a cog in the economic machine, such as religion, arts, politics and history 4. Due to the brief scope of this article, it will focus on how

human societies have unconsciously surrendered religion to technology. As a disclaimer, this article is not an effort to encourage its readers to be anti-technology or modernity. However, it aims to understand the nature of technology and question those who uncritically regard technology as a solution to all of our life’s problems, including the proximity to God. RELIGION AS ENTERTAINMENT In the foreword of his seminal work, Postman explains the dystopian future offered by both George Orwell and Aldous Huxley. Both men imagined how oppression could be forced on modern societies in diametrically opposite ways. For Orwell, it was state-enforced repression that suppresses and controls

Harari, Y. The Rise of the Useless Class. 2017. Accessed 2021, February 10: Postman, N. Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change. 1998. p. 5 Ibid, p. 4 Postman, N. Technopoly. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1991. p. 48

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the people. Whereas Huxley envisioned a world where people are controlled by inflicting pleasure to a point that they are reduced to passivity and egoism which deprived them of thinking. Based on his observation of society, Postman regards the future closer to Huxley’s vision as we have become a trivial culture5. To Postman, “Americans no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other. They do not exchange ideas, they exchange images. They do not argue with propositions; they argue with good looks, celebrities and commercials.” 6 Postman blames this depravity on the transition from a print-based epistemology to an image-based culture caused by the rise of the television7. However, it is crucial to recognise that it is not the television itself that is the issue. The problem emerges when television becomes an epistemological foundation for society to acquire knowledge and presents itself as a carrier of meaningful cultural conversations for society to understand religion, politics and education. Postman regards this transformation as dangerous. A television-based epistemology privileges entertainment above literacy. Television rarely requires prerequisite information to understand our perception of reality. In fact, it has often been accused of banalising even the most serious subjects8.

socials that reduces our reality to commodifiable objects.

which historical colonialism is remembered, such as physical violence, it continues to serve the core function Against this backdrop, what is the impact of colonialism – to exploit the resources of the spectacle on religion and religious on a global scale and redefine social communities? Postman correctly and economic structures in the process. observed that on television, “God is a In fact, the modus operandi of data vague and subordinate character. Though His colonialism is both simpler and deeper – name is invoked repeatedly, the concreteness the capture and control of human and presence of the preacher carries the clear life through the appropriation of data message that it is he, not He, who must be that can be used for profit-making, worshipped. […]Television’s strongest point is behavioural change and choice shaping14. that it brings personalities into our hearts, not Unlike the colonial empires that came abstractions into our heads. [...T]he danger is to the ‘new world’ via boats and trains, data colonialists built communication not that religion has become the content of television shows but that television shows may networks like social media and e-commerce platforms to harvest the become the content of religion”. 11 To put it data of millions. simply, religion has become a tool of entertainment to domesticate the masses. While many critiques of data colonialism It does not serve the function to educate tend to focus on the role of big tech society in discerning the sacred from profane, the beautiful from ugly, and the companies, it is equally important to recognise the role of certain governments humane from inhumane. using big data programmes that target religious communities. In November Although his discourse was mainly centred on television, Postman’s critique 2020, a Vice Motherboard report exposed on an image-based epistemology remains the popular Muslim Pro app for sharing relevant when extrapolated to understand user information to a location data company that eventually sold this data the ecological effects of social media. to the US military15. These revelations In fact, one can arguably regard social substantiate longstanding patterns of the media as television on steroids. We see ‘religious influencers’ refashioning serious US government’s domestic surveillance of Muslims under the PATRIOT Act. discourses such as underdevelopment Dandia explains that it stems from into a vaudeville act to gain traction and Although one can argue that Postman’s validation. It echoes Postman’s argument state-driven suspicion of Muslims that resentment of an image-based culture equates ‘conservative’ Muslim practices that “everything that makes religion a is an exaggeration, it is certainly no with radicalism16. exaggeration to maintain that television historic, profound, sacred human activity is 12 stripped away” . thrives on entertainment that serves as On the flip side, data colonialism has also a spectacle where the line between the enabled neoliberalism to flourish in the DATA COLONIALISM real and the imaginary is completely Muslim market17. The term Muslim In The Costs of Connection, Couldry and blurred. In his book, The Society of the Mejias suggest that the digital revolution market refers to the potential spending Spectacle, Debord describes the spectacle as a tool for distraction9. It reduces society has chartered the path for a new phase of power of an estimated 1.8 billion Muslim consumers worldwide. Over the last to a series of images in which everything colonialism (data colonialism) that in decade, there has been a strong interest in in reality becomes a commodity10. time will prepare the ground for a new this market due to the rise of a Muslim mode of capitalist production in similar Today, the spectacle takes on different middle class and increasing demand for forms. It is truncated to fit a medium ways in which historical colonialism halal products and services within the that intrudes every aspect of our life prepared the ground for industrial Muslim geographies and beyond18. The through advertisement boards, handheld capitalism13. Although data colonialism State of the Global Islamic Economy Report devices, and even sponsored ads on our may not share the same features for

Postman, N. Amusing Ourselves to Death. New York: Penguin Books. 2014. p. xix 6 Ibid, pp. 92-93 7 Ibid, p.16 8 Ibid, p. 47 9 Debord, G. Society of the Spectacle. Bread and Circuses Publishing. 2012. p. 23 10 Ibid, p. 14 11 Postman, N. Amusing Ourselves to Death. New York: Penguin Books. 2014. pp. 122-123 12 Ibid, p. 117 13 Couldry, N. and Mejias, U. The Costs of Connection. California: Stanford University Press. 2019. p. xix 14 Ibid, p. 12 15 Cox, J. How the U.S. Military Buys Location Data from Ordinary Apps. 2020, November 16. Retrieved from: 16 Dandia, A. Muslim Pro: How Tech Capitalism Turns Prayer Data into Profit. 2020, December 11. Retrieved from 17 Rethel, L. Corporate Islam, Global Capitalism and the Performance of Economic Moralities. New Political Economy, 24(3), pp. 350-364. 2018. Available at: Ahmad, N. What Do We Know about the “Third One-Billion Market”?: A Closer Look at Muslim Consumers and Halal Phenomenon. 2017. Accessed 2021, March 1: 5



2018/19 by Thomson Reuters and DinarStandard projected the global halal economy to hit $3 trillion in 202319. This bodes well for the functioning of a neoliberal system. According to Barylo, this confluence gave birth to a new narrative, that Muslims can be accepted in the mainstream provided they become economic actors. Realising that Muslims can be a profitable niche market has also pushed high-end brands to release modest fashion lines with hijab-wearing models representing these brands20. Marketing strategies would also use algorithms to capitalise on the Muslim market21. Accordingly, the sacred is stripped from these religious symbols. This assimilation can be seen as a response to a climate of fear imposed by the infamous war on terror. To put it simply, to be normal is to be part of the dominant culture, even at the expense of our values and belief system. Similar to Islamophobia, neoliberalism exploits vulnerabilities. While Islamophobia excludes, neoliberalism includes. TECHNO-SPIRITUALITY According to Postman, there is a common understanding of technological inventions as if they were God-given and part of the natural order of things. In fact, the age of technopoly has seen the deification of technology where religions and cultures seek authorisation and find satisfaction from technology. Postman points out that such an idea is dangerous, because if people take that as a given, then there will be no control over it. People will accept it without thinking seriously about its ecological implications. Technopoly is not only a state of culture. It is a state of mind22. In 2019, a 400-year-old Buddhist temple in Kyoto introduced to the world the first


20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30



robotic priest in an attempt to reignite faith in a country where religiosity is on the decline. Mindar was designed to look like Kannon, the Buddhist deity of mercy. Although it is not AI-powered, its creators intend to give it machine learning capabilities that will enable it to address the spiritual needs of worshippers and be tailored to solve their ethical problems23. While it has been reported that worshippers do not have any issues, it highlights a more profound concern that traditional forms of invoking God have been converted to mechanical activities. It has an impact on how we see our realities. Theology in its fullest sense is anchored in the created cosmos24. The prayer in Islam is connected to the movement of the Sun in the sky and to perform it, we have to connect with water or earth before connecting with God25. The Quran repeatedly raises the intimate relationship between human life and the cosmos to discern the wisdom of God underlying it26.

cosmos, it would not be surprising if we witness a time where Mindars will give out religious directives from pulpits.

His critics have often accused him of being a Luddite because of his criticism of technological advancements. On the contrary, Postman made it clear that he had no motives to destroy new technologies. As a matter of fact, he acknowledges the advantages that they bring28. His main intention is to inform society that we cannot sit back and let technology take over the reins. Historically, Luddites were not blindly opposing technologies but they were confronting forces that were forcefully displacing tradition and their way of living29. In the digital age, perhaps it might be necessary for us to apply a certain degree of Luddism to counterbalance a technological utopianism30 and create space for critical reflection of the technological world that we’re building31. I am suggesting bringing into conversation Walter Mignolo’s idea of an ‘epistemic disobedience’ 32 to It is He who has made the sun a [source of] scrutinise, reflect and evaluate the epistemologies and ecological effects radiant light and the moon a light of the digital revolution. [reflected], and has determined for it phases so that you might know how to compute the years and to measure [time]. None of this has God created without [an inner] truth. Clearly does He spell out these messages unto people of [innate] knowledge 27.

Given our unwavering reliance on technology, it would not be an exaggeration to say that its collapse could spell the disintegration of religious rituals. Some Muslims might not be able to tell the prayer time or the Qiblah without the reliance on their technological devices. Instead of experiencing the Divine to the fullest, we are now subjected to the tyranny of our limited intellects. Should we continue to displace the symbiotic relationship between religion and the

Sheikh Mohamad Farouq Abdul Fareez is a Research Analyst at the Centre for Research on Islamic and Malay Affa irs [RIMA]. He holds a Master’s degree in Islamic Thought and Applied Ethics. His area of interest involves issues concer ning religion, human development and ethics.

