PUBLISHED BY: AMP SINGAPORE • VOLUME 16 ISSUE 4 • OCTOBER 2021 • MCI (P) 010/07/2021 • ISSN NO: 0218-7434
DIGITAL CURRENCIES AND THEIR ADOPTION IN SINGAPORE
CONTENTS OCTOBER 2021
COVER STORY Digital Currencies and Their Adoption in Singapore by Dr Hazik Mohamed
Wakaf: An Important Social Economic Vehicle for the Singapore Muslim Community by Dr Shamsiah Abdul Karim
Understanding Muslims’ Responses to the Theory of Evolution by Sheikh Mohamad Farouq Abdul Fareez
FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK
Understanding Suicide and Self-Harm in Adolescents by Zuriati Zulfa Roslee
Woke Culture: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly by Shantini Rajasingam
Vaccine Opposition: Conversations with Anti-Vaxxers by Nabilah Mohammad
Time to Care by Tricia Lee
Before Signing an Employment Contract by Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices
Fathering: Seeing Beauty in Imperfections by Dr Mohammad Hannan Hassan
The Search for the Best User Experience with Anwar Abdulhaqq by Nur Diyana Jalil
Book Review: Islam in a Secular State: Muslim Activism in Singapore by Walid Jumblatt Abdullah by Nur Diana Abdul Rahman
SUPERVISING EDITOR Dr Md Badrun Nafis Saion EDITOR Mohksin Mohd Rashid EDITORIAL TEAM Nabilah Mohammad Nur Diyana Jalil Ruzaidah Md Rasid Sheikh Mohamad Farouq Abdul Fareez Winda Guntor
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FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK
Singapore has seen increasing interest in cryptocurrencies and digital currencies in recent years. We have also seen cryptocurrencies accepted in some businesses, such as the Kopitiam food court in Funan mall. Named KOPItech, the food court allows customers to make payments using Bitcoin, Ethereum and Creatanium. As a key financial hub in Asia, Singapore is also exploring the potential of central bank digital currencies to deliver efficient payment services, as well as make financial products and services more accessible and affordable to all individuals and businesses. But what exactly is digital currency? Will digital currencies become mainstream in Singapore? How suitable will they be as a transactional currency? Blockchain professional, Dr Hazik Mohamed, provides an in-depth look at digital currencies and their adoption in Singapore in Page 8. With emerging technologies in the financial services industry, it is imperative for the community to keep abreast with these changes, or we may face the risk of being left behind. I hope you enjoy reading this issue.
DR MD BADRUN NAFIS SAION SUPERVISING EDITOR
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An Important Social Economic Vehicle for Singapore Muslim Community BY DR SHAMSIAH ABDUL KARIM
The instrument of wakaf is one that has been in practice since the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Marshall Hodgson, in The Venture of Islam, refers to wakaf as a vehicle for financing the Muslim society 1. It is a powerful social finance tool that was pervasive and practised during the Ottoman empire. Here in Singapore, a recorded wakaf dates as far back as 1820. Most Muslims in Singapore understand the term wakaf as contributions to some religious properties such as mosques and madrasahs (religious schools), while others view it as a form of charity, for example the gifting of Quran or a prayer mat for people to benefit from. WHAT EXACTLY IS WAKAF? Wakaf is synonymous to endowment, but not exactly in the secular sense as it has its Islamic element. For Muslims, wakaf is a sadaqah jariah or a recurring charity that will assure one of the thawab or good deeds that will continue even after one has passed on. As Muslims, we believe that all deeds will come to an end except for three, as narrated in the hadith which the Prophet (pbuh) said,
“When the son of Adam dies, his actions come to an end except for three; sadaqah jariyah (ongoing charity), knowledge which brought benefit and a pious child who makes supplication for him.” 2 In view of this, logically, you would like to wakaf something which has maximum perpetual characteristics to make your deeds as lasting as possible. Hence, the wakaf of properties and land becomes very prevalent and pervasive. This is also how the wakaf characteristics was formed based on the hadith on charity narrated by a companion of the Prophet, Sayyidina Umar (may Allah be pleased with him). He once asked the Prophet, “I have this great land in Khaibar and I would like to give it away such that it will please Allah swt.” The Prophet (pbuh) said, “If you wish you can keep it as an endowment to be used for charitable purposes.” So, Umar gave the land in charity (i.e. as an endowment) on the condition that the land would neither be sold nor given as a present, nor bequeathed, (and its yield) would be used for the poor, the kinsmen, the emancipation of slaves, jihad, and for
Therefore, the above hadith forms the basis of the elements, and the legislative conditions for a wakaf. This means a wakaf cannot be sold, gifted, or inherited. In essence, once you wakaf, it is irrevocable and the capital should generate the usufruct, which in turn must be used for charitable purposes. HISTORY OF WAKAF IN SINGAPORE 4 Muslims used to be one of the largest landowners in Singapore, accounting for more than half of the land occupied of which some are in the form of wakaf 5. The first known wakaf, which was created in Singapore, was the wakaf of the Omar Mosque of Kampung Melaka which was endowed by the late Syed Omar Aljunied. He was a trader from Indonesia, who had probably originated from Yemen in 1820. However, there could already be many wakaf in the form of mosques that may
Hodgson, M. The Venture of Islam, Volume 1 - The Classical Age of Islam. University of Chicago Press. 1977, February 15 2 Hadith Muslim, as narrated by Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) 3 Excerpt from Hadith Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume IV, p. 27 The whole paragraph on the history of wakaf in Singapore is an excerpt from the writer’s thesis; see: Abdul-Karim, S. Contemporary Shari'ah Structuring for the Development and Management of Waqf Assets in Singapore. Doctoral Thesis, Durham University. 2010. Available at: http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/778/ 5 Brown, R. A. Islamic Endowments and the Land Economy in Singapore. South East Asia Research, 16:3, 2018. pp. 343-403. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.5367/000000008787133445 1
guests and travellers; and its administrator could eat in a reasonable just manner, and he also could feed his friends without intending to be wealthy by its means 3.
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have existed before, as Islam had come to Singapore earlier than that.
purpose recognised by the Muslim law as pious, religious or charitable 7.
any changes, purchases or sale of properties to MUIS.
The first wakaf legislation was passed under the British legislation in 1905. It was provided under the Mohammedan and Hindu Endowments Ordinance (Chapter 27) enacted on 8 September 1905. Most of the wakaf were created by the early settlers during the early 18th century, when merchants from Yemen and the Middle East set roots here in Singapore and created wakaf – a tradition they modelled from the rich wakaf history in their native countries.
This definition emphasised that the dedication must be in perpetuity and permanent in nature. For example, if we dedicate the wakaf for a specific period of time, this will not render the dedication as a wakaf. This dedication applies to both the capital and income.
There are some cases where MUIS had taken action against trustees who had mismanaged wakaf. A case in kind is the wakaf of Syed Hood where the trustee was charged by the court for breach of trust and was sentenced to two years and nine months in jail 10.
LEGAL STRUCTURE UNDER AMLA 8 Before the advent of the AMLA on 1 July 1968, all endowments were regulated under the Hindu Endowments Ordinance (Chapter 27), which was enacted on There were also wakaf founders from the 8 September 1905. When AMLA was Indonesia Archipelago of Bugis descent, created, MUIS inherited ten endowments examples of which are the wakaf of Hajjah from the Muslim and Hindu Endowments Daeng Tahira Haji Daeng Tadaleh, and Ordinance 9. some from India, such as the wakaf of Ahna Ally Mohammad Kassim. Most Several amendments have been made wakaf were created during the early over the years to strengthen the migration of the Muslims in the late regulation of wakaf in Singapore further. 19th and early 20th centuries. However, to One of the most important amendments date, there have been no new creations was to include the registration of wakaf and registration of wakaf except a new in MUIS under Section 64 of the AMLA. cash wakaf called Wakaf Ilmu, which Prior to this, there were no means for was introduced by the Islamic Religious MUIS to ascertain the existence of Council of Singapore (MUIS) in 2012 so wakaf assets. The amendments were that the public can participate in the done arising from the many problems ibadah of wakaf 6. posed by self-managed trustees, which involved cases of mismanagement, such LEGAL DEFINITION OF WAKAF as the selling of wakaf properties, and IN SINGAPORE where beneficiaries complained about While many of us will be familiar with not getting their dues. There is no just donating cash to the mosque as a legislation to prosecute recalcitrant form of wakaf for a room or wakaf for a trustees as there was often no evidence mosque to meet our requirement of doing of the status of the properties being a wakaf under the Administration of wakaf properties. Before the amendment Muslim Law Act (AMLA), such acts do of the law, there were only 28 wakaf not constitute or register as a wakaf. recorded in the accounts of MUIS. However, after the law on registration Wakaf is an Arabic word that literally was passed in 1999, private self-managed means stopping, binding or keeping in trustees came forward to register their custody, detaining, closing or imprisoning. wakaf. Thereafter, a total of 99 wakaf There are three definitions of wakaf found was recorded in the MUIS register by under AMLA: the definition of wakaf in the year 2000. general, ‘wakaf am’ (general wakaf ) and ‘wakaf khas’ (specific wakaf ). After the amendments, the regulatory power to monitor a wakaf managed by The general definition of wakaf is the trustees became more efficient, as AMLA permanent dedication by a Muslim of any also provides for trustees to submit movable or immovable property for any accounts and seek prior approval for
6 7 8 9 10 11
Notwithstanding the court action, MUIS also has the power to remove and appoint mutawalli as provided in Section 58 (4) of the AMLA. In addition, wakaf in Singapore must comply with the yearly audit and many other financial regulations and procurement procedures, as well as investments requirements under the stringent Singapore government process and regulations. For religious governance, the fatwa serves as the authority in deciding the religious matters on wakaf. All these create robust and rigorous governance standards for wakaf management in Singapore. WAKAF PORTFOLIO IN SINGAPORE Wakaf forms the largest assets value of the total assets managed by MUIS. There are currently 91 wakaf registered under MUIS, of which 68 are MUIS- managed while 29 are trustees- managed 11. Based on the 2020 MUIS annual report, total wakaf assets have swelled up to almost SGD1 billion. The portfolio of wakaf assets distribution based on audited financial year (FY) of 2020 figures by MUIS, is as follows: ASSET TYPE PERCENTAGE (%) Properties Financial Assets Cash and Cash Equivalents Total
82 2 16 100
Source: MUIS Annual Report 2020 Properties form the largest type of wakaf assets as they have the characteristic of perpetuity. Nevertheless, other forms of financial assets such as sukuk have also
See: Islamic Religious Council of Singapore. Annual Report 2012. 2012. Retrieved from: https://www.muis.gov.sg/-/media/Files/Corporate-Site/Annual-Reports/MUIS-AR12.pdf Administration of Muslim Law Act. Chapter 3. Accessed 2021, August 20 at: https://sso.agc.gov.sg/Act/AMLA1966#pr2Most facts and information are extracted from the writer’s thesis; see footnote 4 Ariff, M. The Islamic Voluntary Sector in Southeast Asia. In Amina Tyabji (Ed.), The Management of Muslim Funds in Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. 1991. p. 258 Singh, K. Abu Bakar Said Ahmad Alhabsi embezzled more than $176,000, which was meant to pay for the upkeep of a mosque in Yemen. The Straits Times. 2013, May 6. Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS). History of Wakaf in Singapore. Accessed 2021, August 22 at: https://www.muis.gov.sg/wakaf/About/History-of-Wakaf-in-Singapore
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been invested. All the investments must be shariah-compliant in nature.
There are many examples, one of which is Kassim Mosque, where the wakif created the wakaf and also rental properties to MUIS created a wholly-owned subsidiary, help sustain the mosque by providing Warees Investment Pte Ltd, to ensure funds to the mosque for its maintenance the professional management of its and operation. The same goes for Sultan wakaf assets. Mosque, where several wakafs were created and made Sultan Mosque as their All these assets generate a total gross beneficiary. Mydin Mosque, Angullia annual income of SGD19.2 million a year12. Mosque, Hajjah Fatimah Mosque and Every year, MUIS conducts a disbursement many more have the same system where ceremony to announce and report the their wakafs are self-sustaining. amount disbursed. REVITALISING WAKAF IN SINGAPORE BENEFICIARIES OF WAKAF The non-creation of new wakaf arises due Generally, most wakif (testator) will put to several probable reasons: the beneficiaries in their wakaf deed to mosques, madrasah, the poor and needy, i) The lack of understanding, inforand for education and burial purposes. mation and promotion on the For the disbursement of MUIS-managed creation of wakaf in Singapore. wakaf in FY 2020, SGD4.92 million was Unlike the creation of trusts where disbursed to the following beneficiaries most Singaporeans will refer to the as listed in below table. law firm or trust company to create their trust or endowment, many BENEFICIARIES PERCENTAGE (%) are unsure how to create wakaf. Mosque Madrasah General Charities Poor Foreign Others
37 9 11 9 26 8
Source: MUIS Annual Report 2020
ii) Property prices have escalated beyond the means of many Muslim Singaporeans to bequeath property as a wakaf. iii) There are many other forms of donations, which are aggressively targeted at Muslims in Singapore such as madrasahs and mosques. By donating in the form of cash, most Muslims would view that they have participated in the act of wakaf and there is no need to create a dedicated wakaf, as currently in the manner managed by MUIS.
Based on the above table, ‘Mosque’ represents the largest beneficiaries of wakaf in Singapore. The category ‘Foreign’, which accounts for 26 percent, are beneficiaries outside Singapore. Since the wakif who created these wakaf came from Yemen, India and Indonesia, they therefore would want some assets iv) As every wakaf is vested in MUIS, to be allocated in their hometown. Muslims who may want to create Generally, the beneficiaries – comprising wakaf may not be comfortable both local and overseas – are also having their assets being managed mosques, madrasahs and for poor families. by an authority. The philanthropists during the early years did not only create wakaf in the form of a mosque, they would also create a productive wakaf to ensure that the mosque has sustainable income to finance its upkeep and its operation.