State of the Global Islamic Economy Report 2018/19: Islamic Economy Marks Steady Growth. Salaam Gateway. 2018, October 28. Retrieved from:,The%20State%20of%20the%20Global%20Islamic%20Economy%20Re port%202018%2F19,US%243%20trillion%20by%202023.&text=More%20companies%20are%20active%20in,sector%20of%20the%20Islamic%20economy Barylo, W. What Amena Khan’s Apology Tells Us about the Limits of Muslim ‘Success’. 2018, February 8. Retrieved from: Esa, L. Halal Beauty Brands that are Redefining Southeast Asia. 2020, September 23. Retrieved from: Postman, N. Technopoly. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1991. p. 71 Holley, P. Meet ‘Mindar’, the Robotic Buddhist Priest. 2019, August 23. Retrieved from: Nguyen, M. Modern Muslim Theology: Engaging God and the World with Faith and Imagination. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. 2018. p. 30 Ghilan, M. Technology: The New Polytheism? 2016, April 18. Retrieved from: Nguyen, M. Modern Muslim Theology: Engaging God and the World with Faith and Imagination. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. 2018. p. 34 Quran 10:5 Postman, N. Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change. 1998. p. 5 Postman, N. Technopoly. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1991. p. 48 Frischmann, B. Algorithm and Blues: The Tyranny of the Coming Smart-Tech Utopia. Scientific American. 2018, July 30. Retrieved from: Frischmann, B. There's Nothing Wrong with Being a Luddite. Scientific American. 2018, September 20. Retrieved from: Mignolo, W. D. Epistemic Disobedience, Independent Thought and Decolonial Freedom. Theory, Culture & Society, 26(7–8), pp. 159–181. 2009. Available at:

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“Hardest Decision in My Life”: Stories of Premarital Abortion BY NABILAH MOHAMMAD


Abortion is perhaps one of the world's most polarising issues today. Although it is widely practised, it is not widely accepted. Laws on abortion vary across different jurisdictions, from prohibiting abortion under all circumstances to freely allowing it without restriction. In Singapore, abortions are guided by specific government regulations, which doctors must adhere to strictly. Here, abortions are legal for women up to 24 weeks of pregnancy and available to any woman who wants one. However, even in places where the practice is legal, abortion can still be hard to talk about. As shared by our interviewees in this article, high levels of stigma surrounding abortion are creating a culture of silence which may stop them from speaking to their family and friends about their experience out of fear of being judged. The Karyawan team spoke to three women and one man who came forward to share their stories for the first time.

“I was over three months pregnant, so I had a surgical abortion. I remember the morning I had the procedure, my hands were ice-cold, still hoping that this was all just a bad dream. I was brought to a small room and made to lay on a giant chair with stirrups. They immediately started the procedure with a machine that makes a noise like the suction at the dentist’s office. The doctor talked me through the whole process in an attempt to ease me until I was knocked out by the anaesthesia,” Nur shared. According to Nur, the recovery process was emotionally uncomfortable as she was placed in a shared recovery room, which she felt forced her to be part of others’ experiences as some women were upset, nauseated or in pain. “The procedure was over really quickly. I woke up wanting to know what had happened to my body, but also not wanting to know. The nurse moved me into the recovery room after the procedure. My vision was blurred but I could hear everything clearly. There were rows of girls in beds, placed literally side by side in the dark, only separated by a curtain. I can hear the lady next to me fidgeting in discomfort from the other side of the curtain. I could hear another girl moaning in pain and another vomiting. It was horrible. I was sobbing alone the whole time, rubbing my belly and repeatedly saying sorry,” Nur added.

ALONE IN ANGUISH The team met Nur (not her real name), who had an abortion last year. According to her, deciding to terminate a pregnancy is not a walk in the park. Verification of the premarital pregnancy meant a new reality for her. She started to consider her readiness, describing the experience as a lonely journey during which her values were challenged. The Karyawan team also spoke to Shila (not her real name), a 34-year-old early “I had never questioned the morality of childhood educator, who has been married abortion before but when it comes to for six years. Shila shared that she was your own body, you start to think about about 23 years old when she had her things differently. The second I saw the abortion in 2010. She was working as a two lines on the pregnancy test stick, flight stewardess and was eight weeks into I was left with more questions that I the pregnancy when it happened. could possibly answer. I cannot describe the panic and stress I felt immediately. “As soon as I got to know I was It was clear to me that I was not ready to pregnant, I was utterly shocked and felt have a child; however, when it came down ashamed for my disgusting act. Disgusting to actually getting an abortion, I had no because I failed to be a good Muslim. When idea where to begin. As a professional, faced with an unplanned pregnancy, high-earning, independent woman, the I needed to consider a lot of things such as unexpected difficulty of this experience on how the child may affect my relationship both personal and relational levels was with my family, my boyfriend, society, or my shocking. I carried on going to work as professional and personal lives. It was not normal but found myself completely unable an easy decision for me to make, but what to function,” Nur shared. made me certain were the images of my family members replaying in my head – Nur walked us through her experience. ashamed of having a Muslim daughter or sister like me. The decision to abort the pregnancy was the only solution I had to

undo this mistake without anyone knowing what had happened,” Shila said. Shila explained that the feelings of guilt came from her upbringing, viewing premarital pregnancy and abortion as morally wrong. According to Shila, she was born and raised in a religious Muslim family, so terminating the pregnancy was the only way out she saw for herself. “I could remember vividly how affected I was when I got to know that I was pregnant. I cried, disappointed and ashamed of myself. Back then in my secondary school days, I used to stereotype teenagers who had babies at an incredibly young age as unethical. With this pregnancy, I felt that I am just one of them. I felt that I was a disgrace to myself, family, and community,” Shila said. Shila also mentioned that she had to experience the situation alone. According to her, she called her boyfriend, who was in another country, for support, but all he told her was to immediately abort the baby before anyone found out. “He was not that supportive as he could not be physically there for me. In addition to that, he kept calling to ask if I had aborted the pregnancy. He did not even ask how I felt or if he could support me in any way despite the distance. I eventually told my best friends what had happened and they were supportive about the whole situation. It made me feel better as they did not judge me,” Shila said. Nur agreed that it is important for women who have had an abortion to have strong social support as the psychological impact that follows can be distressing. She shared that without social support, abortion stigma will continue to impact women’s well-being long after the decision to abort or not to abort has been made. “The mental anguish that followed was intense. The next day, I spiralled into a depressive, anxiety-filled state like nothing I had ever experienced. I am grateful that my partner was there all the way. He searched for the best doctor, brought me to the clinic, waited till I was done, ensured that I had a good recovery and pacified me every time I broke down. I can’t imagine doing it all alone,” Nur shared.

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“I walked into the same clinic for all my three abortions as I was already familiar with the place, procedure, and doctor. There is a great sense of regret. Every now and then, I think about it. I would have had three more kids. I often wonder what they would have looked like; how old they would be right now. I think about them often,” Liya said.

MULTIPLE ABORTIONS We also spoke to Liya (not her real name), who, like the other two women, argues that causing family shame and having a child out of wedlock are the main drivers in her decision-making process. Liya, a 38-year-old married mother of one, has had three abortions and each time, she suffers the effects of guilt and shame. Liya, who is also a polytechnic diploma holder, had her first abortion when she was 19. She had just started working at that time and could not afford to have a baby. Her main worry was how devastated her parents would be if they found out she was pregnant. “I was quite young when I had my first abortion. I had gone on a date with somebody that I didn't know particularly well. We had a few drinks. One thing led to another and I woke up the next morning unable to remember the night and unsure of what had happened. I know that I followed him back to his house but everything else was a blur. Fast forward a few weeks and I am overcome with worryingly 'pregnancylike' symptoms. I eventually took the pregnancy test and when I saw that it was positive, I was shocked,” Liya shared. Liya shared that there was no way she and her partner could afford to bring a child into the world. They knew what they had to do so they booked an appointment for the abortion at a clinic in the eastern part of Singapore. Liya explained that she was in no way capable of raising a child as she had no income. Her partner was also going to university and most importantly, she did not want to disappoint her family. About four years later, at 23, she found herself pregnant again by another boyfriend. She did not think she would be so ‘unlucky’ as to get pregnant again. “I did not even know I was pregnant. I had a few missed periods but dismissed it as irregular menstruation until I had a horrible stomach ache. My aunt eventually brought me to the hospital thinking it was a stomach-related problem. I took a urine test and met the doctor with my aunt. To my disbelief, the doctor told us that I was about seven weeks pregnant. I couldn’t even face my aunt after that. I hid in the hospital’s toilet and cried, as I was too ashamed to face my aunt. Fortunately, she was understanding and kept it from my parents. She was supportive of my decision to


terminate the pregnancy as we both knew that I was not ready,” Liya shared her experience. Five years after her second abortion, Liya got pregnant again. This time, it happened while she was having a casual affair with a colleague. She dreaded the thought of a third abortion, but the father of the child told her to do it, so again, she terminated the pregnancy. “I walked into the same clinic for all my three abortions as I was already familiar with the place, procedure, and doctor. There is a great sense of regret. Every now and then, I think about it. I would have had three more kids. I often wonder what they would have looked like; how old they would be right now. I think about them often,” Liya said. ABORTION IS NOT SOLELY A WOMAN’S STORY The women we spoke to shared that when they find themselves in conversations about abortions with others, people are too quick to judge and admonish the women. According to them, the physical, psychological, and social perils of an unwanted pregnancy are virtually exclusive to the carrier of the baby; that it is entirely the consequence of unprotected sex to which the woman had consented. “It takes two to cause an unwanted pregnancy. I feel that we also need to talk about men when we talk about abortion. While the ultimate decision is the women’s, society needs to realise that abortion is not solely a woman’s story. To ignore men’s accountability for unwanted pregnancies despite us being arguably more to blame, is just mindless,” Nur added. “Once, I was sitting with a group of preschool teachers and they were talking about a particular person who was had gone through an abortion. I heard them saying, ‘Perempuan tu dah buat dosa sekali, nak buat dosa lagi’ (That woman had sinned once, now she’s sinning again). You do not hear people blaming the man because the one going through the abortion is the woman. That is why the guys are like, invisible,” Liya shared. NO UTERUS, NO OPINION? We had the opportunity to talk to Andi (not his real name), a 32-year-old entrepreneur, whose partner had an

abortion. According to him, abortion in general is viewed as a women’s issue and he felt that it is important for him to talk about his experience with abortion as a man, a voice rarely heard in such a discussion.