MUIS has redeveloped and professionalised many of its wakafs to ensure they remain sustainable. MUIS has made its own investments and resources, and utilised many avenues so that the wakafs remain viable and productive. In the
future, it will be more difficult to get Singapore Muslims to bequeath their assets as wakaf. With the looming economic uncertainty, wakaf as the third sector economy becomes more important to finance the gaps in the community. Therefore, the concept of cash wakaf can be the solution for the community to participate in this benevolent act of charity. This cash can then be invested in different asset classes to give the best possible return so that the needs of the community can be supported. Singapore has been heralded as having one of the best wakaf management globally due to its transparent, innovative and progressive wakaf management 13. Therefore, MUIS may want to position itself as a wakaf hub globally because of its excellent governance framework, and ride on Singapore as a premier financial hub in the region. In this way, it can attract many international philanthropists who would want safe and professional management and investment of their wakaf assets, and at the same time, support some of the community's needs. Such an ecosystem will ensure all parties – the donors, the regulators, the trustees, the assets managers and the religious clerics – are working together to create a great wakaf institution.
Dr Shamsiah Abdul Karim is currently the Executive Director of Pergas Investment Holdings (PIH), a wholly owned subsidiary of Pergas. She also serves as the Shariah Advisor at Financial Shariah Advisory and Consultancy Singapore (FSAC), a subsidiary of PIH advising on matters pertaining to Islamic Finance. She is currently an industry fellow with University Science Malaysia (USM) under the Centre for Islamic Development and Management Studies (ISDEV). Former Deputy Director in MUIS and Chief Executive Officer of Albukhary Foundation, her expertise and specialisation are in the area of waqf, zakat, faraidh, Islamic banking and finance, and social finance.
12 MUIS. Resolved: Steering Forward as a Community in the Face of Challenges – MUIS Annual Report 2020. Available at: https://www.muis.gov.sg/-/media/Files/Corporate-Site/Annual-Reports/Muis-AR2020.pdf Wakaf Bencoolen won a Regional Award for the category, ‘Regional Continuing Contribution to Islamic Finance’ at the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Islamic Finance Awards for its Islamic sukuk financing model in 2008; see: Warees Investments Pte Ltd. Milestones. Available at: https://www.warees.sg/milestones/
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UNDERSTANDING MUSLIMS’ RESPONSES TO THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION
BY SHEIKH MOHAMAD FAROUQ ABDUL FAREEZ
When Galileo challenged the Church, his geocentric argument was dismissed as it contradicted the mandate of the Church, and more importantly, it challenged the Church's authority. As the Church held authoritative power, any claims of reason and science had to conform to its authority. Opposition to this incident has shaped modern-day dialectics of two extremes regarding religion and science, namely secularisation and fundamentalism 1. This discord is not alien to the Muslim world as we have seen a vast majority of Muslim intellectuals investing efforts to reconcile Islam with new scientific developments. The emergence of numerous scientific exegesis (tafsir ‘ilmi) in the 19th century to prove how Quranic verses predicted modern scientific discoveries that inevitably makes modern science ‘Islamic’ reflects this modern trajectory2. Unfortunately, these integrative efforts lack the intellectual rigour to analyse the epistemological underpinnings of these two disciplines critically. As a result, it conditions the mind to blindly accept or reject a discipline without leaving any intellectual space for reflexivity and discursive thinking3. Interestingly, Dallal argues that it is not reflective of the pre-modern period when Muslims were the leading producers of science in the world. They did not advocate the wedding of science and religion4. Rather than seeing these two endeavours as separated, it is more helpful to understand this tension by looking at them as colliding epistemologies driven by power structures that aim to dominate the intellectual sphere. Ultimately, it is about who makes more sense that matters.
It is safe to argue that no other issue has characterised this tension more than the theory of evolution. In the Muslim world, when evolution is discussed, it is automatically linked with Darwinism and, in most cases, considered blasphemy5. Surveys that have been conducted in the past indicated that at least three-quarters of Muslims reject entirely or have fundamental disagreements with the theory and often refuse to have it taught in Muslim circles.6 According to Dajani, this reaction is alarming as it makes one wonder whether other things have been denied in the name of religion. She claims that this reaction is operated by people who intend to restrict the minds and emotions of Muslims through ignorance and confusion7. Although it might stem from a sincere place, such paternalistic tendencies can alienate Muslims from critically thinking about the scientific endeavour as it is. Evolution has different facets. There are Darwinians and non-Darwinians, yet these complexities continue to be ignored and show that it is crucial to address this issue from different vantage points and not look at it as a single cube8. It was the approach of Muslim thinkers and scientists who discussed evolution before the emergence of Darwin. Most prominent among them was Al-Jahiz (d. 868) in his magnum opus, The Book of Animals (Kitab Al-Hayawan) where he observed signs of evolution and adaptability in some species of animals without resorting to anti-theistic arguments9. Nonetheless, it is important not to read these works along the lines of evolution as it is understood today. It would be an anachronistic reading of the tradition simply because they were referring to the ‘Great Chain of Being’ rather than Darwinian evolution10.
1 Dawes, G. Galileo and the Conflict between Religion and Science. New York: Routledge, 2019. pp. 21-22 2 Guessoum, N. Islam's Quantum Question. London: I.B. Tauris, 2011. p. 146 Malik, S. Islam and Evolution Al-Ghazālī and the Modern Evolutionary Paradigm. New York: Routledge, 2021. p. 2 4 Dallal, A. Islam, Science, and the Challenge of History. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010. p. 170 5 Dajani, R. Evolution and Islam's Quantum Question. Zygon®, 47(2), 2012. p. 347 6 Guessoum, N. Islam and Science: The Next Phase of Debates. Zygon®, 50(4), 2015. pp. 858-859 7 Dajani, R. Evolution and Islam's Quantum Question. Zygon®, 2012. p. 347 8 Guessoum, N. Islam's Quantum Question. I.B. Tauris, 2011. p. 278 9 Ibid, p. 306 Malik, S. Old Texts, New Masks: A Critical Review of Misreading Evolution onto Historical Islamic Text. Zygon®, 54(2), 2019. p. 347 3
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However, it is beyond the scope of the article to discuss the details of these different facets. Furthermore, many prominent scholars have expertly expounded on these complexities. Most recently, Shoaib Malik’s book on Al-Ghazali and the Modern Evolutionary Paradigm brilliantly summarised and explained four different responses to the theory of evolution in Muslim circles11. Nonetheless, this article will attempt to understand the antipathy of Muslims towards evolution through three factors that are interlinked with each other. First is the language variation between the scientific and religious communities. Second is the ‘scientisation of Islam’, and finally, the fragmentation of knowledge – arguably the most significant factor. LANGUAGE AND EVOLUTION According to Bourdieu, language is used as a means of communication and a medium where power dynamics are played out. It is akin to economic exchanges where there is an exchange of capital (social and cultural). Thus, all verbal exchanges are avenues in which the producer tries to maximise their ‘symbolic profit’ over the consumers12. In the case of evolution, the first encounter of Darwin’s theory in the Muslim world did not emerge through the translation of his book, The Origin of Species that was published in 1859. Instead, it was introduced through specific ideological avenues among Muslim intellectuals in 187613. The deliberations covered a broad spectrum, ranging from simplistic rejection to total acceptance14. Nevertheless, it can be argued that a great deal of these deliberations did not transpire from a close reading of Darwin. Rather, he was instrumentalised by these groups to pursue their underlying motives that were essentially political15. For some Muslim secularists, Darwin was the epitome of the modern scientific spirit, and it was the only way to save Muslims from 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25
backwardness. In response, Muslim reformists, most famously Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (d. 1897), launched a sharp rejoinder against Darwin's theory in his Al-Radd ‘ala al-Dahriyyin (Refutation of the Materialists) in which he wrongly represented Darwin's ideas. Afghani's onslaught was not directed towards Darwin or science, but it was towards a group that, in his mind, were advocates of Westernisation of the Muslim world16. It can be argued that the language of this discourse was shaped by the colonial wound which Muslims were attempting to make sense of. In the same vein, the language dominating deliberations on evolution today is primarily shaped by the creationist school led by the controversial Turkish writer, Harun Yahya17. He argues that evolution is antithetical to Islam as it is geared towards atheism. However, similar to Afghani’s rhetoric, Yahya’s interpretation of Darwin is misinformed, and in fact, most of his arguments are recycled from American Creationist literature on the subject18. Like Afghani, Yahya was not interested in understanding evolution as understood by Darwin or the scientific community. He was capitalising on Turkey's traumatic episode of aggressive secular reforms to pursue his ulterior motives19. Interestingly, his personality is anything but Islamic as his cult was recently exposed and was charged for sexual crimes20. Unfortunately, Yahya’s ideological capital is transposed to most parts of the Muslim world that accordingly shapes our language on Darwin and the theory of evolution today. It is important to note that there are serious intellectual arguments against evolution that are not influenced by Yahya’s and born out of a close reading of Darwin and religious scriptures. However, there is no denying the influential role of his works in shaping the discourse on evolution in Muslim circles. Also, not forgetting famous
Muslim televangelists like Zakir Naik, who shoddily describes evolution as “just a theory”, conflating the term’s colloquial designation for the scientific one21. Such conflation substantiates the language dissonance between the religious and scientific communities. ‘SCIENTISATION’ OF QURAN As mentioned earlier, the attempt to reconcile Islam and science as two separate endeavours is a relatively modern phenomenon that emerged within a specific socio-political milieu. Although there is some truth in which modern science as understood today is devoid of the metaphysical, it should not prevent us from engaging nor accepting science blindly, or what is described as the ‘scientisation’ of the Quran. It is not to be mistaken with exegesis that focused on the internal coherence and philosophy of the Quran that invokes the religious imagination to make sense of the cosmos. This school of interpretation is closely linked to reform movements pioneered by Muhammad Abduh who were deeply invested in proving Islam's compatibility with modernity22. The danger of such attempts is that it links the perennial wisdom and truth of the Quran with the transient ideas of modern science23. In other words, not only will it increase the misrepresentation of convoluted theories as understood by the scientific community, but it reduces the space of theological non-commitment (tawaqquf) in matters that are not elaborated by the text. In the case of evolution, Jalajel takes this position in which he argues that the Quran explicitly talks about the creation of Adam as a miraculous creation and our lineage traced back to him. However, it does not deny the possibility of pre or co-Adamic human beings24. Thus, Adam could or could not have been the first humankind, so there is space for tawaqquf on this matter25. Malik argues that the Adamic exceptionalism argument
Malik, S. Islam and Evolution Al-Ghazālī and the Modern Evolutionary Paradigm. Routledge, 2021. p. 11 Bourdieu, P. Language and Symbolic Power. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991. pp. 66-67 Ghaly, M. Evolution and Muslim Responses to It. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Science, and Technology in Islam, I. Kalin, ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. p. 1. Accessed 2021, September 6 at: https://www.cilecenter.org/sites/default/files/uploads/2017/09/Ghaly-Muslim-Responses-Evolution-Theory-Oxford-Encyclopedia-of-Philosophy-Science-and-Technology-in-Islam.pdf Guessoum, N. Islam's Quantum Question. I.B. Tauris, 2011. p. 308 Dallal, A. Islam, Science, and the Challenge of History. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010. p. 165 Ghaly, M. Evolution and Muslim Responses to It. Oxford University Press, 2014. p. 3 Guessoum, N. Islam's Quantum Question. I.B. Tauris, 2011. p. 109 Ibid, pp. 316-317 Ibid, p. 239 MacDonald, A. Adnan Oktar: The rise and fall of a Turkish sex cult leader. Middle East Eye, 2021. Accessed 2021, September 6 at: https://www.middleeasteye.net/big-story/turkey-adnan-oktar-cult-sexual-abuse-rise-fall Malik, S. Islam and Evolution Al-Ghazali and the Modern Evolutionary Paradigm. 2021. p. 47 Elshakry, M. Reading Darwin in Arabic, 1860-1950. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2013. pp. 164-165 Guessoum, N. Islam's Quantum Question. 2011. pp. 149-150 Malik, S. Islam and Evolution Al-Ghazali and the Modern Evolutionary Paradigm. 2021. p. 328 Jalajel, D. Tawaqquf and Acceptance of Human Evolution. Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research. 2018. Accessed 2021, September 6 at: https://yaqeeninstitute.org/read/paper/tawaqquf-and-acceptance-of-human-evolution
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addresses the scientifically challenging issue of whether Adam's descendants practised incest26. Suppose Adam and Eve were not the only human beings, there is a possibility that their descendants intermingled and procreated with other types of humankind that bypasses the genetic bottleneck problem27. This position draws similarities with the idea of dihliz – an in-between space in which the scholar situates himself between different disciplines that contribute to a new discourse without dislocating the tradition28. FRAGMENTATION OF KNOWLEDGE Contrary to Cartesian dualism, which has shaped how we view the mind and body today29, the intellectual habitus that cultivated Muslims’ pursuit of knowledge was driven by an epistemological integration (al-takamul al-ma’rifi), which produced scholars who have an encyclopedic knowledge of things30. Such individuals were able to link the different fields of knowledge when analysing an issue. This creative phenomenon was certainly a distinct feature of the Islamic golden age. Thus, the phenomenon of specialising in a particular science is a rather modern occurrence. According to Malkawi: “The exponential growth in information and data has resulted in a mass of knowledge so vast that, in order for us to be able to cope with it, it has had to be divided up into separate fields and specializations, and the more our knowledge increases, the more it has to be divided and fragmented.” 31
facts and the broader picture of the cosmos32. In the case of evolution, it is therefore not surprising that its proponents would regard its opponents as intellectually regressive while those who oppose would at times resort to takfiri rhetoric by accusing those who believe as heretics. On the one hand, scientists expect the religious community to appreciate the complexities of scientific deliberations concerning evolution. While on the other hand, the religious community expects the same consideration for the metaphysics and hermeneutics involved in the subject matter33. Interestingly, both are equally valid vantage points that need to be taken into account. However, fragmentation creates conflicting sovereignties that do not help make sense of the issue at hand. Instead, it forces people to see things in black and white. It means that one can transmit the details of the discipline well but fail to understand the comprehensive philosophy of Islam. However, this epistemological integration is not to be confused with the Islamisation phenomenon that is intrinsically engaged with the otherising of sciences even if its proponents would argue otherwise. Rather, there is an element of interdisciplinary reasoning that is fluidly integrated into the pursuit of knowledge and truth.
responses together is that it rejects the theory should it be devoid of the metaphysics and God36. Therefore, a constructive debate on evolution in Islam can be materialised if its ideological and political struggles do not skew it, and God is not relegated to the periphery of the deliberations37. In addition, it is crucial to avoid further fragmenting knowledge and pursue the broader meaning of ‘ilm without leaving out the metaphysics. It will enable us to develop a discursive language; that is to understand the language as understood by the community, critically engage and creatively conceptualise a new science that is neither ideologised nor misinformed. Consequently, it will shift our intellectual circles from a republic of piety to a republic of letters38.
Sheikh Mohamad Farouq Abdul Fareez is a Research Analyst at the Centre for Research on Islamic and Malay Affairs (RIMA). He holds a Master’s degree in Islamic Thought and Applied Ethics. His area of interest involves issues concerning religion, human development and ethics.
CONCLUSION This article is not a defence for or against evolution; instead, it encourages Muslims to be intellectually and conscientiously informed when dealing with evolution. Instead of resorting to a normative As a result, this phenomenon has language skewed by ideological and produced educational systems occupied in sociopolitical agendas of both camps, any fragmenting knowledge into different considerations of evolutionary theory specialisations to the extent that it has must first be ‘de-ideologised’ and evaluated produced individuals with a reductionist on its terms34. This article has briefly view of the world. Malkawi further argues presented that the responses to the that these individuals focus excessively on evolution theory in Muslim circles are considerably diverse and certainly not parts of the truth that are immediate and monolithic35. However, what binds these direct while losing touch with historical
It would not be an issue from a divine command theory perspective in the Asharite theology, as everything is contingent on God's will and wisdom. 27 Malik, S. Islam and Evolution Al-Ghazālī and the Modern Evolutionary Paradigm. Routledge, 2021. p. 328-329 28 Moosa, E. Ghazali and the poetics of imagination. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. p. 67 Gendle M. H. The Problem of Dualism in Modern Western Medicine. Mens sana monographs, 14(1), 2016. pp. 141–151. Available at: https://doi.org/10.4103/0973-1229.193074 30 Malkawi, F. Epistemological Integration Essentials of an Islamic Methodology. Washington: The International Institute of Islamic Thought, 2014. p. 2 31 Ibid, pp. 6-7 32 Ibid 33 Malik, S. Islam and Evolution Al-Ghazālī and the Modern Evolutionary Paradigm. Routledge, 2021. p. 3 34 Ghaly, M. Evolution and Muslim Responses to It. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. p. 6 35 Malik, S. Islam and Evolution Al-Ghazālī and the Modern Evolutionary Paradigm. Routledge, 2021. p. 11 36 Ghaly, M. Evolution and Muslim Responses to It. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. p. 6 37 Ibid 38 Moosa, E. What is a Madrasa? North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press, 2015. pp. 122-142 26
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DIGITAL CURRENCIES AND THEIR ADOPTION IN SINGAPORE BY DR HAZIK MOHAMED
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MONEY, FIAT CURRENCY AND MONEY CRYPTOCURRENCIES The three main functions of money are as a unit of account, medium of exchange SOVEREIGN FIAT CURRENCY OTHERS and store of value. Cash is a financial instrument and physical asset that combines CRYPTOCURRENCY four features: (i) it is anonymous; (ii) it is universal (anyone can take possession); STABLECOINS DIGITAL SOVEREIGN (iii) it is exchanged peer to peer (without FIAT CBDCs knowledge of the issuer); and (iv) it does not yield any interest by itself 1. Banks are the traditional money creators and maintain their inimitability at keeping reserves at the central banks (CBs). Peer-to-peer exchangeability allows its exchange between counterparties without ALTCOINS TOKENS intermediaries. Universality means that anybody can take possession of it, use and EQUITY store it. Historically, currencies were HYBRID backed by value which can be done via gold, silver, commodities, or the SECURITY government. In fact, fiat money used in the VOTE current economic system is considered a UTILITY currency, and this includes the emergent Figure 1: Forms of Money and the Categorisation of Cryptocurrencies use of plastic and digital currencies (digital sovereign fiat). Its core function is to serve as a customary accepted form of payment Cryptocurrencies are championed by that cryptocurrency can be created by the people in exchange for goods and their advocates due to their ability to be independently of central banks, and can services. be used independently of typical regulated strictly a peer-to-peer exchange without intermediaries, like banks, being involved. financial intermediaries such as banks. Cryptocurrencies are a form of virtual Its critics are concerned with them being currency built on blockchain technology, Unlike sovereign fiat currencies, used in illicit transactions as the system cryptocurrencies are not legal tender (i.e. which may be native or Bitcoin-derived. is essentially decentralised and formally The first cryptocurrency appeared in 2009. not guaranteed by a government). unregulated. Another problem for Cryptographic techniques lie at the heart cryptocurrencies is their volatility. As such, of their implementation 2. Historically, the Crypto tokens are a form of cryptocurrency that may appear as equity, the most recent phenomenon is the idea and concept of storing important creation of stablecoins 6. Likewise, the security or utility tokens 5, whose information by using cryptography central banks of major economies started technique is considered older, as the term purchasing power and right of exchange to rethink their own sovereign fiat are limited to a specific asset, product or crypto is taken from an ancient Greek currencies to leverage on the benefits of service for which the token is issued. word kryptos meaning ‘hidden’ 3. Some of tokenising currencies in terms of a more Other types of tokens, include the records show that ancient Egyptians also used cryptography as is evidenced by ‘asset-backed tokens’ (tokens that represent efficient interbank settlement system 7. some physical asset like gold or real estate), Such a legal tender central bank-issued the usage of ciphers by Julius Caesar in ‘vote tokens’ (tokens that confer its holder digital currency is called a Central Bank 100BC to 40BC 4. Digital Currency (CBDC), whose value is a right to be involved in a project), and pegged to its sovereign fiat currency value. Cryptocurrencies bear some similarities to ‘hybrid tokens’ (tokens that are the hybridisation of two or more forms of regular currencies. Unlike regular PRIVATE-ISSUED VS PUBLIC-ISSUED tokens or its representation). They are currencies, cryptocurrencies are purely DIGITAL CURRENCY typically issued at Initial Coin Offering digital assets, supported by Perhaps, before we get into the discussion blockchain-enabled encryption techniques, (ICO), Initial Exchange Offering (IEO) or on the adoption of digital currencies in using cryptography to secure transactions, Securitised Token Offering (STO), where Singapore, we must differentiate between they are offered in exchange for capital control the creation of additional units privately issued digital currency from a investments. and verify the transfer of assets. The publicly issued one. critical difference between the two is Mohamed, H. Implementing a Central Bank Issued Digital Currency: Assessing Economic Implications. International Journal of Islamic Economics and Finance, 3(1), 2020. pp. 51-74 2 He, D., et. al. Virtual Currencies and Beyond: Initial Considerations. 2016, January 20. Retrieved from: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/cat/longres.aspx?sk=43618 3 Ibid 4 Fry, J. Rise of Crypto Exchanges and why it is important. 2018, June 18. Retrieved from: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/rise-crypto-exchanges-why-important-jonny-fry/ There are other types of tokens like ‘vote tokens’, and hybrid or combination type of tokens but these make up a small percentage of the token universe. To put things into perspective, utility tokens make up about 80 percent of all tokens issued. 6 Stablecoins are cryptocurrencies designed to minimise their price volatility by pegging to some ‘stable’ asset or basket of assets, such as fiat money and commodities (like precious metals or industrial metals). 7 Mohamed, H. Implementing a Central Bank Issued Digital Currency: Assessing Economic Implications. International Journal of Islamic Economics and Finance, 3(1), 2020. pp. 51-74 1
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Figure 2: Further Categorisation of Cryptocurrencies
Essentially, a privately issued digital currency as a means of exchange is called AltCoins. They have no store of value and are typically created from a Bitcoin-derived blockchain (i.e. Proof-of-Work (PoW) SHA-256 protocol). In contrast, tokens are created from their own native blockchain, which utilise different types of blockchain protocols that are different from Bitcoin’s PoW SHA-256. Privately issued digital currencies are not backed by any tangible or intangible asset, and are hence very volatile and subject to the sentiments of large holders of the cryptocurrency. Publicly issued digital currencies, however, are cryptocurrencies that are issued by public institutions endorsed by recognised authorities such as a government. Specifically, CBDCs are digital currencies that are publicly issued by the central banks of countries. These issuances are guaranteed by the government just as their fiat currency is endorsed and guaranteed. Furthermore, the CBDC is typically pegged to the sovereign fiat currency value (1:1). After the emergence of cryptocurrencies, countries have started showing interest in 8
• • •
• • •
Not guaranteed; Not legal tender; Not pegged to any asset or currency
e.g. Bitcoin, Dash, Dogecoin, Litecoin, Monero, or NEM
Government-guaranteed; Legal tender; Pegged to sovereign fiat currency value
e.g. Sand Dollar (The Bahamas), Bakong (Cambodia), e-CNY (Mainland China), e-Hryvnia (Ukraine), e-Peso (Uruguay), Dinero Electronico (Ecuador), DCash (Eastern Caribbean), e-Krona (Sweden), e-Won (South Korea), or Digital Lira (Turkey)
a sovereign form of digital currencies where the volatility of cryptos are meted out by a stable fiat value. As such, the concept of CBDC was born. While many formats 8 of the CBDC are being evaluated across many sovereign nations, their benefits appear to not only provide more efficient payments but also, they are able to overcome previous insurmountable barriers, such as the zero lower-bound for
monetary policy. The CBDC also allows the government to directly implement monetary policy via the floated digital currencies in the economy, without having to go through proxies like banks and other financial institutions. Although the CBDC is centralised (i.e. it is issued and regulated by the competent monetary authority of the country), it aims to leverage on the best of both worlds – the convenience and
There is an in-depth discussion on the different formats of the CBDC in another book, Beyond Fintech (Mohamed, 2021), Chapter 9, which is available at: https://worldscientific.com/worldscibooks/10.1142/11885. The assessment of each of the four formats covered the attributes and impact of each format on the financial system. Finally, it recommends a solution for minimal disruption to the economy, stronger monetary policy transmission and suggests way forward for adoption of an interest-free monetary system that is more just and sustainable.
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security of digital constructs like cryptocurrencies, and the regulated, reserve-backed money circulation of the traditional fiat banking system. The respective central banks and/or other competent monetary authorities will be solely responsible for its operations and maintenance. Many central banks, however, have launched pilot programmes and research projects aimed at determining a CBDC's viability and usability. The Bank of England (BOE) was the pioneer to initiate the CBDC proposal. Following that, central banks of other nations, like China’s People’s Bank of China (PBoC), Bank of Canada (BoC), and central banks of Uruguay, Thailand, Venezuela, Sweden, and Singapore, among several others, are looking into the possibility of introducing a central bank-issued digital currency. Some governments are prioritising interbank or wholesale 9 applications, while others are working on retail 10 applications as digital cash. Recently, the Chinese government has begun to issue blockchain-powered digital currency to its citizens – the Digital Yuan. The Wall Street Journal reports that 100,000 recipients have been determined by a lottery system and can already spend their digital yuan both in stores and online using a special app. In more recent reports, Beijing said its e-CNY (or digital renminbi) has been tested in more than 70 million transactions worth over $5 billion, as of July 2021 11. We can expect other countries to follow suit in the near future and in various ways and formats. ADOPTION OF A DIGITAL CURRENCY IN SINGAPORE The adoption or acceptance of any digital currency has to lie on its usability, convenience and flexibility. This acceptance must involve not only the end-users but also the retailers and all commercial centres, including financial institutions and payment gateways. As mentioned, AltCoins can be adopted as a digital currency as they are mainly designed as a means of exchange between two counterparties directly without any 9 10 11 12
intermediary or central authority. But there are many variations of such cryptos and they are highly volatile. Volatility means that the value of the currency fluctuates drastically depending on the influential voices in the market. A relative value of $1 may increase to $1.50 in a matter of days or weeks but it may also fall just as sharply. Holding on to such a medium of exchange for buying groceries or payment of bills seems counterintuitive, imprudent and impractical.
undertaking, which successfully explored the commercial applicability, viability and benefits of blockchain technology across the finance industry, beyond capital markets and trade finance. However, the different formats of the CBDCs pose different challenges when they are implemented, especially as a hybrid for multiple use cases and purposes. This is because different implications and consequences will result from the different formats that can be implemented.
The logical alternative is a stable version of such digital currency, and this is part of the reason why most governments are considering issuing their own retail CBDC. Each CBDC will have equal value (pegged 1:1) to its sovereign fiat counterpart, and hence the volatility of a digital currency is stabilised to the minor fluctuations of the sovereign currency.
In addition, the wider practical adoption or acceptance of digital currencies, besides CBDCs, at the commercial level will likely take place when there is a better understanding of how the price discovery of different cryptocurrencies translate to better predictability and acceptance, despite its attendant volatilities. Such in-depth understanding will be crucial to develop hedging and diversification This is the construction of the CBDC as strategies for financial management in cash or solely as a ‘medium of exchange’ the investment portfolios or treasury format, like AltCoins. I have deliberated on operations of the future. These are among three other formats: the CBDC as a public the important developments that I feel deposit at the central bank, as a monetary need to happen before the Singapore policy tool and as an interbank payment market fully adopts digital currencies at system between the central bank and tier 1 all levels. banks in Chapter 9 of Beyond Fintech 12. In short, the repercussions of CBDCs in different formats will affect the way Dr Hazik Mohame central banks, financial institutions and d is a multi-skille d professional, wh ose focus is on bu consumers interact with one another, siness growth strategie s for sta rtups, changing the way financial services will be tech-related resea rch, and various consulting projec delivered in a significantly transformed ts. His past corpo rate clients include the financial landscape. The implications need ASEAN Secretar iat, national finance offices, and the Un to be carefully studied and tested before ited Nations Capital De vel op me nt Fund. any format or combination of formats are He is also the autho r of three internati onally eventually implemented. published books: Be In Singapore, I think physical cash may eventually give way to digital sovereign fiat money (digital cash) but privately issued cryptocurrencies may take a little longer to be adopted widely, if at all. The entire ASEAN market is essentially still a cash-driven economy, and the digital versions of sovereign cash would likely dominate our daily transactions for the next decade. CBDCs in the cash format may replace digital cash but the impetus for Singapore to issue its retail CBDC needs to be compelling. Project Ubin was Singapore’s wholesale (interbank) CBDC
lief and Rule-com pliance (Academic Press, 2018), Blockchain, Fintech and Islam ic Finance (De Gr uyter, 2019) and Beyond Fintech (World Sc ientific, 2021).