make women's experience especially sensitive, influencing how they perceive their care and how they assess their experience. According to them, the perceived stigma may cause women to feel less empowered to ask questions about the procedure, and are less likely to challenge “When we are still in the relationship, it is the cost, the poor treatment, or to tell not solely the woman who will be affected by others if they receive low quality care. the abortion. The man shares the impact of the actual trauma as the child is produced by “I guess the stigma women experience may the two. Not going through the procedure be associated with having conceived an physically doesn’t mean that the man cares unwanted pregnancy. Yet I am grateful to less. In addition, possible depression that live in a place where there is an option and arises after the abortion may affect the I can make the decision to have the procedure woman and their partner has to be there to safely,” Nur explained. support them and understand the changes in emotions and moods. This will then aid the Nur also shared that she felt exposed and process of recovery,” Andi shared. uncomfortable even before entering the clinic. She felt judged outside the abortion Andi, whose partner had an abortion clinic by everyone who was there, and she recently, shares that he was very aware of continued to feel uncomfortable after she the societal stereotype that assumes men entered the clinic. She shared that she felt do not want to be involved when an self-conscious for needing an abortion and unplanned pregnancy happens, which susceptible to the negative judgment of he feels plays a part in the difficulty in others, including the clinical staff, which navigating conversations on abortion. compromised her ability to feel at ease. He reiterated that a decision for an abortion affects the man as much as it “It is a women’s clinic that’s also famous affects the woman. for their abortion procedure, so when a girl goes there, you know she is getting an Andi shared that he wanted to be as abortion. From the time I got there, I was supportive as he could by letting his embarrassed by it. I walked into the clinic partner make the decision, but also made and I felt like all eyes were on me. It’s like sure she knew he was there for her. everybody knows. There was a dead silence that is hard to describe in the waiting room,” “Looking at the sonogram and seeing my Nur shared. unborn child was very sentimental for me. I was looking at a product of my partner According to our interviewees, the trauma and I. Personally, if I were given a chance to involved in being responsible for the death make a shared decision about keeping the of one’s foetal child can be emotionally child, I would want to be responsible for our overwhelming. All of them spoke at length actions and raise the child. But I had to of the grief surrounding their experiences. consider our capability and whether the They also describe the fear of public situation at that moment was permissible exposure, the possibility of infertility and for the both of us. The ultimate decision of compromised marriage prospects. The should be made by the carrier of the child as emotional and psychological impact of I might not truly understand what was abortion also manifests itself in low going through my partner’s mind. Maybe esteem feelings of social isolation due to she was scared, worried or simply not ready the need for secrecy and feelings of for a child. She was definitely leaning powerlessness as they attempt abortion towards having an abortion hence, I resisted without their family’s knowledge. When discussing about keeping the child with her,” they are forced to keep their situation a Andi added. secret, even from the people they are closest to, it says something about how alone a woman can feel. PERCEIVED STIGMA AND PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL-BEING “People don't realise the impact of abortion Our participants shared that the stigmatised because no one talks about what happens and contested context of abortion can after. I had excruciating waves of cramps

that I endured and treated them as a form of punishment for my decision. The stigma impacts the help-seeking process because I could not talk to anyone else as I didn’t want them to find out I had an abortion. It was even harder trying to mourn when I didn’t even feel like I deserved that right. For months following, I have heard the cries of newborns – at the park, in the bus on the way to work – and it triggers that frigid day. It is not easy. I did not just wake up and say, ‘okay, today I'm going to kill a baby’. No, you do not think like that. You are grappling with a real-life moral decision,” Nur shared. A NOTE TO OTHER GIRLS Everyone has an opinion about abortion, but for our interviewees who were in this situation, figuring out right from wrong becomes a complex question. The people we interviewed shared their stories so people in the same situation will find strength in taking a step towards healing when they realise that they are not alone in this struggle. Abortion is something we tend to be more comfortable discussing as an abstraction; the feelings it provokes are too complicated to face in all their particularities. Which is perhaps why, very few people talk openly about the experience, leaving the reality of abortion, and the emotions that accompany it, a silent witness in our discourse.

Nabilah M ohammad is a Senio Analyst at r Researc the Centre h for Resea Islamic an rch on d Malay A ff airs (RIMA a Bachelo ). She hold r of Science s in Psychol Specialist ogy and a Diploma in Statistics Mining. and Data

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Preserving Social Harmony: Lessons from the Marrakesh Declaration for Minority Muslims Living in Non-Muslim Countries BY USTAZ DR MUHAMMAD HANIFF HASSAN


THE MARRAKESH DECLARATION The Marrakesh Declaration is a culmination of an initiative led by the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies under the leadership of Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah and the sponsorship of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government. Sheikh Bin Bayyah is a prominent and respected contemporary Muslim scholar. He is widely seen as an eminently learned voice of moderation and peace. He was invited as a distinguished guest by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) to speak to Singapore leaders and communities in March 2017.

explicitly and implicitly understood also in the idea of citizenship of a modern nation state; Sanctity of all social contracts that have been agreed upon, or would be agreed upon from time to time as the basis for national development and social harmony; The binding of Muslims and non-Muslims as equal members of one ummah (community or nation) similar to the concept of a nation regardless of faith, ethnic and culture under one nation state; Non-Muslims’ entitlement to equal rights with fellow Muslim citizens in Muslim polity i.e. freedom to practise religion and equality in law and justice; Peace and harmony are the bases of Muslim and non-Muslim relations because both are the essence of Islam, not war and conflict; and Commitment to peace and non-violent means to achieve social and political aspirations is a virtue in Islam and peace should be regarded as the high objective of its shari`ah today because none of the five existing agreed-upon high objectives of the shari`ah (maqasid al-shari`ah i.e. preservation of religion, life, intellect, wealth, and family) could be fulfilled without the preservation of peace.

It is noteworthy that the Charter of Madinah was neither a post-conflict solution nor a post-conquest imposition of the victors upon the vanquished people. In fact, it was a solution formulated for the prevention of social conflict between the new emerging Muslim community and non-Muslim inhabitants of Madinah, and between migrant and fellow local Muslims. This underscores the Prophet’s commitment to a peaceful approach to managing social and political situations within a multi-religious, ethnic and cultural society.

The participants of the conference in Morocco affirmed the validity of the Sheikh Bin Bayyah founded the Forum for Charter of Madinah was based on Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies in • historical study and, thus, is considered 2014 as a response to conflicts and anarchy as a valid reference and basis for the in the Muslim world after the Arab Spring following theological standpoints: (2010-2013). The Arab Spring precipitated • Muslims are to uphold social contract, the outbreak of civil war in Syria, Libya • being a key pillar of the modern nation and Yemen. In Egypt, the democratic state, because it is compatible with protests against President Mubarak Islam; deteriorated into low-intensity armed • Muslims are obligated to uphold the conflict after a military coup-d'état that constitution of state where they belong brought down President Morsi. All of to because citizenship is a contract which further destabilised ongoing similar to the Charter; conflicts that beset Iraq and Afghanistan • All non-Muslim citizens of Muslim since post-9/11. countries should be regarded as equal members of modern state’s nation The Marrakesh Declaration was made similar to the Charter’s recognition of after a conference held from 25 to 27 THEOLOGICAL BASIS OF THE Jews and non-Muslim Arabs as one January 2016 in Morocco. Heads of state, MARRAKESH DECLARATION ummah together with Muslims; over 250 Muslim religious leaders and Muslim scholars, intellectuals and leaders • All non-Muslim citizens of Muslim scholars, in addition to over 50 who attended the conference based all countries should enjoy the same civic non-Muslim religious leaders, took part in points in the Marrakesh Declaration on a rights of fellow Muslim citizens and be the three-day summit in Marrakesh treaty related to the Prophet (peace be upon protected from discrimination or entitled, The Rights of Religious Minorities in him) known as the Charter of Madinah. persecution similar to the Charter’s Predominantly Muslim Majority Communiterms of agreement; and ties: Legal Framework and a Call to Action. The Charter of Madinah was an agreement • Muslims are to commit to peaceful made between migrant Muslims of Mecca and non-violent means to address any The conference was organised with very (Al-Muhajirin) and inhabitant Muslims of domestic social and political issue specific objectives – to address the Madinah (Al-Ansar) and Muslims, various similar to the process taken by the contemporary status and rights of nonJews and non-Muslim Arab tribes. It is Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to effect Muslim minorities in Muslim countries. historically recognised as among the first the Charter of Madinah. This issue arose after various reported things done by the Prophet (pbuh) after his incidents of abuse and persecution against migration (hijrah) from Mecca. The IMPORTANCE AND SIGNIFICANCE non-Muslim minority groups, such as agreement bound Al-Muhajirin and The Marrakesh Declaration is highly being targets for bombings and political Al-Ansar and Muslims and non-Muslims significant and relevant with regard to violence due to the ongoing conflicts. in Madinah as one ummah (nation); Islamic law and its contemporary sharing the same rights – such as equality application. At the end of the conference, the organiser in rights to practise personal faith, be and participants agreed to make the protected by law and be treated fairly and Firstly, the Marrakesh Declaration allows declaration that enshrined the following justly. It also exemplifies responsibilities the reconciliation of Islamic law with the key points: such as a duty to defend Madinah from modern concept of citizenship, where all • Islam’s recognition of the idea of social foreign hostilities, preserve internal peace citizens of a state are fundamentally equal contract between fellow citizens and and provide financial contribution for regardless of their personal faith. between citizens and government as common good when necessary.

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This is a groundbreaking rethinking and review of the dominant traditional position in Islamic law where non-Muslims are regarded as Zimmis via Al-Zimmah Treaty.

Charter of Madinah was not preceded by conflict and hostility between the signatories. What differentiates the Charter of Madinah from Al-Zimmah Treaty and rulings that came after it was Although the Al-Zimmah Treaty recognises due to the breach of the Charter of non-Muslims as subjects of Muslim polity, Madinah by some Jewish tribes. Hencethus guaranteeing them with security and forth, this notion of conflict and hostility protection, they are not regarded as a became the norm in Islamic tradition and member of the ummah and do not have later be applied to non-Muslim communiequal status with Muslims on the basis of ties who were defeated militarily. Islam’s superiority above all other religions. It is up to the discretion of the LESSONS FOR MINORITY MUSLIMS ruler whether to restrict the rights and Although the Marrakesh Declaration’s freedoms of their non-Muslim citizens. main concern is Muslims’ obligation Due to the absence of a written constitutowards minority non-Muslims in Muslim tion and the subsequent institutional countries today, it has relevance to protections at the time, the prevailing minority Muslims living in a secular sentiment of rulers was that the position country like Singapore. of Islam and Muslims should be one of supremacy. Many lessons could be deduced for minority Muslims too, which Sheikh Bin This dominant position is found in many Bayyah highlighted in his keynote speech classical works on Islamic law of governin a convention after the pronouncement ment which are still regarded as the of the Marrakesh Declaration held from 11 reference for regulating non-Muslims to 13 December 2017 in Abu Dhabi. in Muslim polity today; despite the contextual differences during which the He asserted that Muslim minorities living Al-Zimmah Treaty was formulated and in non-Muslim countries are his concern applied in the past. too, even though the forum headed by him is named the Forum for Promoting Peace in Examples of contemporary application of Muslim Societies. He is confident that all these rulings include the strict restrictions initiatives and means to promote peace by on non-Muslims in new places of worship, the Forum in Muslim countries are public celebration of religious festivals, relevant for promoting Islam in any public display of religious symbols and society in the world today. proselytisation activities among Muslims. The Marrakesh Declaration champions Secondly, the Marrakesh Declaration the theological basis for minority Muslim signifies that the superiority of Islam communities to actively participate and above other religions should not necessar- contribute to promoting peace and social ily be understood as Muslim superiority harmony in non-Muslim countries where over non-Muslims in a Muslim polity. they reside. Therefore, non-Muslims can enjoy the same rights as Muslims. Firstly, Muslims, regardless of their status as citizen, permanent resident, or visitor Thirdly, the Marrakesh Declaration openly must recognise, commit and uphold the challenges the dominant idea among established social contract in the country Muslims that the concept of ummah is where they reside, in keeping with the exclusive to Muslims. Denying spirit of the Charter of Madinah. non-Muslims from being an equal member of an ummah is not consistent with the Secondly, the Marrakesh Declaration terms of the Charter of Madinah. emphasises commitment to the secular articles enshrined in the local constitution Fourthly, the Marrakesh Declaration and laws as a symbiotic part of the social rectifies the idea found in Islamic tradition contract enjoined by Islam. that conflict and hostility or presumption of both are the basis in regulating the There may be parts of the constitution or relationship between Muslims and laws in non-Muslim countries that are non-Muslims. One must recall that the incompatible to Islam. Muslims are not 24 T H E K A R Y A W A N © AMP SINGAPORE. PERMISSION IS REQUIRED FOR REPRODUCTION.

commanded to be passive in such situations. In fact, it is part of a Muslim’s duty to strive for change. Muslims must be committed to peaceful and non-violent means in all matters such as the ability to exercise their rights, or correct injustices imposed on them, or as they strive to achieve their individual aspirations (social, political and economic). The right of civilians to effect societal or political changes is enshrined in all democratic countries. Democratic institutions provide a safe space for all citizens and civil society to express their views and beliefs as long as they are done in accordance with the laws of the land. Above all, the Marrakesh Declaration urges Muslims to always give preference to peaceful means, consultative or consensus building process with relevant stakeholders and avail themselves to all legal channels. Until the change could be effected by such means, Muslims must respect the order of the day and be patient with the less-than-ideal situation. This article was first published in Malay under the title, “Membangun Keharmonian Sosial: Pelajaran Dari Perisytiharan Marrakesh”, by Suara Istiqamah, no. 1, December 2020, which is available at uploads/2020/12/perisyitiharan-marakeshcombined.pdf

f Hassan is ammad Hanif Ustaz Dr Muh m School of na at jar Ra S. l a Fellow at g Technologica udies, Nanyan International St apore. University, Sing


Global Islamophobias and Antisemitisms BY ASSOC PROF PAUL HEDGES

UNDERSTANDING THE FAR-RIGHT THREAT In December 2020, a 16-year-old youth was the first person detained for far-right extremism under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in Singapore. This has raised concerns about the global and local threats posed by such ideologies. This case, however, raises a number of issues


that will lead us to think carefully about what we mean by ‘far-right’ extremism, and also how prejudice, in particular Islamophobia and antisemitism, play into the matrix. For those concerned with Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), which include scholars, policymakers, and law

enforcement agents, the term ‘far-right’ is often deployed to capture a variety of contemporary militant groups and ideologies1. These range from white supremacists to militant Hindu and Buddhist nationalists, and militant Zionist settlers in Israel. Such diversity may make us wonder whether they are all ‘far-right’, especially if this denotes an

Kumar Ramakrishna. The Growing Challenge of the Extreme Right. RSIS Commentary, CO21011. 2021, January 20. Retrieved from:

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extreme right-wing political stance. These groups draw from diverse, and often contradictory, impulses including fascism, Nazism, white supremacy, Neo-Paganism, a posited Judeo-Christian tradition, anti-colonialism, and populist and nationalist politics. I suggest we exercise some caution before assuming a common far-right stance. However, common amongst such groups are particular forms of prejudice which include, almost universally, both Islamophobia and antisemitism. These often manifest as violence.

rather than a ‘Christian’ extremist. Conversely, those inspired by militant neo-Islamic jihadism ideology are never termed far-right extremists. But a clear link of this youth to typical far-right ideology is Islamophobia.

British English Defence League, militant violence and intimidation are often targeted against Muslims8.

Outside the West9, Muslims have become the particular fixation of militant Hindu nationalists. While the memory of ISLAMOPHOBIA AND CONTEMPORARY Mughal conquests and tension with FAR-RIGHT EXTREMISM Pakistan is part of this, it has also been As much as far-right extremism has fed by colonial narratives. In the roots in white supremacism, often linked aftermath of the Indian Mutiny, or First to a Christian or (Neo-)Pagan heritage4, War of Independence of 1857, it served Muslims will typically be cast as an British purposes to paint Muslims as out-group. Nevertheless, hostility to disloyal and liable to revolt. In Sri Lanka, Muslims is not inherent. The Nazis following the defeat of the Tamil Tigers, sought allies amongst Arab nationalists, THE LOCAL CASE the search for a new enemy by militant and the Muslim leader, Hajji Amin What we know about the local youth Buddhist nationalists led to Muslims Al-Husseini (1895-1974), mufti of is that he is of Indian ethnicity and becoming the target of choice. For Jerusalem, spent much of the 1930s in self-identifies as a Protestant Christian. militant Zionist settlers, Palestinians Germany. However, for European – and He believed that Muslims were required (who are not all Muslims) have been cast hence Western – minds, the spectre of to kill Christians and so he seemingly as like the biblical Amalekites, the Muslims as threat has brewed as an image fiercest enemies of the Jewish people who perceived himself as acting in selffrom at least the time of the Crusades5. defence of his fellow believers with an must be expelled from the land of Israel attack on a cathedral in France being a Meanwhile, the Iranian Revolution of to fulfil God’s commands. strong impetus to his radicalisation2. 1979 and then the 9/11 attack have He plotted an attack on two mosques heightened a perception of Muslims Being right-wing politically does not, of and in deciding to attack two places of as the prime enemy, related also to the course, make anyone inevitably worship, driving between them and end of the Cold War and the need to Islamophobic. But across the far-right, livestreaming the event, he was inspired manufacture a new enemy6. Islamophobia is built into the national by the Christchurch attacker3. and international networks. For instance, Examples of Western Islamophobia are Hindu nationalists have developed It is, perhaps, the link to the Christchurch rife, even at the political table: in the USA, alliances with European Neo-Pagan attacker, whose attack and motives are Trump’s travel ban on primarily Muslim extremists, and the Trump-Modi linked to a range of white supremacist countries; in the Netherlands, the rhetoric bromance seemed to have a strong groups and an Islamophobic narrative that of populist politicians such as Geert Islamophobic sentiment10. ties this youth to the epithet, ‘far-right’. Wilders; and the British Prime Minister, However, as an Indian, he presumably Boris Johnson, mocked Muslim women in INTERSECTIONAL PREJUDICE: did not draw from white supremacist burkas as letterboxes, which resulted in, MUSLIMS, JEWS, BLACKS, narratives, while his ideological or, he may argue, coincidentally coincided WOMEN, ETC. underpinning as a Christian contrasted with, a spike of assaults on Muslim Some castigate intersectionality as with that of the Christchurch attacker’s women7. While not only a facet of the politically-correct rhetoric; however, it political right, smearing and targeting Neo-Pagan inclinations. It is hard to see, highlights at least two well-documented from what we know, what may mark this of Muslims is part of the playbook of features of prejudice11. First, prejudice youth as being politically right-wing, yet many populist politicians. Meanwhile, often hits hardest at the intersection of from the American Proud Boys to the he has been called a ‘far-right’ extremist oppressions, so Black women – more than