Interbank or wholesale CBDC is restricted to use by financial institutions alone for interbank payments and financial settlement processes. Retail CBDC can be directly held by citizens and corporates as a digital form of cash as a complement to paper money. Arredy, J. T. China Creates Its Own Digital Currency, a First for Major Economy. 2021, April 5. Retrieved from: https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-creates-its-own-digital-currency-a-first-for-major-economy-11617634118 Mohamed, H. Beyond Fintech: Technology Applications for the Digital Economy. World Scientific, Singapore, 2021. pp. 165-192
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BY ZURIATI ZULFA ROSLEE Suicide has become more prevalent in the Singaporean community, where cases have increased in all age groups over the last few years1. The presence of the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the physical and psychological health of individuals across various age groups, including adolescents. In fact, it has burdened adolescents significantly as they experience the academic stress of online learning, unconducive learning environment, loss of routine and social deprivation. As a result, there has been an increase in symptoms of psychological distress such as self-reported stress, anxiety and depression amongst adolescents2. Accumulation of psychological distress, and limited resources and knowledge in dealing with the stressors have led some adolescents to commit suicide and/or self-harm. Suicide can be defined as a self-directed injurious or self-destructive behaviour that is performed with the intention to end one’s life and result in death3. It is a complex and multifaceted issue. Individuals who resort to suicide often do so due to the overwhelming feeling of distress, pain, and hopelessness4. In comparison, self-harm is a non-suicidal
Individuals who engage in self-harm are likely to develop suicidal behaviours if no intervention is made6. Despite the difference in the nature of suicide and self-harm, it is crucial to recognise the harm to one’s life. Individuals who engage in self-harm do not intend to end their lives. However, repeated acts and an increase in the threshold of pain will risk the individual committing suicide. Hence, it is vital to address both issues to prevent more loss of lives and reach out to more adolescents to help them cope with their daily stressors. STATISTICS OF SUICIDE AND SELF-HARM Numerous lives are lost every year due to suicide. It was reported that suicide is the world’s third leading cause of death in adolescents aged 15 to 197. The World
Health Organization (WHO) reported that every year, 100,000 people die due to suicide. Suicide is also very much prevalent in Singapore. The Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) reported that suicide is the leading cause of death for those aged 10 to 29; it is accountable for the loss of 452 lives in 2020. Statistics showed an increase of 13 percent8 from 2019 and deaths caused by suicide continue to soar as it accounts for one-third of all reported deaths for those aged 20 to 299. The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA), where deaths are reported and registered, further reported that there had been an increase of 37.5 percent of suicide cases from 2019 to 2020 for those aged 10 to 1910. Contrary to suicide statistics, it is harder to collect accurate statistics on the occurrence of self-harm. It is even more challenging to collect statistics for adolescents as self-harm is often a secretive act. It is anticipated that they would hide their scars and worries behind a cheerful face. A study among Singaporean adolescents in an outpatient setting reported that the prevalence of self-harm has been consistent at 23.1 percent from 2013 to 2018 11. The study
1 Gene, N. K. 452 Suicides Reported in Singapore in 2020 Amid Covid-19, Highest Since 2012. The Straits Times. 2021, July 8. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/452-suicides-reported-in-singapore-in-2020-amid-covid-19-highest-since-2012 Thakur, A. Mental Health in High School Students at the Time of COVID-19: A Student’s Perspective. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 59(12), 2020. pp. 1309–1310. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2020.08.005 3 Goo, K. L. S., et. al. Identifying the Patterns of Self-Harm and Suicide Attempts in Children and Adolescents in Singapore. ASEAN Journal of Psychiatry, 18(2), 2017. Available at: https://www.aseanjournalofpsychiatry.org/articles/identifying-the-patterns-of-selfharm-and-suicide-attempts-in-children-and-adolescents-in-singapore.pdf 4 Wong, J. C. M. Predicting Suicide and its Prevention. Annals Academy of Medicine, 47(9), 2018. pp. 357–359. Available at: https://www.annals.edu.sg/pdf/47VolNo9Sep2018/V47N9p357.pdf 5 Smith, M., et. al. How to Feel Better Without Hurting Yourself. Limitless. 2018. Accessed August 20, 2021, from at: https://www.limitless.sg/self-harm 6 Samari, E., et. al. An exploration of differences between Deliberate self-harm with and without suicidal intent amongst a clinical sample of young people in Singapore: a cross-sectional study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(4), 2020. pp. 1429–1441. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17041429 Wardhan, R., and Mudgal, P. Understanding the predisposing risk factors of young suicide. International Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, 8(12), 2020. pp. 4530–4542. Available at: https://doi.org/10.18203/2320-6012.ijrms20204985 8 Samaritans of Singapore. Singapore reported 452 suicide deaths in 2020, number of elderly suicide deaths highest recorded since 1991. 2021, July. Retrieved from: https://www.sos.org.sg/pressroom/singapore-reported-452-suicide-deaths-in-2020-number-of-elderly-suicide-deaths-highest-recorded-since-1991 9 Awang, N. Number of suicides continues to be highest among those in their 20s: SOS. 2020, August 4. Retrieved from: https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/number-suicides-continues-be-highest-among-those-their-20s-sos 10 TODAY. Covid-19: Suicide rate among 10-19 age group rises in 2020 year-on-year. 2021, July 28. Retrieved from: https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/covid-19-suicide-rate-among-10-19-age-group-jumps-375-2020-year-year 11 Lauw, M. S., et. al. Deliberate self-harm among adolescent psychiatric outpatients in Singapore: prevalence, nature and risk factors. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 12(1), 2018. pp. 35–41. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1186/s13034-018-0242-3 2
act whereby individuals intentionally injure themselves either through cutting, scratching, abusing medication, hitting themselves, or even ingesting toxic substances for various reasons5. It is a form of a maladaptive coping mechanism used as a distraction to express feelings that cannot be put into words and release emotional pain.
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also noted that consistency in prevalence implies that self-harm continues to be a significant feature in adolescents presenting psychiatric symptoms.
with many new challenges in life. Hence, the lack of skills and pressures from the outside world dramatically impacts the mental status of the young mind 15. Senior Assistant Director of SOS, Ms Wong Lai School closures and the abrupt adoption Chun, said that adolescents have yet to of hybrid learning during the pandemic develop adequate coping mechanisms, have also impacted adolescents. Disruption hence the combination of different to school routine has caused an increase stressors may lead them to feel overof distress, decline of mental health and whelmed and unable to cope. breach of child protection12. These are reflected in the increasing cases of A study conducted by the Ministry of suicide. Moreover, online learning has Social and Family Development (MSF) on resulted in an increase in lack of Singaporean adolescents who attempted interaction and social isolation 13. Other suicide reported experiencing stressors than gaining knowledge, school serves a in the domain of social, family, academic place for children to learn communication and financial matters 16. Both suicide and self-harm are associated with various and social skills. Online learning limits adolescents’ physical and social interaction, risk factors. which in return, can lead to feelings of loneliness and lack of motivation. Besides, Firstly, the most prominent risk factor as they are in an ‘isolating environment’, would be academic stress, where exams have been the primary cause of students’ there could be a lacking presence of suicide 17. This is not surprising, given the someone who is able to monitor them, or for them to lean on or voice out their heavy emphasis on academic concerns. Earlier this year, there was a achievement here 18. This leaves little time for healthy activities, exercise, and case involving a 16-year-old boy who human interaction, which promotes hanged himself using shoelaces 14. He had coiled and tied the shoelaces around better mental health and less suicidal ideation 19. This is due to more time spent each other to make them sturdier. Who would’ve known that a child would make on the desk and the desire to perform well. The pandemic has further amplified use of a harmless everyday item to take his own life? So how badly are adolescents these feelings in adolescents. They witnessed adults losing their job, closure affected by the abrupt changes brought about by the pandemic and how susceptible of multiple businesses, and so on. The abrupt changes, loss of routine, lesser are they to suicide? human interaction and activities have further contributed to adolescents’ FACTORS OF SUICIDE IN inability to cope with pressures and high SINGAPORE ADOLESCENTS Adolescents are especially at risk as they expectations, driving them towards are still in the developmental stage. They despair, anxiety, and suicide 20. are still undergoing physiological and Secondly, the absence and/or lack of social psychological changes and have yet to support. This includes an invalidating develop the appropriate skills to cope
12 13 14 15
home environment 21, low perceived support, parent-child conflicts, family aggregation of suicidal behaviour 22, childhood trauma, and stigmatisation against mental health issues 23. Frequent conflicts within the family and lack of support contribute to psychological distress. As a result, adolescents are likely to experience failed belongingness and eventually feel that there is nothing to live for 24. Parents who lack awareness of mental health issues might also seek traditional medicine practitioners or spiritual healers to counter the problems faced by their children 25. As a result, it further deters adolescents from opening up and seeking appropriate help. Along with the risk factors of suicide, the mental conditions of anxiety and depression that some adolescents have further intensify the suicidal thoughts in them 26. In comparison, protective factors of suicide and self-harm include strong family ties, extended kin and social support networks 27, perceived caring, support and quality of communication 28. Protective factors can mitigate or even eliminate the risk of suicide, increasing the health and well-being of adolescents. A strong support system is vital in adolescents as it promotes social cohesion and enhances resilience to stress. Moreover, it also creates a safe space for adolescents to share their concerns and worries, which helps to regulate their emotions and release stress. It has also been reported that adolescents with an effective social support system within the family and community helped buffer against many life stressors 29. These factors play a part in altering the suicidal threshold, hence, building a safe environment for
Renjan, V., and Fung, D. S. S. Debate: COVID‐19 to the under 19 – a Singapore school mental health response. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 25(4), 2020. pp. 260–262. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/camh.12426 Kentucky Counseling Center. Mental health effects of online learning. 2021, April 20. Retrieved from: https://kentuckycounselingcenter.com/mental-health-effects-of-online-learning/ harmonytee. The Boy Who Shoelaced Himself (To Death). Harmony Funeral Care. 2021, January 22. Retrieved from: https://www.singaporefuneralservices.sg/2021/01/22/the-boy-who-shoelaced-himself-to-death/ Min, A. H. MOE, MSF ʻvery concerned’ about spike in youth suicides; experts say more support and awareness necessary. CNA. 2021, February 9. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/singapore/moe-msf-very-concerned-about-spike-youth-suicides-experts-say-more-support-and-awareness-necessary-862516 Wong, J. C. M. Predicting suicide and its prevention. Annals Academy of Medicine, 47(9), 2018. pp. 357–359. Available at: https://www.annals.edu.sg/pdf/47VolNo9Sep2018/V47N9p357.pdf Wasserman, D., et. al. Suicide prevention in childhood and adolescence: a narrative review of current knowledge on risk and protective factors and effectiveness of interventions. Asia-Pacific Psychiatry, 13(3), e12452, 2021. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/appy.12452 Loh, C., et. al. Suicide in young singaporeans aged 10–24 years between 2000 to 2004. Archives of Suicide Research, 16(2), 2012. pp. 174–182. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/13811118.2012.667335 Wasserman, D., et. al. Suicide prevention in childhood and adolescence: a narrative review of current knowledge on risk and protective factors and effectiveness of interventions. Asia-Pacific Psychiatry, 13(3), e12452, 2021. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/appy.12452 Wardhan, R., and Mudgal, P. Understanding the predisposing risk factors of young suicide. International Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, 8(12), 2020. pp. 4530–4542. Available at: https://doi.org/10.18203/2320-6012.ijrms20204985 Lauw, M. S., et. al. Deliberate self-harm among adolescent psychiatric outpatients in Singapore: prevalence, nature and risk factors. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 12(1), 2018. pp. 35–41. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1186/s13034-018-0242-3 Wasserman, D., et. al. Suicide prevention in childhood and adolescence: a narrative review of current knowledge on risk and protective factors and effectiveness of interventions. Asia-Pacific Psychiatry, 13(3), e12452, 2021. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/appy.12452 Lauw, M. S., et. al. Deliberate self-harm among adolescent psychiatric outpatients in Singapore: prevalence, nature and risk factors. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 12(1), 2018. pp. 35–41. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1186/s13034-018-0242-3 Samari, E., et. al. An exploration of differences between Deliberate self-harm with and without suicidal intent amongst a clinical sample of young people in Singapore: a cross-sectional study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(4), 2020. pp. 1429–1441. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17041429 Ibid Min, A. H. MOE, MSF 'very concerned' about spike in youth suicides; experts say more support and awareness necessary. CNA. 2021, February 9. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/singapore/moe-msf-very-concerned-about-spike-youth-suicides-experts-say-more-support-and-awareness-necessary-862516 Choo, C. C., et. al. Does ethnicity matter in risk and protective factors for suicide attempts and suicide lethality? PLOS ONE, 12(4), e0175752, 2017. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0175752 Wasserman, D., et. al. Suicide prevention in childhood and adolescence: a narrative review of current knowledge on risk and protective factors and effectiveness of interventions. Asia-Pacific Psychiatry, 13(3), e12452, 2021. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/appy.12452 Choo, C. C., et. al. Does ethnicity matter in risk and protective factors for suicide attempts and suicide lethality? PLOS ONE, 12(4), e0175752, 2017. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0175752
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Secondly, the Response, Early Intervention and Assessment in Community Mental Health (REACH) service was developed in 2007 to support students with mental NO GROUP IS EXEMPTED While the article focuses on adolescent’s health issues. The main objectives of suicide, it is also essential to note that no REACH are: firstly, to improve youth’s mental health via early assessment and one is exempted. The recent pandemic has seen a rise in suicide in all age groups, intervention; secondly, to build the capacity of school and community particularly the elderly population. partners to detect and manage mental The number of suicide cases within the health through training and support; and elderly population increased by 26 thirdly, to build a mental health support percent from 2019. network for youths in the community. REACH organisations are strategically The Chief Executive of SOS, Gasper Tan, located by region to serve the regional said that the elderly are more likely to suffer from social isolation and financial school zones in Singapore 33. worries as they have difficulty adapting to the constant changes 30. The pandemic Thirdly, the Samaritans of Singapore and has caused them to abruptly halt various Temasek Foundation have organised the activities and stay at home for an #chatsafe programme and guidelines and extended period. It has also caused launched a social media campaign called various activities and initiatives for #PauseBeforeYouPost to help youths seniors to be conducted online. navigate suicide. The #chatsafe guidelines aim to help youths engage in safe and Despite the continuous initiatives, those effective conversations with their family who are not digitally savvy might feel lost and peers, equip youths with relevant or helpless. As a result, they experience skills and knowledge to counter suicideprolonged feelings of loneliness, inactivity related content and manage their mental due to isolation, psychological distress health. At the same time, SOS launched and impaired social and family relationthe campaign to reframe mindsets and ships 31. Hence, shifting activities online empower people to reach out to those in might not be a suitable option for the distress. This initiative was launched to elderly population. mitigate the increasing suicide-related content online. Although it is crucial to With this, it is crucial to understand raise awareness and help those who are that everyone is equally affected by the in distress, some content might be pandemic but with differentiating levels distressing or harmful to others 34. of impact. Hence, this issue needs to be addressed to prevent the loss of more lives. In regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools and institutes of higher learning TACKLING SUICIDE AND SELF-HARM in Singapore have addressed issues of Singapore has seen various progress in mental health, well-being and personal raising awareness and helping those resilience in the school curriculum. One affected. In addressing the stigma around of the significant initiatives was the mental health illness, voluntary welfare employment of trained teachers and staff organisations and initiatives such as the members to aid in identifying signs of Silver Ribbon Project and the Singapore distress in students, monitor their wellAssociation of Mental Health (SAMH) being, and provide guidance and support 35. have actively conducted awareness and public education programmes, More and more initiatives can be seen encouraging early treatment to address from various organisations in Singapore the underlying stigmatisation 32. to help individuals cope with their adolescents will help them to be less susceptible to suicide and self-harm.