2 Daryl Choo. 16-year-old S’porean who made ‘detailed plans’ to attack 2 mosques in Woodlands detained under ISA. TODAY. 2021, January 27; updated 2021, January 28. Retrieved from:; see also: Ministry of Home Affairs. Detention of Singaporean Youth Who Intended to Attack Muslims on the Anniversary of Christchurch Attacks in New Zealand. 2020, January 27. Retrieved from:; and, Paul Hedges. Rise of Violent Christian Extremism: Whither Inter-Religious Ties? RSIS Commentary, 21027. 2021, February 11. Retrieved from: Though, on issues around the term ‘radicalisation’, see: Paul Hedges. Radicalisation: Examining a Concept, Its Use, and Abuse. Counter Terrorist Trends and Analysis, 9.10 (2017): 12–18 3 Singapore teenager arrested for plotting attack on Muslims. Al-Jazeera. 2021, January 27. Retrieved from: 4 On racism and Christianity being linked to prejudice, see: Paul Hedges. Religious Hatred: Prejudice, Islamophobia, and Antisemitism in Global Context. London: Bloomsbury, 2021. pp. 85-88, 135 5 As used here, ‘Europe’ is very much an imaginary construct created in contradistinction to an imagined ‘Muslim world’, see: Franco Cardini. Europe and Islam, trans. Caroline Beamish. Oxford: Blackwell, 2001 6 Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky. Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, revised edition. New York, NY: Pantheon Books, 2002 7 In general, see: Paul Hedges. Religious Hatred: Prejudice, Islamophobia, and Antisemitism in Global Context. London: Bloomsbury, 2021. pp. 129-134; and on Johnson, see: Lizzie Dearden. Islamophobic incidents rose 375% after Boris Johnson compared Muslim women to ‘letterboxes’, figures show. The Independent. 2019, September 2. Retrieved from: 8 See: Bill Chappell. Canada Lists Proud Boys As A Terrorist Group, Alongside ISIS And Al-Qaida. NPR. 2021, February 3. Retrieved from:; and Ray Gaston. Christian Responses to Islamophobia, in Paul Hedges. Ed. Contemporary Muslim-Christian Encounters: Developments, Diversity and Dialogues. London: Bloomsbury, 2017. pp. 135-150 9 Paul Hedges. Religious Hatred: Prejudice, Islamophobia, and Antisemitism in Global Context. London: Bloomsbury, 2021. pp. 165-194 10 Ibid, pp. 181-182, 192-194 Kimberlé Crenshaw. Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics. University of Chicago Legal Forum, 1989.1.8. 1989. pp. 139-167. Retrieved from:


The study of prejudice during the twentieth century has, however, taught us that there is no benign bigotry. Our stereotypes of groups, and words against them, all too readily lead to discriminatory actions and even killing or genocide. Prejudice against one of us, is probably also hatred against another of us, and undoubtedly a harm to all of us.

should expect this prejudice. The controversial Republican congresswoman, and Trump advocate, Marjorie Taylor Greene has suggested that Jewish space lasers were responsible for last summer’s forest fires in California12. The 2017 Unite the Right march in Charlottesville, USA, saw open chants of “blood and soil”, an old Nazi chant – though these days it may also reference the Great Replacement theory in which white supremacists believe Muslims are demographically taking over Europe and other Western nations (Jews are often believed to be orchestrating this)13. Antisemitism also links to Hindu and Buddhist extremists, with the former having direct Nazi links. During the 1940s, an agreement was reached for some Hindu nationalist information to be placed in German newspapers in return for antisemitic content being spread in India amongst Hindus14. Meanwhile, Sri Lankan militant Buddhist nationalist Anagarika Dharmapala drew direct parallels between his hatred and incitement of violence against Muslims in the 1915 riots to Jews15. As such, despite Western roots, antisemitism is part of both the Hindu and Buddhist far-right.

and with left-wing antisemitism existing17. There is also a modern trend of Muslim antisemitism which counters traditional Islamic understandings of Jews as ahl al-kitab (People of the Book) and ahl al-dhimma (protected people, often dhimmis), drawing instead from Western, especially colonial and Nazi, impulses18. While I have focused on antisemitism, it is not to downplay such things as prejudice against Black people, indigenous peoples, or women, with a diminution of women – and violence against them – being typical of the far-right.

NO BENIGN BIGOTRY It has not been my aim to argue that what marks out far-right extremism is Islamophobia. Rather, I have tried to note the often complex webs of prejudice that are today increasingly focused on Muslims as a common enemy by not just militant groups, but also populist politicians even in mainstream settings. The UK’s Baroness Warsi recently described Islamophobia as a socially acceptable prejudice, because it could pass the ‘dinner table test’19. In other words expressing it would not make one a social pariah, nor would it be considered out of An exception is, of course, militant place in polite conversation. The study of Zionist settlers, though they do attack prejudice during the twentieth century Jews who defend the rights of Palestinians has, however, taught us that there is no – the 1990s Oslo peace process was benign bigotry. Our stereotypes of groups, derailed in large measure by a militant and words against them, all too readily Jew murdering Israeli Prime Minister lead to discriminatory actions and even Yitzhak Rabin. Moreover, many rightkilling or genocide. Prejudice against one wing Jewish figures readily work alongside of us, is probably also hatred against simply Black people or women – often antisemites; much US Evangelical another of us, and undoubtedly a harm bear the bigger brunt of discrimination. to all of us20. Second, prejudice does not normally occur Christian Right support for Israel is not based upon a love and respect for Jews, against just one group; Islamophobes but a belief that when all Jews return to typically hate many others, and targets Israel it will usher in Jesus’ Second of typical far-right hatreds include Jews, Coming, with a resultant Middle Eastern socialists, Blacks, intellectuals, and war killing almost all Jews16. women amongst others. Focusing on antisemitism, the Nazi connection of many groups means we


13 14

15 16 17 18 19


Antisemitism is not only limited to the far-right, having deep Christian roots,

Assoc Prof Paul Hedges , PhD is an Associate Professor in Interreligio us Studies for the Studies in Inter-Religious Relations in Plural Societies (SRP) Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyan g Technological University, Singapore.

Jack Dutton. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s ‘Jewish Space Lasers’ Conspiracy Theory Met With Derision, Jokes. NewsWeek. 2021, January 29. Retrieved from: Paul Hedges. Religious Hatred: Prejudice, Islamophobia, and Antisemitism in Global Context. London: Bloomsbury, pp. 108-109 Marzia Casolari. Hindutva’s Foreign Tie-Up in the 1930s: Archival Evidence. Economic and Political Weekly 35.4, 2000. pp. 218-228; and Paul Hedges. Religious Hatred: Prejudice, Islamophobia, and Antisemitism in Global Context. London: Bloomsbury, pp. 187-188, 269 n.28 Paul Hedges. Religious Hatred: Prejudice, Islamophobia, and Antisemitism in Global Context. London: Bloomsbury, p. 175, 264 n.40 Ibid, p. 110 Ibid, pp. 51-65, 109-110, 113-122 Ibid, pp. 149-164 David Batty. Lady Warsi claims Islamophobia is now socially acceptable in Britain. The Guardian. 2011, January 20. Retrieved from: Frantz Fanon. Black Skin, White Masks, trans. Charles Markmann. London: Pluto Press. [1952] 1986. p. 122

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‘Bullying’ is a commonly used term in our early school days. One can relate to it – either from personal experiences, or statements made by our peers or even school teachers.

This incident clearly shows how victims can be severely affected – causing a decline in academic progress, antisocial behaviour and degradation of mental health.

UNCOVERING CYBERBULYING Modern communication technology – be it smartphones or social media platforms – allows users to interact with others virtually, with ease.

Typically bullying is seen as a type of aggressive behaviour, which is repeatedly carried out against those who are unable to defend themselves, with the intention to cause harm1. Victims of bullying often suffer physical, mental and social implications.

While the incidence of bullying largely occurs among youth or students, it is equally important to acknowledge that bullying happens among adults too. This form of bullying is not always at the forefront of conversations, more so when it comes to cyberbullying.

However, this ease comes with a cost.

Recently, a 14-year-old student was reported to have committed self-harm after being repeatedly bullied by her peers in school, which then escalated to suicidal tendencies2.

There is a dire need to consider the challenges that cyberbullying presents among adults, and the steps that one can consider taking when being bullied, as well as the support that others can render.



Invasion of privacy, hate speech, and online shaming are some of the consequences arising from the liberation of communication. What is so different about cyberbullying? The key elements of bullying remain the same: power imbalance between the bully and victim, high levels of aggression and repetitive victimisation. What differs is the platform, in this case, online, and the complexities that it provides its users.

Langos, Colette. Cyberbullying: The Challenge to Define, in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking. 2012. 15. 285-9. DOI: 10.1089/cyber.2011.0588 2 Wong, P. T. Teen says bullying led her to try suicide; MOE admits school lapse but ‘effective disciplinary action’ then taken. TODAY. 2020, December 18. Retrieved from:

Those complexities include anonymity, rapid dissemination of materials, highly accessible data and digital footprint, which arguably do not write off by itself. The limitless nature of the internet could leave its users vulnerable to possible repercussions in the future due to the data they had left online ranging from personal information, to search history, to simple comments. What used to be physical confrontations now take place in cyberspace. They take form through the display of demeaning interactions through chats or comment sections, stealing and misusing of online identities, and imposing threats towards the victims or their families3. As cyberspace is a limitless space, the consequences arising from cyberbullying are equally limitless. ADULTS CAN BE VICTIMS TOO While there are many campaigns against cyberbullying, most are targeted towards adolescents and students.

pointed out by a mental health specialist that he had suffered from depression due to the stress faced from demeaning comments and online abuse5 . Two years later, two other K-pop figures committed suicide after suffering from depression6. These celebrities were known to have weaved messages of mental issues, freedom of choice and women’s rights into their songs or public statements. Hence, cyberbullying happens among adults, even among high-achievers, and these unfortunate outcomes can be avoided through self-awareness and support from both the victims and the society. AM I A VICTIM? One of the contributing factors that lead to the prevalence of cyberbullying is the lack of voices addressing and reporting it. The first step is to recognise the act of bullying itself.

Secondly, despite him publicly acknowledging and apologising over his old tweets, the hateful comments did not subside – which then caused him to take a break from social media10. Lastly, it is important to recognise the difference in power balance between these two periods of time. The power Zhang’s tweets held over the LGBTQ community due to the challenges they faced in the past had shifted against himself. He was vulnerable and defenseless against the abuse and harassment directed to him online. In this case, he would be considered a victim of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying victims’ responses play an equal part in maintaining their safety and mental health. So, what can one do when one is victimised?

The first is to report. There are a lot of frameworks available to address the issue. One such framework is the Protection Whenever these three elements are from Harassment Act (POHA). If one involved: the intention of causing harm, repetition and power imbalance, let us not experiences bullying or cyberbullying However, adults too fall victim to at workplaces, they can refer to the beat around the bush and call the act for cyberbullying. In fact, there has been a Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive what it is – bullying. high number of adults who were victims Employment Practices (TAFEP). to the point of committing suicide. In 2019, a local actor and rapper, Tosh According to a study conducted by Pew It is important for us to learn and know Zhang, stepped down as a Pink Dot Research Center in 2017, 41 percent of our avenues to seek help if we are being ambassador7 three days after he was American adults surveyed personally victimised. experienced online abuse, 16 percent were appointed. This was largely due to the reposting of his discriminatory tweets witnesses to such actions, and 18 percent against the LGBTQ community from WHERE ARE WE IN THIS? were victims to severe behaviours almost a decade ago8. Countering cyberbullying is not a involving threats, stalking and sexual one-man show. It requires collective effort. harassments4. Apart from the victim, the community Even if the reposting of his tweets were made available on multiple sources, it was needs to be equally aware of its prevalence, The same can be seen in the media and the risks it imposes. not meant to harm Zhang in any way. industry. However, the consequences arising from the social media community definitely did. Providing support and being present with In 2017, the Korean pop music (K-pop) the victims greatly influence their mental industry was shaken by the news of a and emotional state. Blaming them for member of a K-pop group, Kim Jong Hyun, In this context, the three conditions being their own cause of victimisation who committed suicide despite his success mentioned earlier are fulfilled. should never be the case. and achievements. Firstly, the demeaning comments directed While no direct mention of cyberbullying towards him had definitely brought harm It was recorded in an IPSOS11 survey on ‘Gender Equality, Sexual Harassment and upon him – mentally and emotionally9. was stated in his suicide note, it was

Slonje, R., Smith, P. K., and Frisén, A. The Nature of Cyberbullying, and Strategies for Prevention, in Computers in Human Behavior. 2013. 29(1), 26–32. DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2012.05.024 Duggan, M. Online Harassment 2017. Pew Research Center. 2017, July 11. Retrieved from: Park, S., J. Cyber Bullying Suspected of Playing Role in Jonghyun's Death. Aju Business Daily. 2017, December 20. Retrieved from: 6 Cho, J. Deaths of Goo Hara and Sulli Highlight Tremendous Pressures of K-Pop Stardom. ABC News. 2019, December 1. Retrieved from: 7 Pink Dot SG is a non-profit annual movement which was initiated in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community in Singapore. 8 Zhuo, T. Tosh Zhang Steps Down as Pink Dot Ambassador after Outcry over Derogatory Tweets. The Straits Times. 2019, May 18. Retrieved from: 9 Yang, G. Actor Tosh Cries & Quits Social Media Temporarily after Pink Dot 2019 Controversy. Goody feed. Retrieved from: 10 How, M. Actor Tosh Zhang Decides to Step Down as Pink Dot 2019 Ambassador after Homophobic Tweets Dug Up. Mothership. 2019, May 18. Retrieved from: 11 IPSOS. Gender Equality, Sexual Harassment and the #MeToo Movement in Singapore. 2019, March 7. Retrieved from: 3 4 5

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the #MeToo movement in Singapore’ conducted in Singapore that 45 percent of its respondents blamed women’s choice of attire or dressing as a contributing factor to being physically or verbally harassed12. This blaming culture by others, along with the victims’ fear and insecurity about its repercussions, show a lack of support from the society when they need it the most. This form of self-silencing behaviour can be damaging. There might be other victims who are suffering under the radar. Other than being highly associated to physical and psychological health, social support also helps stimulate victims’ coping mechanism and increase their chances of recovery13.

Victims will be more confident in speaking up and asking their social circle for help if there is a healthy, supportive community. NO ONE IS EXCUSED No one is less victimised than the other. Victims of cyberbullying are all equally harmed by the constant aggressive behaviour projected against them while being powerless to defend themselves. Their age, gender, past mistakes or social position play no part in justifying it.

at the Siti Raudhah Ramlan is an intern Malay Centre for Research on Islamic and nt Affairs (RIMA). She is currently a stude in Islam under the Postgraduate Certificate from the in Contemporary Societies (PCICS) pore Singa of cil Coun ious Relig Islamic ic (MUIS). She holds a Bachelor of Islam – Revealed Knowledge and Heritage ies, and majoring in Qur’an and Sunnah Stud minoring in Psychology from the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM).

The same can be said for society, specifically, us. Upon witnessing and recognising cyberbullying, there is a need to be cognisant of our roles and how our reactions determine the outcome of the victims, who could be us in the future.

If you are currently a victim or know someone who is a victim of bullying, please approach these organisations for assistance: ORGANISATION



The Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP)

Offers assistance and advice for employees or individuals who encounter workplace discrimination or harassment.

T: 6838 0969

Over The Rainbow (OTR)


“OTR Listens” is an online support platform and cathartic outlet for youth and young adults aged 13 to 35 years old to share their emotions, feelings, issues, concerns, challenges and aspirations via a real-time text-based chat service and sharing with the community. This service is provisioned by trained volunteers (called Listeners).


12 Hingorani, S. Commentary: She’s Practically Asking For It? Do Singaporeans Subscribe to Rape Myths? CNA. 2020, November 4. Retrieved from: Ozbay, F., Johnson, D. C., Dimoulas, E., Morgan, C. A., Charney, D., and Southwick, S. Social Support And Resilience to Stress: From Neurobiology to Clinical Practice, in Psychiatry. 2007. Edgmont (Pa.: Township), 4(5), pp. 35–40


Unconscious Bias in the Workplace




We tend to think that we are rational another and may affect our assessment decision-makers who rely on facts and data of co-workers’ performance. Such to make decisions. Unfortunately, we behaviours can make workplaces seem aren’t designed to be as objective as we welcoming to some, and at the same would like to be. Regardless of our time, exclude others. background and demographics, we all have our own biases that affect how we 2. Halo Effect and Horns Effect. Now pause view and react to situations, and how and think of someone whom you receptive we are towards people whom we consider to be a confident presenter and think are different from us. describe this person. What are the words you would use to describe them? Unconscious bias is a mental blind spot Do they tend to be positive descriptors that shapes our decisions. It is activated which you associate with their without an individual’s awareness or confidence? If so, this may be the result intentional control and hence, difficult to of a ‘halo effect’ which is the tendency to spot, and is typically influenced by social focus on one particularly positive stereotypes as well as one’s personal and feature about an individual and allow it cultural experiences. What we attribute to to skew and influence your opinion of intuition or ‘gut feeling’ could be them in other aspects. Conversely, the judgement shaped by our experience, ‘horns effect’ works in the opposite assumptions and unconscious bias. direction, where one particularly However, if our ‘gut feeling’ is driven negative trait of an individual clouds largely by our biases, it could lead to our overall perception of that individual. sub-optimal decisions. Under time and For example, a co-worker with short job resource constraints to make decisions, stints may be perceived as an unreliable we often fall back on unconscious bias to job-hopper. make snap judgements or convenient conclusions. Recognising that our innate 3. Confirmation bias. Confirmation bias biases exist is the first step to consciously can lead us to form inaccurate impressions managing them, so we can be fair and of others by selectively recalling and objective in our responses and behaviours. interpreting information that confirms our existing beliefs based on stereotypes There are many types of unconscious bias or past incidents, while rejecting that can affect our decision and evidence that contradicts them. This sense-making in everyday life. Here are is problematic in the workplace, as it five common types that you might come leads to poor decision-making, across in the workplace. miscommunication and conflict among co-workers. You can see confirmation UNCONSCIOUS BIAS IN THE bias at work when you cherry-pick WORKPLACE specific information that reinforces your 1. Affinity bias. Do you have an inner existing beliefs. For instance, assuming a circle of co-workers at work? Do they team member is sloppy with his work have things in common with you? based on his less than tidy appearance While having friends in the workplace may make you constantly look out for is a good thing, we should consider if evidence of sloppiness, or assume his this could be the result of affinity bias, work will always be sloppy. However, which is the tendency for people to this may not be true at all – we are just prefer those who share similar interests, looking out for information to confirm experiences and backgrounds. These our beliefs. individuals are referred to as our ‘in-group’ members or part of our clique. 4. Conformity bias. This is a common On the flipside, this type of bias can also dilemma that we often face in make us averse or avoidant towards group settings. For instance, when individuals whom we perceive to be brainstorming solutions with colleagues, ‘out-group’ members and negatively have you ever felt pressured to agree affect how we interact at the social level with the majority even though you may as well as how we work with one have some reservations, or when your



opinion differs from the team? This illustrates conformity bias. 5. Attribution bias. This is the tendency to have different rationale for our behaviours and those of others. For example, we tend to attribute our accomplishments to our skills and personal traits such as determination, and attribute our failures to external factors beyond our control, e.g. the circumstance. It also reinforces our existing stereotypes – when a person displays stereotype-consistent behaviour, it will strengthen our stereotypes. However, when stereotypeinconsistent behaviour is displayed, we are more likely to attribute it to external factors to preserve our stereotypes. For instance, a manager with a stereotype about older workers’ IT ability might attribute an older employee’s good performance in an IT project to external factors such as good luck and strong support from team members, rather than his IT skills and accomplishments. The various types of biases described show us how unconscious bias can manifest at the individual/micro level. If left unchecked, our individual biases could collectively have a major impact on the organisation. These may create an unhealthy work environment that fosters an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mindset and undermine collaborative efforts, sharing of knowledge and information, and affect work productivity and deliverables. In some cases, it leads organisations to groupthink and away from building a robust team with diverse perspectives and capabilities. EFFECTIVE STRATEGIES TO ADDRESS UNCONSCIOUS BIAS To address unconscious bias, intentional efforts are required and each of us has a part to play. The first step to combating unconscious bias is to recognise our own individual biases to limit their impact. You could start with these simple yet vital steps: Take an online test. Harvard University’s Project Implicit1 provides a free online Implicit Association Test (IAT) which measures attitudes and beliefs that people may be unwilling or unable to report. For

Project Implicit. Education – Implicit Association Test. Available at:

instance, an individual may say that both men and women can excel in STEM careers, but the test results may show that they associate men with science more than women; an attitude or belief that they may not be consciously aware of.