If you feel distressed or know someone who is feeling distressed, please approach these organisations for assistance. •
Samaritans of Singapore: 1800 221 4444 (24 hours), or 1767 (24 hours)
Singapore Association of Mental Health: 1800 283 7019 (Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm)
Emergency Helpline (Institute of Mental Health): 6389 2222 (24 hours)
Tinkle Friend: 1800 274 4788 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am-5pm)
Zuriati Zulfa Roslee is currently interning at the Centre for Resear ch on Islamic and Malay Affairs (RIM A). She is also a final year student majori ng in Psychology at International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM).
30 Gene, N. K. 452 suicides reported in Singapore in 2020 amid Covid-19, highest since 2012. The Straits Times. 2021, July 8. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/452-suicides-reported-in-singapore-in-2020-amid-covid-19-highest-since-2012 Choo, D. Suicides in Singapore reach 8-year high in pandemic-hit 2020, with elderly suicides highest since 1991. TODAY. 2021, July 8. Retrieved from: https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/suicides-singapore-reach-8-year-high-pandemic-hit-2020-elderly-suicides-highest-1991 32 Lim, C., et. al. Child community mental health services in Asia Pacific and Singapore’s reach model. Brain Sciences, 7(12), 2017. pp. 126–136. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci7100126 33 Renjan, V., and Fung, D. S. S. Debate: COVID‐19 to the under 19 – a Singapore school mental health response. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 25(4), 2020. pp. 260–262. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/camh.12426 34 Samaritans of Singapore. Media Release – SOS and Temasek Foundation help youths navigate suicide with #chatsafe guidelines. 2021, May. Retrieved from: https://www.sos.org.sg/pressroom/sos-and-temasek-foundation-help-youths-navigate-suicide-with-chatsafe-guidelines TODAY. Covid-19: Suicide rate among 10-19 age group rises in 2020 year-on-year. 2021, July 28. Retrieved from: https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/covid-19-suicide-rate-among-10-19-age-group-jumps-375-2020-year-year 31
distress. Besides the various interventions developed, various organisations have also established a hotline for those who are contemplating suicide or have no one to talk to. However, despite the developments and efforts that various organisations have conducted, suicide and self-harm still prevail. Hence, all of us need to take the first step in keeping our close ones in check as humans rely and depend on each other for support. Those at risk will be more comfortable to open up with the existence of a support system and community.
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THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY BY SHANTINI RAJASINGAM OCTOBER 2021
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WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE ‘WOKE’, ANYWAY? Before 2014, the call to ‘stay woke’ was, for many people, unheard of. Within the Black communities, however, it had been around for a while – commonly referring to the notion of staying alert to the deceptions of other people as a basic survival tactic. In 2014, following the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, ‘stay woke’ symbolically came to be the cautionary watchword of Black Lives Matter activists on the streets as they urged one another to ‘stay woke’ against police brutality and unjust police tactics1. Today, it has since evolved beyond this specific context within which it originated from, to generally mean being “well-informed or alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice”2. Given that racial and social injustices of various forms are still prevalent across many societies today, it seems like being ‘woke’ to such issues is a very good thing. After all, how can we expect to address such problems if we are not aware of them to begin with?
solidarity formation and galvanising people to action. However, it has also undeniably impacted how ‘woke’ culture has come to be today. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, performative ‘wokeness’ or virtue signalling, as it is also commonly known, refers to “the act of expressing your opinions about social or political issues in public in order to show other people that you are a good person”3. In other words, it allows people to appear ‘woke’ or politically correct without actually engaging in any critical discourse about the subject. The performativity of ‘wokeness’ on social media comprises two aspects: posting about social issues online, and then expectantly waiting for the affirmation from others to pour in. Actual sustained activism and political work apparently seem to take too long and is too much work!
For example, in the days following George Floyd’s murder, my Instagram feed was flooded with posts supporting Black Lives Matter, with Singaporeans of all walks of life – from local celebrities to activists to even my least ‘woke’ friends – publicly Movements like Black Lives Matter, at its announcing their solidarity with the core, are about dismantling systems of Blacks in America, promising to educate oppression that have long been ignored or themselves on slavery and oppression worse, maintained by those with power. while also doing better in fighting racism. Being ‘woke’, therefore, seems necessary; In the beginning, these posts seemed we need to wake up. Firstly, to the fact that almost promising, especially since not everyone is treated equally in society – Singaporeans have long been described as directly impacting their very real, lived being politically apathetic and not keen everyday experiences. While awareness is on activism4. As someone from the necessary, it alone is insufficient in doing minority race myself, it was refreshing to anything. Secondly, and more significantly, see those of the majority race joining in with this awareness, it is imperative that the conversation as well, for it is not an we commit towards dismantling such uncommon experience for us to have had systems of oppression through real, our experiences played down previously concrete action. In this way, ‘wokeness’ when we tried to articulate our own lived is in direct contrast to ignorance, a trait experiences with racism here. which, if you ask me, conveniently maintains the status quo through takenHowever, I might have been too optimistic. for-granted notions of the way things have It was unsettling to see that some of these always been, and therefore ought to be. posts of ‘solidarity’ and ‘action’ were immediately followed with posts of their PERFORMATIVITY OF ‘WOKENESS’ summer fun after, as if posting about the In today’s age of constant social media movement once or twice was sufficient – connection and instant gratification, what they had ‘done their part’. Some also we post on social media matters to many rightfully pointed out that ironically, of us. Certainly, social media can be a some of these very people posting about powerful tool of raising awareness, the US-based racism had themselves made
At the same time, it is also incredibly easy to post about something on one’s social media, but it is a different story to put in the actual work. Proper activism is not just posting about it on our social media accounts for a few days or even weeks. That is, for a lack of a better word, convenient. Such ‘wokeness’ (if we can even call it that) is dangerous because it is a mere facade behind which one can do the bare minimum while appearing like they’re doing so much more. It’s about making one feel better about themselves without having to actually do anything. As critically, yet eloquently put by Leah Finnegan, such performative actions simply “serve to comfort those already in positions of power while further othering the people they are purporting to help”5. To engage in such performativity, therefore, not only involves a certain level of artificiality of empathy but is incredibly temporary too since it does not precede concrete political action of any sorts. Contrastingly, real, authentic activism is a sustained process6. It’s about constantly challenging one’s taken-for-granted notions, actively learning and unlearning them, confronting one’s sense of privilege and unequal power dynamics, and contributing resources like time and money. As racism is
1 Romano, A. A history of “wokeness”. Vox. 2020, October 9. Retrieved from: https://www.vox.com/culture/21437879/stay-woke-wokeness-history-origin-evolution-controversy 2 Steinmetz, K. The Oxford English Dictionary Just Added ‘Woke.’ It’s Older Than You Might Think. TIME. 2017, June 25. Retrieved from: https://time.com/4830959/oxford-english-dictionary-woke/ Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries. Definition of ‘virtue signalling’ noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. Retrieved from: https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/virtue-signalling Ong, J. Most Singaporeans politically apathetic, not keen on activism: IPS. The Straits Times. 2021, July 2. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/most-singaporeans-politically-apathetic-not-keen-on-activism-ips 5 Iverson, K. Please Let This Be The End of Performative Wokeness. Nylon. 2016, November 16. Retrieved from: https://www.nylon.com/articles/end-of-wokeness 6 Kwon, D. Your ‘activism’ is really not so woke: the harm of ‘performing’ wokeness. The Daily, The University of Washington. 2020, February 27. Retrieved from: https://www.dailyuw.com/opinion/article_cb3b0ac4-5908-11ea-b258-5f237a5efdb3.html 3
racist remarks previously, highlighting the performativity of these individuals’ actions as well. I, myself, saw some acquaintances post about the movement who themselves still used the n-word, a racial slur, in their everyday life. Worse, weeks, and months later, when the dust started to settle, all traces of the movement and its conversations almost completely disappeared from my feed. Later on, when other local racist incidents emerged, it seemed that even fewer people were speaking out about them. As a whole, it seemed like a lot of Singaporeans conveniently jumped onto the ‘woke’ bandwagon for those fleeting moments before going back to their ‘normal’ lives. Of course, this sort of performative ‘wokeness’ highlights one’s privilege, whereby the more privileged individuals are able to hop on and off the ‘woke’ bandwagon when it is beneficial for them to do so, while people of colour do not have a choice.
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ingrained within our society, to do so is to continuously engage in While holding people systemically and perpetuated by lay Singaporeans critical conversations about racial inequality, themselves, it is imperative that we remain regardless of how uncomfortable they accountable for committed if we strive to dismantle it. might be. The burden of explaining often on the shoulders of the minority races, their actions is very THE ACT OF ‘CANCELLING’ SOMEBODY lies but that should not be the case. There are It is also crucial to mention the toxicity numerous educational resources, books, much necessary, associated with ‘wokeness’ as well. To call shows and films out there that we can turn oneself, or another ‘woke’ is to imply that to, to unlearn racism and our biases whilst when people are one is better than others; almost putting re-learning anti-racist behaviour, and the immediately labelled one on a pedestal, while judging others to easy access to such tools spares no room be deluded or wrong. Such forms of for ignorance. It is important to always as such without room labelling, however, perhaps unintentionally, check on our sense of privilege and hold creates an us-versus-them mentality, ourselves and those around us accountable for productive where those who are supposedly ‘woke’ through our actions. Naturally, many of call out, or cancel those they perceive us might feel entitled to our privilege conversations to not to be as such (or ‘woke’ enough) . without realising or wanting to admit it, happens when those who are but that’s where the work begins. Being occur, it harms more ‘Cancelling’ supposedly ‘woke’ shame and criticise ‘woke’ is not a badge of honour, nor an end another who says or does something that goal. Nobody is perfect, and ‘wokeness’ is than helps. This is they object to. Usually done on social not about that either. Rather, it is a means media, the latter’s reputation is sometimes towards a more inclusive end that we especially harmful ruined, with the individual sometimes should strive towards. struggling to recover from being since actual, ‘cancelled’ . While holding people accountable for their actions is very much systemic change necessary, when people are immediately Shantini Rajasingam is currently a requires genuine labelled as such without room for fourth-year Sociology undergraduate at productive conversations to occur, it Nanyang Technological University. discussion and harms more than helps. This is especially harmful since actual, systemic change solidarity. Taken to requires genuine discussion and solidarity. Taken to an extreme, therefore, ‘wokeism’ an extreme, therefore, might be a disservice to society. At the time, some individuals may not be ‘wokeism’ might be a same posting on social media, but may actually be putting in the hard work. To call disservice to society. someone out simply for not posting on 7
social media seems almost hypocritical, especially given how simply posting about it may be a sign of one’s performativity, as described earlier. LOOKING FORWARD Nevertheless, despite the current issues associated with being ‘woke’, being vigilant of injustices like racism is something we should always strive towards. Prejudice and inequality against certain groups of individuals are still existent in our society, and need to be addressed. That in itself is sufficient reason to strive towards being ‘woke’. Rather than denouncing the ‘woke’ culture completely, we need to be mindful about the ways in which we utilise it. Sustained involvement should be at the forefront, and the best way
7 Luk, J. Why ‘woke’ became toxic. Al Jazeera. 2021, June 24. Retrieved from: https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2021/6/24/what-is-woke-culture-and-why-has-it-become-so-toxic Brooks, M. The Promise and Problems of Being Woke. Psychology Today. 2020, June 30. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/tech-happy-life/202006/the-promise-and-problems-being-woke
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Vaccine Opposition: Conversations with Anti-Vaxxers
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COVID-19 VACCINATION IN SINGAPORE Ever since Singapore kicked off its national vaccination programme for COVID-19, more than 4 million Singaporeans and long-term residents have been fully vaccinated, with more than 8 million doses administered as of 8 September 2021. While vaccination is strongly encouraged in Singapore, it remains voluntary. In total, 81 percent of Singapore’s population has completed their full regimen or received two doses of COVID-19 vaccines, and 83 percent has received at least one dose 1. According to the Ministry of Health (MOH), vaccination is free for all Singaporeans and long-term residents who are currently in Singapore 2, with enough vaccines available so that all eligible Singaporeans can get vaccinated 3. However, despite the availability of COVID-19 vaccines in Singapore, and leaving aside those who cannot take the vaccine for medical reasons, deciding to get vaccinated may not be a straightforward decision for some. There remains a proportion of the population who may be wary and hesitant about getting their shots, and others who refuse to get vaccinated altogether. According to a survey conducted by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), 67 percent of Singaporeans were willing to take the COVID-19 vaccine if it were offered to them, with 13 percent saying they were unwilling 4. The rest were neutral on the issue. About half the respondents have concerns about the safety and potential side effects of the vaccine, as well as its efficacy. Vaccination opposition and hesitancy is not a new phenomenon and has been documented for other types of vaccinations. In recent months, opposition to vaccinations has been discussed more frequently with anti-vaxxers coming together to discuss their thoughts and opinions on online forums and social media. Anti-vaxxers refer to those who disagree with the use of vaccines for a variety of reasons 5. They believe that
1 2 3
vaccines are unsafe and infringe on their human rights, and typically deny the existence or validity of the science supporting their use in the general population. The popularity of these opinions is hard to measure and not many are willing to share their views, however, the Karyawan team managed to speak to three individuals who shared their anti-vaccine sentiments and the reasons behind their vaccine hesitancy. UNDERSTANDING OPPOSITION TO VACCINATIONS Shila (not her real name), 34, and a single mother of one teenager does not mind when people label her as a conspiracy theorist or an anti-vaxxer. According to her, she had not always been opposed to vaccination, having dutifully received flu jabs and other types of vaccines in the past. However, when COVID-19 vaccines made the news last year, she started to read up more about vaccines, and the more she read up, the more opposed she became to them. According to Shila, her opposition to vaccines comes mainly from a mistrust of the pharmaceutical companies and her fear of the possible side effects. “I do believe in conspiracy theories. I have been doing research on pharmaceutical (companies) over the internet. There are pharmaceutical companies that were also involved in the development of the vaccine that have faced lawsuits involving some of their drugs. I also believe that the pharmaceutical industry is profit-driven and that they are only interested in selling their products regardless of the possible side effects that will affect consumers. They even come out with so many supplements that is not necessary. And like most of these unnecessary supplements, I feel that vaccines are just a synthetic loaded gun aimed at our immune system,” Shila said. According to Shila, the fear of complications and possible side effects of the vaccine also play a part in her vaccination hesitancy.