the organisation. Some essential steps for employers to consider include: • Ensure there is a set of objective criteria and an evaluation form2 to shortlist candidates when hiring. • Adopt a transparent appraisal system with measurable standards for assessing Assess your network. Ask the following job performance. questions – Within the last week… • Implement a clear grievance handling • Whom have I asked for advice among procedure3 to provide employees with a my co-workers? safe channel to raise their concerns and • Whom haven’t I asked for advice or complaints without fear of negative listened to during meetings? repercussions, and facilitate the • Whom do I surround myself with? Who resolution of a grievance (e.g. if they are is in my inner team and are they similar the subject of biased behaviours). or different from me? • Who do I feel most or least comfortable For more information on unconscious with and why? bias and how it affects our decisionmaking, you can watch a three-part video Assess your beliefs and actions. Take series developed by Tripartite Alliance note of how and why you react in a given for Fair and Progressive Employment situation. Some factors to consider: Practices (TAFEP)4 featuring six common • What are the assumptions I make types of unconscious bias and ways to about others? overcome them. • Do I know them well enough to make these assumptions? • Have I had a regular conversation with colleagues who are different from me? Once you have identified your biases, have an effective action plan to minimise and ultimately eradicate them. For example, try starting conversations with individuals whom you may not have sought out before due to a lack of common ground. On work matters, seek out opportunities to get guidance from and even give inputs and feedback to colleagues whom you have infrequent interactions with. Making a deliberate effort to create opportunities to socialise and communicate with others with diverse backgrounds and experiences enables us to exchange ideas and perspectives, increase familiarity and appreciation for our differences and tear down biases.

The Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employme nt Practices (TAFEP) helps employers build wor kplaces where employees are respected, valued and able to achieve their fullest pot ential, for the success of the organisation. Em ployers can approach TAFEP for tools, resour ce materials and assistance to implement fair and progressive practices at their workpla ces. Employees or individuals who encoun ter workplace discrimination or harass ment can seek assistance and advice from TAFEP.

For more resources and events from TAFEP, visit

Employers and HR professionals among us could also do our part to eliminate institutional bias by reviewing organisational policies, practices and processes. Break the cycle of bias by developing structured processes to prevent decision makers from relying on their gut feeling or unconscious bias when making choices for 2

3 4

TAFEP. Resources – Interview Evaluation Form (Sample). Available at: TAFEP. Grievance Handling. Available at: TAFEP. 6 Types of Unconscious Bias to Avoid when Recruiting Part 1/3. (YouTube) Available at:

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Without a doubt, the oil and gas industry is one of the most hazardous occupational sectors where workers are exposed to a multitude of hazards such as explosions, fires, hazardous chemicals and gas leaks. Those working in remote and harsh conditions are often miles away from emergency services. Hence, the importance of emergency preparedness should not be underestimated. Training plays an essential part to ensure the workers are fully prepared in responding to emergencies.

To be honest, the attractive salary and benefit packages offered to expats working in this industry were great pull factors for me. So when I was offered a position here in Dubai, my family and I decided to take the leap. Q. What does your job entail?

Ridzuan: My job requires me to plan and deliver emergency training for the different business units within the company. I prepare customised risk profiles for each unit consisting of the To 39-year-old Muhamed Ridzuan Zainal Abidin, training is essential to inculcate a refineries, gas plants, petrol stations and high level of alertness and a safety mindset. oil tank farms. My main responsibility is to train the in-house fire responders Armed with his prior experience in in emergency response. The training handling incidents involving hazardous materials with the Singapore Civil Defence includes theory, physical training as well as live simulations of emergency Force (SCDF), he now works as an Emergency Response Trainer in the United situations. Arab Emirates (UAE), responsible for Q. The oil and gas industry is a lucrative training fire responders in dealing with field to work in, but is also a dangerous emergencies. occupation. Have you ever encountered any dangerous situations during the Eager to gain more work experience, Ridzuan and his family decided to move to course of your work? Dubai when he was offered the position. Ridzuan: Our daily live fire training He shares his experience with The involves gas-fired simulations that are Karyawan team. very risky. The element of danger is Q. Could you tell us more about yourself constantly present. But with experience, well-documented procedures and and your family? comprehensive risk assessments, the risks Ridzuan: We are a family of six who have are reduced to an acceptable level. been residing in Dubai for close to seven With that being said, I have been years. I am working as an Emergency fortunate to not have been exposed to any Response Trainer with the Emirates real life dangerous situations thus far. National Oil Company (ENOC). Prior to this, I was with the SCDF for seven years. Q. What made you decide to move to My wife who was a teacher with the Dubai? Was it a hard decision for your Ministry of Education is now a family? homemaker and takes care of our four beautiful children. Our youngest son, who is 3 weeks old, and our 4-year-old daughter Ridzuan: When I was offered the position in Dubai, it allowed my wife to be a were born here in the UAE. Their older stay-at-home mother to our children brother and sister are aged 9 and 8. which we thought was an ideal opportunity Q. What motivated you to join the oil and to improve our work-life balance. Apart from that, I was also offered promising gas industry? career progression. Our parents, as well Ridzuan: After a few years with the SCDF, as our extended families, were very supportive and alhamdulillah, we have not I was looking for opportunities to apply looked back since then. the knowledge I had acquired, in other fields. As I was also trained under SCDF’s HAZMAT (hazardous materials) programme, I had some experience with live incidents in the local refineries which sparked my interest to join the oil and gas industry.

Q. What were some of the challenges you’ve faced while living and working overseas? How did you overcome them? Ridzuan: The most important factor when living and working overseas in general is to learn to go with the flow and focus on the positives in any situation. The working culture in the UAE is undoubtedly vastly different to that of conscientious Singapore. Our Singaporean identity and work ethic are surprisingly very renowned in the UAE. I take pride in this identity and uphold my work ethic as I would in Singapore. Respect and acknowledgement will follow if we are honest workers. Living overseas also poses many challenges. However, I believe with patience, open-mindedness and smiles, any personal and cultural barriers can be overcome. The most challenging aspect of living overseas is being apart from our loved ones. Raising children without the extended family is tough as it does take a village, doesn’t it? Fortunately with social media and other technology, it is easier to stay in constant contact with them back home so that the children will still feel the love of their extended families while growing up. Q. Dubai and Singapore have a lot in common with both being developed, smart cities and have highly diverse populations. Was it easier for you and your family to adapt when you first arrived? Ridzuan: With Dubai being a highly cosmopolitan city and having a high percentage of expats in its population, it was not that difficult to adapt as we did not stick out like sore thumbs. The level of comfort and technology we were surrounded with was very similar to that of Singapore. We welcomed the perks of being in a predominantly Muslim country; with its abundance of Islamic resources, classes and musollahs available at every location. The children quickly became accustomed to having friends of different nationalities and there is no need for them to view

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themselves as ‘foreigners’ since the term is not relevant in such a diverse population. We are always open-minded to any differences as it is part and parcel of living in a new country. But we do acknowledge that the adapting process required quite a dose of perseverance amidst all the initial frustrations of doing paperwork, looking for schools and even grocery shopping. Q. How different are the culture and lifestyle in Dubai compared to Singapore? Ridzuan: I believe that the lifestyle in Dubai which one would adopt is largely a personal choice. Needless to say, the luxury that one is surrounded by in Dubai is almost second to none. However, as a family, we try to protect ourselves from the downsides of an affluent expat lifestyle by keeping ourselves grounded, making friends from all walks of lives, going on regular camping trips with only basic necessities, and even share household chores. I have to add that in Dubai, we live in a highly transient community. People are constantly entering and stepping out of our lives as that is the nature of an expat work life. Friends come and go. This is pretty tough to get used to and it does not get easier regardless of how many times we encounter this. Thus, it is crucial for us to have very strong familial bonds to weather such challenges. Q. Is there a big community of Malay Singaporeans living in the UAE? Ridzuan: Fortunately, a piece of home came along when we were introduced by some friends to the Singapore MalayMuslim Group (SMG) in the UAE, an organisation which seeks to oversee the well-being of the relatively large number of Singaporean Muslims in the UAE. We were introduced to the community through the group’s events such as the Hari Raya and National Day gatherings. Through SMG, we have gained innumerable friends who have now become our family in the UAE. As some of the community leaders have been living here for more than 30 years, they have assisted many of us in navigating the challenges, networking and building bonds to create a more meaningful life in the UAE. 36 T H E K A R Y A W A N © AMP SINGAPORE. PERMISSION IS REQUIRED FOR REPRODUCTION.


Q. What have been the highlights of your career or life in the UAE so far? Ridzuan: The highlights of my career here would be the exposure to various international projects, work trips and colleagues from different nationalities. This has provided me with a wealth of experience and networking which would otherwise be difficult to attain. On a personal level, it has been rewarding to witness our children thriving here regardless of our worries. They are gaining knowledge and respect for people from various cultures, learning new languages and love being one with nature. Living in the UAE also means that we travel a bit more widely than we otherwise would, given its central location. We now share valuable family experiences from our trips which have certainly added value to our living abroad. Q. Do you have any advice for Malay/Muslim youths who want to follow the same path as you? Ridzuan: Regardless of the path that one chooses to be on, I believe that the most important aspect when taking steps in life boils down to our intention. Keeping our

intentions pure and grounded will ensure that we will work towards our goals in a clear and realistic manner. Any career progression that you strive for should be viewed as a personal growth, apart from networking and sustaining a lifelong learning attitude, which are also essential. Q. What are your future plans? Do you plan to return to Singapore? Ridzuan: My family and I are doing well in the UAE and would like to stay here for as long as there are opportunities. With that being said, Singapore is home and our roots are still back at home. So one day, we will be back insya Allah.

utive at Nur Diyana Jalil is currently an Exec and the Centre for Research on Islamic social Malay Affairs (RIMA), managing its media, events and publication.

THE IMPORTANCE OF HISTORICITY AND HISTORICISING: Review of Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir Munshi: His Voyages, Legacies and Modernity, Volume 1 BY DR NURALIAH NORASID Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir Munshi – also known as Munshi Abdullah, Abdullah Munshi, and Abdullah Abdul Kadir – is a name known to hopefully most, if not all, Singaporeans. Or it should be, for his visage was amongst the four figures that joined the Raffles statue by the Singapore River as part of the Singapore Bicentennial’s recognition and celebration of the “multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-religious people, with richly diverse backgrounds” who have played important roles in the early development of the country1. Apart from the likeness rendered in white fibreglass or from the social studies textbook illustrations depicting a songkok-adorning, moustachioed man with a studying gaze that is almost amused, of the person itself, we might know him to be of Jawi Peranakan heritage. We might know that he was a learned man whose gifts with languages led to him being appointed by Raffles to be his secretary and interpreter, as well as Malay language tutor2. We might also know him through his most famous work, Hikayat Abdullah, in which he gives us glimpses into what Singapore was like in the past through his vivid descriptions and observations of places, people, events and practices. However, what of the man himself, his personal sorrows, laments and triumphs, the craft, and depths of his writing in a transitory period between feudalism and imperialism, his place in the ever-flow of time and history, not just



Sang Nila Utama, pioneers join Stamford Raffles along Singapore River. CNA. 2019, January 4. Retrieved from: Cornelius-Takahama, V. Munshi Abdullah. Singapore Infopedia – Personalities. National Library Board. 2019. Retrieved from:

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Singapore’s but also that of Southeast Asia and institutions, namely Raffles, the London Mission Society (LMS) – from and most notably the Malay world? whom Abdullah learned how to operate the printing press which would come to This is what Hadijah Rahmat, Associate move the nature of Malay writing from Professor and Head of the Asian Languages and Cultures Academic Group one of patronage under the feudal system and into a more commercially-driven at the National Institute of Education (NIE), Nanyang Technological University one during the colonial period – and the (NTU), had set out to do in the two books, American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). It also Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir Munshi: His Voyages, Legacies and Modernity, Volume 1 gives us insights into his movements throughout his life, his marriages and and Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir Munshi: His family, before concluding with his last Voyages, Legacies and Colonial History, will that he penned at the end of his Volume 2. The two massive tomes are a rather short life. result of more than 25 years of study focused on the writings of and literature This first chapter is followed by an surrounding the figure and consist of eye-opening one that reflects on the various papers that the author has main form of formal education that a presented and published, either in Malay/Muslim child would receive international journals or chapters in during Abdullah’s time, which is Quranic books. The first volume presents an in-depth study of Abdullah’s writings and studies, or mengaji Quran. Hadijah highlights the importance of this form his writings in relation to other texts of education among the Malay/Muslims produced before and during his time. In during the time and, in relation to the second volume, Hadijah focuses on Abdullah, how it will come to provide the the contexts surrounding Munshi’s life, traditional building blocks for Abdullah’s which includes the impacts of Christian own craft of writing. What is particularly missionaries’ journey into the Malay World, the issues, structures, and politics striking about this chapter is that it also that arise during Abdullah’s time and are lists the common punishments inflicted mentioned in his writings, as well as the upon the students who misbehave and/or are disobedient, most of which come very legacies that he has left in Singapore. close to torture methods, e.g. the hanging This review will only focus on the first with feet off the ground, being tied to a volume of the series. post, and having one’s fingers squeezed by a rattan fingers squeezer4. Today’s readers MUNSHI ABDULLAH – EARLY MALAY EDUCATION, THE MAN, might recognise or have even been HIS LIFE AND WORK inflicted with the Sengkang (or Singgang), best known today as the Ketuk Ketampi, Hadijah begins this first volume by giving us some background on Abdullah’s where the child must hold their ears and is told to stand up and squat repeatedly. early life: his birth and the miracle surrounding it with him being the first of Thankfully, however, these forms of corporal punishment are no longer five children to his mother to survive to widely practised today. adulthood, his family and thus his Arab (Uthmani)-Tamil heritage, his childhood The following chapters go into an in-depth and early education, his entrepreneurial study of Abdullah’s writings, ranging spirit seen in the way he makes, draws and sells kites to the village children, and from collaborative works such as the bilingual Malay-English magazine titled the language abilities that he developed to eventually earn him the title of Munshi Bustan Arifin, translations of classical Malay texts such as Sejarah Melayu and when he helps his uncle teach and write Hikayat Panca Tanderan (from a Tamil Quranic texts to the sepoys of Melaka Fort3. The first chapter also gives a broad language adaptation of the ancient Sanskrit overview of his occupations and the work text, the Panchatantra), translations of that he did for significant colonial figures statutes, textbooks and Christian texts


The later chapters of the volume touch on the marks that Abdullah has left on our present-day society particularly in the literary works that have been inspired by him, the social thoughts on Abdullah, as well as the reception towards his writings through different periods of Singapore’s history, Malay scholarship and developments in formal education (e.g., from vernacular education to national standard education). The volume ends with a transcript of an audio recording of Hadijah’s interview on Munshi Abdullah as part of the National Museum of Singapore’s permanent exhibition on the figure. “ALWAYS HISTORICISE!”5 : ABDULLAH IN CONTEXT In chapter 17, titled, From Priest to Islamic Reformer: The Social Thoughts on Munshi Abdullah, Hadijah gives an overview of opinions from key scholars on Abdullah ranging from “narrow-minded sycophant” who has internalised imperialist views of the native population, “brave trailblazer” who is also capable of making truthful observations that reflect a desire to see his society progress, “national hero, pioneer” and “religious reformer” 6. Contentions are even made regarding his ethnicity and whether he can be considered a Malay, and by extension a Malay pioneer, if he is of Jawi Peranakan heritage. Throughout the volume, Hadijah consistently pinpoints the criticism that Abdullah and his writing face, particularly in the decades and centuries following his death, and encourages the reader to think about Abdullah and his writings within

Rahmat, H. Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir Munshi: His Voyages, Legacies and Modernity, Volume 1. Singapore: World Scientific. 2021. pp. 3-17 4 Ibid, pp. 40-45 5 Jameson, F. The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act. New York: Cornell University Press. 1981. p. 9 Rahmat, H. Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir Munshi: His Voyages, Legacies and Modernity, Volume 1. Singapore: World Scientific. 2021. pp. 403-479 3


including the Bible for which he received much criticism both during his time and in the present day, as well as various original works such as his poetry, most notably Syair Kampong Gelam Terbakar, an impressive extended verse in which Abdullah gives an unflinching portrayal of different named characters and the various native communities, and hikayats, autobiographical accounts of his life and journeys which also served as his avenue to describe his observations, reflect and ultimately, educate.

This is not a book that one can exactly read from cover to cover in a smooth and seamless manner, especially if one is new to the genre of academic writing. However, it is a good compendium on the figure of Munshi Abdullah and a good road-marked starting point for anyone wishing to learn more about him and even about the times in which he lived and worked. Apart from being a factual and straightforward read full of expository, archival and scholarly information about and surrounding Munshi Abdullah, researchers looking for the unspoken, unrepresented and implied will have plenty to find and think about in this volume and the next.

one’s reading. Furthermore, as the volume comprises journal and conference papers, and chapters that have been published in other texts, the information presented can feel rather repetitive. This is not a book that one can exactly read from cover to cover in a smooth and seamless manner, especially if one is new to the genre of academic writing. However, it is a good compendium on the figure of Munshi Abdullah and a good road-marked starting point for anyone wishing to learn more about him and even about the times in which he lived and worked. Apart from being a factual and straightforward read full of expository, archival and scholarly information about and surrounding Munshi Abdullah, researchers looking for the unspoken, unrepresented and implied will have plenty to find and think about in this volume and the next.

This is truly a labour of effort and unflinching love by the author, and at points when reading it, one cannot help but find parallels in our own modern existence as a Malay/Muslim community in Singapore, where we often find ourselves in a larger space or institution that do not necessarily make us feel seen or included. What then? Do we assimilate the way information was produced and the context. As such, throughout the or resist? Do we adapt and work within disseminated and the power that it volume, she provides us with snapshots the boundaries that we are presented invariably gave to the imperial authorities with? Do we make space for ourselves and of the political, technological, and ideological developments that are taking in controlling what is taught in schools, how? At what point do our love and care the concept of modernity and the shifting for our community turn into resentment place during Abdullah’s time and which idea of authorship in literature, just to will influence his own writings and when we have tried and failed to make perceptions, as well as the way his works name a few. Even in presenting the things better? opinions and perceptions of later scholars are perceived. regarding Abdullah’s work and attitudes, There are no answers to these questions Hadijah shows how Abdullah’s portrayals Hadjiah contextualises these ideas through now it seems. For now, there is only the distinct paradigm shifts in the history of study, in the lamplight, paper close to of the native population are often unflattering, showing them to be lacking Singapore and the Malay World. eye, the words of the copied manuscript agency and integrity as seen in the syair written and awaiting illumination. In fact, it can be said that the volume itself about the Kampong Gelam fire, and possessing irrational beliefs and cultural is an exercise in historicity, taking the practices. In several of his writings, it is reader through each thought and relevant shown that Abdullah would often contrast period with no small amount of academic Dr Nuraliah Norasid is a writer and literary rigour. Through this, Hadijah seems to be the irrationality and backwardness of arts educator in Singap ore. She graduated with a PhD in English Lite the native population with the western emphasising that one exists and writes or rature from Nanyang Technological produces content as part of a larger efficiency, agency, and innovation. University. Her thesis looked at the conceptua lisation of marginality However, Hadijah cautions readers structure or framework, and that there through the medium of literacy, creation and against making easy connections and can be no work produced in the present revisionism. The creativ e portion of that thesis has since been publish assumptions without the idea and/or without some connection to the past – ed as the novel, The Gatekeeper, which findings within the appropriate contexts. developing off existing ideas, even won her the Epigram Books Fiction Prize in challenging them, and adapting them. As such, at various points in the book, 2016. She is currently working there are sections expounding ideas and on a new novel and enj oys quiet pur developments in a range of disciplines, CLOSING THOUGHTS suits such as reading, penmanship and e.g. the introduction of the printing press The way the ideas are structured in the stamp-collecting. volume does have the effect of impeding to the Malay World and how it changed APRIL 2021



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