“Another thing that’s stopping me from taking the vaccine are the bad side effects that may come with the second dose. Everybody is different. What if I die? I understand that there is an insurance in case anything happens, but I don’t need to be insured. I just don’t want to die from the vaccination. You don’t know what medical problem you have. What worries me most is that you can still get the virus even if you are vaccinated. The vaccine doesn’t promise to protect you,” Shila added. Shila shared that, as a parent, she prefers natural or homeopathic treatments instead. “I am more inclined to natural healings and sunnah healing. I would resort to clinical medications only if I’m really sick. That being said, I am not taking the pandemic lightly. I practise preventive behaviour and I stay away from people as much as I can. Yes, I worry about the pandemic, but I feel that the COVID-19 vaccines were created super fast, so I don’t trust the system at this point of time,” Shila explained. We also spoke to Shah (not his real name), 32, who is working as a mechanical engineer in a construction firm. He shares the same sentiment when it comes to the rapid development of the vaccine. According to him, the COVID-19 vaccine went through an unprecedentedly rapid process and his concern is that the vaccines were rushed and may not have been properly assessed so their safety is in question. “I have mixed feelings about the vaccination to be honest. I am skeptical about it for numerous reasons. One that really made me decide not to go for the vaccination was medical experts saying that it is impossible for a vaccine for a pathogen of this deadly calibre to be produced within a short range of time. I feel that the vaccines produced were rushed and there was not enough time for tests to be carried out before releasing them to the world. There are no known long-term side effects in records,” Shah explained.
Ministry of Health. Update on local COVID-19 situation. 2021, September 9. Retrieved from: https://www.moh.gov.sg/news-highlights/details/update-on-local-covid-19-situation_9_September_2021 Ministry of Health. COVID-19 Vaccination. Accessed 2021, September 7 at: https://www.moh.gov.sg/covid-19/vaccination Tan, A. Covid-19 vaccines will be free for S'poreans; vaccination recommended but voluntary for adults. The Straits Times. 2021, February 10. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/covid-19-vaccines-will-be-free-for-sporeans-vaccination-recommended-but-voluntary Ong, J. 67% of S’poreans willing to take Covid-19 vaccine, 20% neutral; younger ones more likely to be concerned: IPS study. The Straits Times. 2021, April 26. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/67-per-cent-willing-to-take-vaccine-20-per-cent-neutral-younger-sporeans-more Kandola, A. What is an anti-vaxxer? Medical News Today. 2020, November 4. Retrieved from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/anti-vaxxer
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Vaccine development is a long and complex process, often lasting 10 to 15 years and involving a combination of public and private involvement. However, researchers claimed that they were not starting from scratch when they learned about SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, so there were necessary experimental experience and groundwork to develop the vaccine for COVID-19.
Indeed, the vaccines were developed in record time. Vaccine development is a long and complex process, often lasting 10 to 15 years and involving a combination of public and private involvement 6. However, researchers claimed that they were not starting from scratch when they learned about SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, so there were necessary experimental experience and groundwork to develop the vaccine for COVID-19 7. Ifah (not her real name), a 28-year-old teacher, shared that more time should be given to monitor the efficacy of the vaccination. “I feel that the vaccination must be made entirely voluntary or optional. Your freedom should not be associated with your vaccination status. In fact, I feel that we are used as guinea pigs for research and there is always a risk factor when measuring effectiveness. Personally, I don’t mind being vaccinated if there is substantial research on its effectiveness. However, there are news that reported Pfizer is not as effective, and a third booster is called for, which means that research is still ongoing,” Ifah said. VACCINATION-DIFFERENTIATED MEASURES: DISCRIMINATING OR ENCOURAGING? The rollout of vaccines in Singapore has given hope to many Singaporeans of a return to some form of normality with some of the COVID-19 restriction measures being eased for those who have been vaccinated including for dining in and socialising in bigger groups. Fully vaccinated individuals will also be able to take part in other higher-risk activities where masks are removed. With moves made to nudge and encourage people to get the COVID-19 vaccine, incentives have also expanded into the retail, and food and beverage sectors, with a growing array of freebies and discounts extended to those who have gotten their jabs 8.
the COVID-19 vaccine has become a source of division. Our interviewees also argue that the differentiated measures run contrary to earlier declarations that vaccination will not be made mandatory. “They say that vaccination was not mandatory, but most establishments require us to be vaccinated. Because of this, I am indirectly restricted from my personal activities and freedom. The government is saying that it is not mandatory because they do not want to be liable for any health complications, but their regulations are indirectly pointed towards compulsory vaccination. I don’t like to be forced,” Ifah said. “Currently, it seems that the government has divided the citizens into two categories: vaccinated and unvaccinated. Those who are vaccinated tend to be able to go about their new normal routines such as dining out or attending activities, while those who choose not to, be it for personal or medical reasons, are not able to do so. This has caused a divide and created social awkwardness,” Shah said. Shila, who is currently unemployed, shared that her vaccination status has also restricted her job application experience. “Even now when applying for a job, they will ask for my vaccination status. I didn’t get the jobs I applied for because of my vaccination status,” Shila shared.
When asked about their source of information when it comes to vaccination, our interviewees shared that they often refer to online sources and social media. According to them, one need not have to work hard to find information about anti-vaccination. For them, official narratives from the mainstream media obscure the truth, while alternative viewpoints from YouTube commentators deserve to be heard. Indeed, according to sociologist Tan Ern Ser from the National However, our interviewees felt that the University of Singapore, those who have differentiated safe management measures no access to, are unable to comprehend or were discriminatory towards those who do not trust official information may be have not been vaccinated. They felt that less accepting of vaccination 9.
The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Vaccine Development, Testing, and Regulation. Accessed 2021, September 1 at: https://www.historyofvaccines.org/content/articles/vaccine-development-testing-and-regulation 7 Solis-Moreira, J. How did we develop a COVID-19 vaccine so quickly? Medical News Today. 2020, December 15. Retrieved from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/how-did-we-develop-a-covid-19-vaccine-so-quickly#Other-coronaviruses 8 Lee, V. Vaccination perks. The Straits Times. 2021, August 1. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/life/vaccination-perks 9 Gan, E. Understanding why some people are not taking Covid-19 vaccines and how to gain their confidence. TODAY. 2021, June 12. Retrieved from: https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/understanding-why-some-people-are-not-taking-covid-19-vaccines-and-how-gain-their
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“They say that vaccination was not mandatory, but most establishments require us to be vaccinated. Because of this, I am indirectly restricted from my personal activities and freedom. The government is saying that it is not mandatory because they do not want to be liable for any health complications, but their regulations are indirectly pointed towards compulsory vaccination. I don’t like to be forced,” Ifah said.
Whether they are committed to an antiShila also added that she also has a few friends and a community, with whom she scientific cause, or simply undecided discusses information about the vaccine. about whether to be vaccinated, these choices are often the result of many complicating factors that need to be “I have a few friends who have the same addressed sensitively, especially if we mindset as me. I also know a community hope to reach population-level immunity. which opted out of vaccination. They There is no easy solution, but health even suggest going for cupping to remove authorities can continue to provide the vaccination if we end up being made easy-to-digest, accurate information to take the vaccine. In fact, I also know to recognise and address the major people who don’t believe in COVID-19,” concerns among those who are hesitant Shila shared. towards vaccination. As shared by our interviewees, the antivaccine sentiment is associated with conspiracy-thinking and protection of individual freedom. The central dogma Nabilah Mohammad is a Senior Research of the anti-vaccine ideology is that the Analyst at the Centre for Research on vaccines were developed too fast to Islamic and Malay Affa irs (RIMA). She holds a Bachelor of Scie confirm their efficacy and safety. However, nce in Psychology and a Specialist Diplom according to our interviewees, they are a in Statistics and Data Mining. not against those who are for vaccination and respect everyone’s decision and perspectives on vaccination. They hoped that their opinions will be respected too, and not set them apart from the rest of the society. “I think that it’s a personal choice and it is clearly said that vaccination is voluntary. I think it is misleading when they said it is not compulsory but at the same time, the unvaccinated are marginalised. People get scared of me when they know I am not vaccinated. COVID-19 is just confusing in all aspects at the moment, so why can’t we have the time to research more about it? Why pressure us when there is no concrete evidence? If I really have to be vaccinated, I want to take my time to do it,” Shila said. “My body belongs to me, and I should be allowed to decide what I want. I don’t owe anyone a living. I am liable for whatever I want to do. Just because I am in a country, which is practising certain vaccination regulations, does not mean I can indirectly be forced to vaccinate, which makes me unable to live my life normally,” Ifah shared. “I would like for them to know that vaccination is a personal choice. One should not be discriminated in any way if they choose not to be vaccinated. Those who choose not to be vaccinated should not have their rights taken away from them and be able to continue living normally like everyone else,” Shah said.
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TIME TO CARE BY TRICIA LEE
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Former First Lady of the United States (US), Rosalynn Carter once said, “There are four kinds of people in the world: those who are currently caregivers, those who have been caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.”
becoming more commonplace with the stress and uncertainty that the long-drawn pandemic has brought on. Combine these facts and it is not hard to imagine that every one of us will be a caregiver to someone with a mental health condition at some point in our lives. MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES ON THE RISE The 2016 IMH study showed that one in seven people in Singapore had experienced a mental disorder such as bipolar disorder or alcohol abuse in their lifetime – an increase from roughly one in eight several years ago. With the pandemic upending our schedules and routines, there have been reports in the media about increased incidents of domestic abuse, workplace burnout, family issues, and suicide as prolonged periods of isolation, financial worries and uncertainty about the future take their toll.
In a joint local study by the IMH and the University of Hong Kong conducted between May 2020 and June this year, The last nationwide study by the Institute approximately 13 percent of over 1,000 of Mental Health (IMH) showed that 1 in participants reported experiencing 7 people in Singapore has experienced a symptoms of anxiety or depression. mental health disorder in their lifetime1. Based on these numbers, you may already Suicide prevention agency Samaritans of be caring for someone with a mental Singapore reported an increase of more health issue – a family member, a friend, than 22 percent in the number of calls or even a co-worker. And if you aren’t, attended to on their 24-hour hotline in the possibility of being called on at some March 2020 as compared to the same point to be a caregiver to someone with period in 20192. a mental health issue is very real. IMPORTANCE OF MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS Former First Lady of the United States Zalifah Ibrahim was in her early twenties (US), Rosalynn Carter once said, “There when a family member attempted to are four kinds of people in the world: those who are currently caregivers, those take his own life. As far as she could see, there had been no warning signs. who have been caregivers, those who Zalifah recalls, “As we had very little will be caregivers, and those who will understanding about mental health, need caregivers.” we dismissed it as a one-off thing. The topic seemed taboo, so we didn’t address Consider firstly, Singapore’s ageing population which increases the incidence it. When he quit one job after another, of age-related disorders such as dementia. I thought he was just being lazy.” Mental health disorders are also
The 2016 IMH study showed that one in seven people in Singapore had experienced a mental disorder such as bipolar disorder or alcohol abuse in their lifetime – an increase from roughly one in eight several years ago.
It was only after the family member had a second massive breakdown that Zalifah had to rethink her attitude towards her loved one – and mental health, in general. She signed up for Caregivers Alliance’s Caregivers-to-Caregivers (C2C) programme. What she had learned about mental health helped her understand her loved one as well as benefited her social circle. “Being more aware of the symptoms of mental health issues opened my eyes, and I started to recognise them in my friends who are struggling with depression,” she said. “I was therefore able to use my newfound knowledge to help them as well.” In the same way that we do not wait for an emergency to happen before attending a first aid course, preparing ourselves to be a caregiver is something all of us can do.
Institute of Mental Health. Media Release - Latest nationwide study shows 1 in 7 people in Singapore has experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime. 2018, December 11. Retrieved from: https://www.imh.com.sg/uploadedFiles/Newsroom/News_Releases/SMHS%202016_Media%20Release_FINAL_web%20upload.pdf Tan, R. Mental-wellbeing amidst Covid-19. Samaritans of Singapore. 2020, May. Retrieved from: https://www.sos.org.sg/blog/mental-wellbeing-amidst-covid-19
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Caring about our mental health should be no different from caring about our physical health. When we are ill or if something hurts, we visit a doctor. Mental health should be treated the same way.
Mental health issues can be tricky to identify. It is often not until a crisis occurs that treatment is sought, and even then, many fail to seek treatment due to the social stigma surrounding them. Lack of information or lack of access to mental health services can also hinder treatment. By improving literacy around mental health issues and treatment, we are better able to recognise the early signs in those around us, and encourage them to seek treatment quickly, which can greatly improve their chances of recovery. Caregivers often find themselves plunged into a whirlwind of struggles in taking care of a loved one with a mental health condition, from keeping up with day-to-day responsibilities, navigating schedules, to medication and doctor appointments.
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During the Circuit Breaker period last year, Caregivers Alliance Limited (CAL) received many calls on the hotlines from people who were at their wits’ end. One call came from a distraught mother whose daughter had tried to take her own life two days before. Another from a man alone at home with his wife, diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, who was getting aggressive from being cooped up. Caregivers can be very vulnerable to burnout and depression. Being prepared means we are equipped with the necessary tools and knowledge when the situation calls for it. SELF-CARE FOR CAREGIVERS When Alvyna Han was diagnosed with depression in August 2015 after a traumatic event, she spiralled into a pattern of self-destructive and selfharming behaviour, which continued for almost two years. In 2017, on her best friend’s recommendation, she signed up for a course at CAL as a caregiver to herself. “Instead of relying on others, I decided that I should, firstly, take care of myself,” she said. Inspired by a documentary and what she had learnt, she signed up as a volunteer in the hope that her experience could help others. Alvyna is now a full-time programme manager with CAL. Caring about our mental health should be no different from caring about our physical health. When we are ill or if something hurts, we visit a doctor. Mental health should be treated the same way. Self-care goes beyond pampering massages and soaking in the bath. It means taking the time to ensure we live well and improve our physical, mental and emotional health. In these challenging and uncertain times, we don’t need to act like everything is okay, because it isn’t. There are many resources available. Whether you are
already a caregiver, or know of someone who is struggling, do extend a hand and remind them that there is no shame in reaching out for help.
Ms Tricia Lee is Head of Communications at Caregivers Alliance Lim ited (CAL). CAL is a non-profit organisation dedicated to meeting the needs of caregivers and people with mental health issues. The fully-funded training programmes equ ip caregivers with a better understanding of mental health issues, such as depres sion, bipolar disorder, dementia and eating diso rders. To find out more, visit cal.org.sg.
Before Si g n ing an Emplo yment Co n
Your Sign ature
BY TRIPA RTITE AL LIANCE F OR
D PROGR ESSIVE E
MPLOYM ENT PRA CTICES
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Reading and understanding the employment contract before you seal the deal is crucial as this will avoid any potential disputes. A fair employment contract clearly states your rights and obligations as an employee of the organisation as well as the employer’s, and as required by the Employment Act, should include the key employment terms1. While organisations’ practices may vary, this article aims to serve as a guide on the key points (non-exhaustive) to look out for when signing an employment contract. 1. TYPE OF CONTRACT Is the position a permanent one or a contract where you will be employed for a fixed duration? Regardless, all contracts should clearly indicate the start date of your employment. If you are on fixed-term employment, the contract should also state the duration and the end date of your employment. You should also check if the contract can be renewed or extended, and the conditions for renewal or extension. Look out for any other terms and conditions your employment is subject to, such as those listed in the employee’s handbook, and request a copy when starting work. 2. DETAILS OF THE JOB One might think that job requirements are clear at first glance. However, it is important to check that the job title and the description of the main duties and responsibilities in the contract are exactly what were communicated to you during the job offer. If in doubt, do clarify with the potential employer. Pay attention to other aspects of the job, work conditions or performance targets that may be stated in the contract.
3. WORKING ARRANGEMENTS The employment contract should include your place of work, the daily working hours and number of working and rest days per week. For instance, will you be working a five- or six-day work week? If you are required to work on shift, what are the typical shift work hours, and do you have sufficient break time and rest days?
4. SALARY, BONUS AND REIMBURSEMENT While you may have negotiated and agreed on the salary when an offer is made, you should still check that the agreed amount is accurately reflected in the contract. Other information to look out for include:
A fair employment contract clearly states your rights and obligations as an employee of the organisation as well as the employer’s, and as required by the Employment Act, should include the key employment terms.
• • •
Did you know? If you are covered under the Employment Act4, your employer must pay your salary at least once a month and within seven days after the end of the salary period. Some exceptions include overtime pay and resignation without notice5. 5. LEAVE AND OTHER BENEFITS Your employment contract should state the following: •
Did you know? If you are covered under Part IV of the Employment Act2, your hours of work are regulated and you are entitled to breaks, overtime pay and rest day. You are generally not required to work for more than six consecutive hours without a break. However, if the nature of work requires you to work continuously for up to eight hours, breaks must be provided for meals and should be at least 45 minutes; and you should have one rest day per week3.
What is the frequency of salary payment? Are there any payment conditions on any particular salary elements such as allowances? What is the overtime rate of pay and frequency of payment, if applicable? What is the commission structure like, if applicable? Are you entitled to any bonuses, annual wage supplements and other incentives? Are you entitled to any reimbursements of expenses incurred for work (e.g. travel expenses incurred during employment)?
Number of days of annual leave you are entitled to; Policy on carrying forward your annual leave and how unused annual leave is treated upon resignation or termination; Public holidays (e.g. Are you given a day’s pay or a day off if you work on a public holiday or the public holiday falls on a non-working day?); Maternity, paternity and childcare leave entitlements, if applicable; Medical benefits, sick leave and hospitalisation entitlements.
1 See: Ministry of Manpower (MOM). What is a contract of service. Available at: https://www.mom.gov.sg/employment-practices/contract-of-service/what-is-a-contract-of-service Employees covered under Part IV of the Employment Act include workman (a rank-and-file employee engaged in manual labour e.g. cleaner) earning basic salary of not more than $4,500, and non-workman (a rank-and file white-collar employee e.g. clerk and receptionist) earning basic salary of not more than $2,600. Managers and executives are not covered under Part IV of the Act. See: MOM. Employment Act: who it covers. Available at: https://www.mom.gov.sg/employment-practices/employment-act/who-is-covered 3 See: MOM. Hours of work, overtime and rest day. Available at: https://www.mom.gov.sg/employment-practices/hours-of-work-overtime-and-rest-days 4 All employees, except foreign employees holding a work pass, seafarers, domestic workers and public officers, are covered under the Employment Act. See: MOM. Employment Act: who it covers. Available at: https://www.mom.gov.sg/employment-practices/employment-act/who-is-covered 5 See: MOM. Paying salary. Available at: https://www.mom.gov.sg/employment-practices/salary/paying-salary
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Did you know? In accordance with the Employment Act, you are entitled to paid annual leave and sick leave if you have worked for your employer for at least 3 months6. The Act stipulates the minimum leave entitlements and those beyond what is stated in the Act will have to be mutually agreed between the employer and employee, and documented in the employment contract7. 6. PROBATION PERIOD Probation period is a common practice and usually lasts for three to six months or longer depending on the complexity of the role and industry. It gives both you and your employer the opportunity to assess suitability and job fit in the job role and company culture. Employees assessed well after the probation period will be confirmed and those who are not may have their probation period extended. Do check: • •
What is the duration of probation if any? How will you be assessed during the probation? Typically, companies will review your performance and issue a confirmation letter upon completion of the probation.
If there are other penalty clauses, always clarify what these are and how they will be administered. Do not sign the contract if you are uncomfortable with the employer’s explanation. Did you know? The length of notice period must be the same for the employer and employee. If there is unequal notice period or no prior agreement between your employer and yourself, the notice period in the Employment Act will apply, and it will be based on length of service8. So before you sign the next contract, check the terms and conditions to ensure you fully understand them and they meet the minimum requirements of the Employment Act (if you are covered), clarify when in doubt, and capture all agreed terms in the contract to avoid potential disputes. If there are any terms that are not applicable to you, they should not be included in the contract. For more information on employment contracts, visit tafep.sg or mom.gov.sg. If you need assistance on employment disputes, you may approach the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management for advisory and mediation services9.
The Tripartite All iance for Fair an d Progressive Emplo yment Practices (TAFEP) helps employers build workplaces where employees are res pected, valued an d able to achieve their ful lest potential, for the success of the org anisation. Emplo yers can approach TA FEP for tools, res ource materials and as sistance to imple ment fair and progress ive practices at the ir workplaces. Em ployees or individ uals who encounter workp lace discriminatio n or harassment can seek assistance and advice from TAFE P. For more resou rces and events from TAFEP, visit tafep .sg.
7. TERMINATION Either you or your employer can end an employment relationship by terminating For employers who need advice on how to the contract. In your contract, look out for: apply the Employment Act, Advisories or Guidelines, you may contact the Employer • The requisite notice period for Advisory Service (paid services)10. termination of contract for both you and your employer, before and after confirmation of employment. • The option to terminate the contract by paying salary in lieu of notice. • Restraint of trade clauses restricting your employment in a similar position in other companies or industry when you leave the company. • Other penalty clauses (e.g. for early termination of contract).
6 7 8 9 10
See: MOM. Employment Act: who it covers. Available at: https://www.mom.gov.sg/employment-practices/employment-act/who-is-covered See: MOM. Leave. Available at: https://www.mom.gov.sg/employment-practices/leave See: MOM. Termination with notice. Available at: https://www.mom.gov.sg/employment-practices/termination-of-employment/termination-with-notice See: Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management. About us. Available at: https://www.tal.sg/tadm/about See: Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices. Contact us – Get Advice on the Employment Act or Relevant Labour Laws, Advisories or Guidelines (Paid Services). Available at: https://www.tal.sg/tafep/Contact-Us
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Fathering: Seeing Beauty in Imperfections BY DR MOHAMMAD HANNAN HASSAN
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Imperfection is perfection in the wisdom of creation. If Allah swt so wishes to make His creations as perfect beings, He could have possibly and willingly done so. Nonetheless, He decided otherwise, all with a vision of the Perfect Creator. In fact, what He asserts is that He creates human in the finest state, namely ahsan taqwim, not a perfect state. Allah swt says in the Quran, “We have certainly created Man in the finest state. Then We reduced him to the lowest of the low. Except for those who believe and do righteous deeds, for they will have a reward never ending.” (Surah al-Tin (95): 4-6) Here, Allah the Creator endowed human with the potentiality of both – striving within the oscillation of being at the best and highest of the high, as well as the lowest of the low. Human continues to do righteous deeds, but often fails to do so. Nonetheless, he is capable of rising back and standing up again in the continuous endeavour to do good deeds that is innate in him. In so doing, he discovers himself, and finds beauty and satisfaction in his struggle. That is the beauty and perfection of imperfections.
communicate with our children appropriately; learning to manage our finances, as well as various other skills and competencies – these opportunities are abundant. Don’t seek to perfect yourself, but to continuously learn; a lifelong journey indeed. Life is a journey, and in this journey, one finds one’s self. This journey is not as much about the arrival as it is about discoveries.
organisations like Centre for Fathering and Bapa Sepanjang Hayat, which have classes for fathers with varying experiences at www.bshsekolahbapa.com. Seek to continue to learn, unlearn and relearn. Don’t shy away from challenges. You will discover your potentials, your true abilities, and the beauty of fathering. The beauty is in your imperfections.
This article was first published by Bapa Life is all about tests and tribulations. Sepanjang Hayat on 13 September 2021 Allah the Creator emphasised this in the in view of the Fathering Month in September. Quran, “Glorious is the One in whose hand is the Kingdom (of the whole universe), and He is Powerful over every thing. The One who created death and life, so that He may test you as to which of you is better the Dr Mohammad Hannan Hassan is of (finer) in his deeds. And He is the Deputy Mufti of Singapore, Vice Dean of All-Mighty, the Most Forgiving.” (Surah MUIS Academy and Programme Head in the Postgraduate Certificate in Islam al-Mulk (67): 1-2) This is such an at the Contemporary Societies (PCICS) instructive assertion by the Creator pore Singa of cil Coun ious Relig ic Islam Himself. He seeks not the quantity of your (MUIS). deeds, nor perfection. He seeks the quality of your deeds – the finest or the best (ahsan) you can give. And for all your imperfections, or inability to meet the ‘best’, He is the Most Forgiving.
Each of us, without exception, is tested. Whether you are rich or poor, educated or We, fathers, are imperfect, and we must uneducated, ustaz or non-ustaz, abled or not pretend that we can possibly be perfect. disabled; all and everyone are tested in Similarly, we must not expect our children various ways and forms He Himself knows to be perfect. In these imperfections are best. And He does not burden one beyond opportunities to continuously improve one’s power and capability. ourselves, and to soar higher. We have failed and will certainly fail in fulfilling Because each of us is tested and imperfect, our roles and responsibilities fully as don’t compare with others. We look and fathers. But we will rise again and again. we learn, but we don’t compare. Similarly, When we do that, our children are we don’t compare our children with others. observing and learning this essential and When we do that, our children will also existential quality of us, human beings, in compare us, fathers, with the others and discharging our role as fathers. we will fall into the anxieties of unmet expectations. Here lies humility. Humility is the power and strength to acknowledge our Again, I wish to emphasise on humility. vulnerabilities. Humility is the fuel for us Strong indeed is one who is willing to to want to continue to learn, unlearn and acknowledge one’s weaknesses and relearn, and to improve ourselves. vulnerabilities, and the strength to seek help. A hero is not one who needs no Fathers, what we should be doing is not to support, nor seeks no help. A hero is one expect ourselves to be the best father but who recognises his vulnerability and rather, to exhibit humility. We do this by humbly seeks help from others. Don’t continuously improving ourselves, think that you can fix all the problems unlearning and relearning. There are yourself, but know that you are not facing plenty of learning opportunities in the life’s tests and tribulations alone. society. How we communicate with our children, knowing our personality and Reach out to other fellow fathers. Seek profiles of our children help us engage and help from relevant people and
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THE SEARCH FOR THE BEST USER EXPERIENCE WITH
ANWAR ABDULHAQQ BY NUR DIYANA JALIL
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When we think about user experience or UX, we instantly associate the term with apps and websites. UX was first coined in 1993 by cognitive scientist, Donald Norman, who needed a term that would encompass all aspects of a person’s experience with a system, including industrial design, graphics, interface and physical interaction. Today, UX has become a rapidly growing industry with jobs on the rise. A career in the industry encompasses many different roles from product manager, UX designer, UI designer, content designer to UX researcher. Anwar Abdulhaqq, 33, who first started as a Management Consultant, now specialises as a UX Researcher at a global fintech company based in the UK. Anwar shares his insights on the UX industry and the work he does, with The Karyawan team. Q: Could you tell us more about yourself and your family? Anwar: I’ve been in the UK since I first came here for my degree studies ten years ago. After graduating with a Bachelor (Honours) degree in Economics and Middle Eastern studies, I stayed on to work. I grew up in a fairly average environment. My family lived close to my grandmother, as well as some of my uncles and aunts. They helped to take care of my brother and me, while my single mother was out working. We weren’t rich, but had all we needed, alhamdulillah. I first thought of studying abroad probably at the age of 18. Despite not having immediate ideas on how to achieve that goal financially, my mother gave her blessings. Until today, we’re not entirely sure how we achieved it, considering my mother didn’t earn much. A lot of things had to fall into place for me to study in the UK, and somehow they did! May God bless all those who have had a hand in this, including family and friends. The best explanation I can give is that a mother’s prayers is really powerful. Q: What drew you to a career in the UX industry? What is UX and is there a big demand for UX practitioners? Anwar: When I first heard the term UX, the first thought that came to mind was graphic designers and creatives who
design what you see on screen. Once I understood what UX actually is, I knew it would be the perfect career path for me as I would be able to combine my natural interests in business and technology, as well as satisfy my curiosity around the human mind and figure out why people do the things they do.
Q: What does a UX Researcher do?
Anwar: I’m currently with a global fintech company called Wise (formerly TransferWise) which values UX talent and specialisms. As a product proposition, Wise seeks to make money ‘borderless’ by offering an international account which enables you to spend money in any currency, anywhere in the world. Our UX is a multidisciplinary field which customers come from many different blends the subject of technology and human psychology. But if you think about backgrounds, from expats and international students to people who shop online in it, almost everything is an ‘experience’. From figuring out how to get to a location foreign currencies and people buying property abroad. you’ve never been to before by keying in the address into Google Maps, to using As a UX Researcher, I mainly do primary your banking app to initiate a PayNow research. My job is to uncover the needs transfer. of customers (and potential customers) and make sure that all the products and The key difference between the UX and services we come up with meet those traditional methods of approaching a needs. So, my work could entail problem and creating a product lies in interviewing people to understand their their focus. When you approach a problem from a UX perspective, it is what mental models around opening a financial we call human-centred. We would involve account (what we call generative research), to letting users walk through our real users very early on in the process to prototype apps to uncover their pain uncover their needs. This happens way points (evaluative research). My work will before we ever develop a single line of then inform UX Designers on what and code or manufacture a single part of a physical product. In effect, we are learning how to design, and their work, in turn, will flow to the Developers who will code directly from the users we are designing our app and ship it to our customers. Once solutions for, instead of taking cues from heads of corporations who may think they done, we will study the data, and I might have to do more usability tests to decide know the solutions to a user’s problems, if we need to make a better iteration or not, but actually don’t. and it goes on. While the roots of UX go a few decades It’s not as simple as speaking to people back, it is still considered young as a formalised industry. Nonetheless, its value though! Everything we do is (ideally) backed by evidence and data, and is based and importance are growing in on the science of human psychology recognition in corporate boardrooms, as well as young start-ups. Today, brands like (among other sciences). Apple, Google, Facebook, and AirBnB credit their success to this human-centred Q: What are the pros and cons of working in this industry in Europe approach of solving user needs. Even compared to Singapore? smaller companies like Grab and NinjaVan have embraced the approach from their early days. If you enjoy using an Anwar: I’m probably biased, having been app on a daily basis, you can be guaranteed in the UK for 10 years now, but from a career perspective, there are definitely that there have been many hundreds of more pros than cons. hours of UX research that has gone into creating that experience! So as technology gets more complex in the coming decades, UX as a concept and industry is far more mature in Europe than it is in Singapore, with the growth of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and blockchain, etc., the meaning that there are a lot more companies paying well for good UX talent demand for UX practitioners will only based in Europe. It also means that I have increase as we figure out the best ways to a lot more experienced colleagues to learn leverage them to solve human problems. from on a day-to-day basis, as well as at conferences, etc.
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Q: What made you decide to leave Singapore and work overseas?
‘colour blind’, to the point where sometimes have even done direct internal referrals they’re afraid to discuss race issues. for me when I wanted to apply to their companies. Anwar: I’ve always been globalist and In fact, I would go so far as to say that the international in my outlook. From a young UK, and London especially, is a lot less For UX research specifically, I would say age, I’ve been reading up on international racist than in Singapore, where a lot of that having a natural curiosity about relations, global politics and conflicts, etc. things are viewed through a racial lens. humans and why people do the things I also love learning about different cultures, People here are very accommodating. For they do is a must. Beyond that, it’s languages and religions. example, in every large global organisation important to continually learn UX skills, I’ve worked with, there has always been a whether it’s from paid bootcamps or free So in that regard, I’ve always seen Singapore prayer room for Muslims. online courses, so you can have a good as a small dot of safe haven, and that grounding on the different approaches and there’s a larger world out there to explore. Another cultural aspect that I truly value methodologies. Afterall, God created a vast expansive here is that there’s very little culture of world and it is humans who restrict ‘face time’ at work. You’re expected to ourselves to borders. So, I see myself as a manage your own time and in general, global citizen in that sense, rather than will be judged by your output, rather than utive at just a Singaporean. how much time you show your face in Nur Diyana Jalil is currently an Exec and the office. the Centre for Research on Islamic social Malay Affairs (RIMA), managing its My main goal is to set up a second base n. catio publi and ts even media, elsewhere and get at least a permanent Q: What have been the highlights of residency, so I could be more geographically your career or life in the UK so far? mobile and borderless. Any plans to return to Singapore? Q: What were some of the challenges you’ve faced while in the UK?
Anwar: One of the most interesting memories I have is conducting a usability testing of a government website with Anwar: One of the biggest challenges is people with disabilities. Some of them the visa or immigration system. As a were totally visually impaired, and others foreigner, I need visa sponsorship from the couldn’t use physical keyboards. It was companies I work for to be able to live here amazing to see how they overcome such legally. What this means is that companies adversity, and how much technology has have to incur additional costs to hire me advanced to enable a more inclusive world. compared to hiring a British (or someone from the EU). As a result, my pool of With regard to returning to Singapore, I potential companies to apply to is limited definitely don’t have it in my mind that I as majority won’t sponsor visas, and I have have left for good. I try to visit once or to prove to these companies why I’m twice a year and keep in touch with worth that additional cost. friends and family back home every day! Another thing I struggled with was adapting to the British way of socialising and communicating. I’m really blunt by nature so I am used to speaking my mind. But the British, overall, are quite indirect. They love small talk, skirt around issues, and try to avoid conflicts. So I’ve had to learn to reach a middle ground where my honesty is not received in a harsh way. Q: How different are the culture and lifestyle there compared to Singapore? Do you face discrimination? Anwar: I have genuinely not faced any sort of explicit discrimination, especially in a city as diverse as London. What you see on the news is typically sensationalised to the point where it skews actual realities on the ground. Most people here are
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Q: What is your advice to Malay/Muslim youths who aspire to be a UX researcher like you? Anwar: For some general advice, I would say that it’s important to get advice from proper sources, whether it’s about studying for a specific subject, or choosing a career. Many in our community do not get the right advice from the right people. It’s best to speak to those who have done what you are trying to achieve. Don’t be shy about networking! I’ve found LinkedIn to be particularly useful. I’ve reached out to countless ‘strangers’, had virtual meetups, and sought their advice on how to get to where I want to be. It’s no exaggeration to say that I wouldn’t be where I am today if not for them. Some
Islam in a Secular State: Muslim Activism in Singapore by Walid Jumblatt Abdullah BY NUR DIANA ABDUL RAHMAN OCTOBER 2021
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The Muslims in Singapore have always been attached to having the highest level of religiosity compared to followers of the other religions of the state. This religiosity was observed in the 1989 National Survey on Religion 1 and again in 2017, where 93 percent of Malays perceived being Muslims as important to their identity in comparison to 70.6 percent of the Indians and 37.4 percent of the Chinese 2. In a more recent survey 3, Muslim respondents (38.3 per cent) were the most likely to identify as very or extremely religious. With Muslims’ assertiveness towards policies that may infringe upon Islamic values, upholding national stability could be a challenge. The priorities of this young nation were set out clearly – to remove social tension that may cause social discords and continuously support economic growth. The way forward was secularism, where religion played a minimal role in the common space. As Ambassador Mohammad Alami Musa puts it, “The principles of governance are applied within the context of a state that staunchly embraces secularism but at the same time recognizes that religion has a positive role in contributing to social wellbeing and economic prosperity.” 4 With various issues surrounding the lives of Muslims and the state’s secularism, to what extent can Muslim actors maximise their activism? Actors here denote Muslim activists who are involved in any political or social reforms. At the heart of Walid Jumblatt Abdullah’s Islam in a Secular State: Muslim Activism in Singapore is a narrative about terms, pragmatism, and Muslim activism in Singapore. Abdullah argued, with relentless pace, that in a secular state, political opportunity structures are limited for Muslim actors to influence political outcomes.
activism in Singapore in the later chapters. Chapters 3, 4, 5, and 6 explicate Muslim actors. These four vibrant chapters show immense attempts in uncovering the different positions of Muslim actors; the ulama, the liberal activists, and the conservative Muslims. Abdullah discussed the roles played by these actors, the challenges they faced and gave several case studies that postulate the political opportunities available to different actors. Abdullah also interrogates the understanding of the Singapore Muslim Identity (SMI), in Chapter 4. The SMI is an endeavour to ensure that the Singapore Muslim community remains cognisant of the highly diverse state. Its primary aim is to crystallise specific Islamic attributes, values, and teachings, in the form of the ten desired attributes of a Singaporean Muslim Community of Excellence. Abdullah pointed out that each of the ten attributes of the SMI can be contentious, leaving the rhetoric to reader’s discretion. “Of course each of these points can be contentious, and much unpacking is needed. For instance, what does being a good citizen entail? Does that require obedience to the state, and working with the OB markers, or are contestations of the state’s core ideologies allowed? What does ‘progressive’ mean? What if Muslims lean towards a conservative interpretation of Islam: does that make them less Singaporean, or even less Muslim? What does ‘pluralism’ connote? Does that mean denouncing salvific exclusivity, as Alami seems to suggest in the Straits Times article? What does acceptance of the secular state translate to in reality: is it philosophical acceptance of the privatisation of faith, or is it a practical approval of secularism as a political and governing principle? And what are these ‘universal’ values? Any student of politics would know that values are always being contested. What should Singaporean Muslim’s stance be toward gay marriage, for instance, and is recognition of that universal value? If so, why and if not, why not? Like most values, the ones suggested in the SMI project are up for contestation.” 5
The structure of this book is refreshingly clear. Chapter 1 gives a clear contextual understanding of the state’s political arena. Chapter 2 explains Muslim activism In Chapter 5, Abdullah was also critical to which I believe is crucial to expound on include what may be deemed as sensitive the multi-faceted nature of Muslim
Mutalib, H. Chapter: Authoritarian democracy and the minority Muslim polity in Singapore. Islam and Politics in Southeast Asia. Routledge. 2009. pp. 160-180 2 Mathews, M., et. al. CNA-IPS Survey on Ethnic Identity in Singapore. IPS Working Papers, No. 28, 2017. pp. 1-78 3 Mathews, M., et. al. Religion in Singapore: The Private and Public Spheres. IPS Working Papers, No. 33, 2019. pp. 1-157 Musa, M. A. Engaging Religion with Pragmatism: The Singapore State’s Management of Social Issues and Religious Tensions in the 1980s. RSIS Working Paper Series, 305, 2017. Singapore: Nanyang Technological University. p. 15 5 Abdullah, W. J. Chapter: The Ulama: Pragmatism and Political Acquiescence. Islam in a Secular State: Muslim Activism in Singapore. Amsterdam University Press, 2021. p. 142 1
As he moved to close the chapters, he drew readers’ attention back to the state’s overarching approach to activism and the preferred state’s Muslim identity to maintain stability. All this makes for hardhitting, and maybe uncomfortable, reading. This is what Abdullah wants to achieve. Although he indicated that he made no normative judgment on what civil society should be or do, and that his narratives will largely depend on the readers’ position, intentionally or not, he wants to force readers to see the power plays at work in the process of translation.
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or taboo to some Muslims in Singapore, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues and Section 377A, and female circumcision. Later in Chapter 6, Abdullah discussed the conservative Muslims and the constricted space they have in influencing the state’s policies, discussing issues that include the tudung and again, Section 377A. Where these issues are concerned, more often than not, we observed accusatory commentaries by the community on social media – some reluctant to hear opposing ideas, while others choose to play the blame game. In the three chapters, Abdullah raised the political opportunity structure of the group – factors that are beyond them, but which impact and influence the degree of resonance and ultimately, the ‘successes’ of the group. It is refreshing that Abdullah included the nuances and alternative stances of the different Muslim activists in Singapore. Of course, it would not serve justice to simply divide the Muslims in Singapore into two categories: liberals, and conservatives. As you will find in the book, Abdullah constantly reminds readers that these two are not homogenous. He suggested that the categories should be further refined and understood in future studies. As he moved to close the chapters, he drew readers' attention back to the state’s overarching approach to activism and the preferred state’s Muslim identity to maintain stability. All this makes for hard-hitting, and maybe uncomfortable, reading. This is what Abdullah wants to achieve. Although he indicated that he made no normative judgment on what civil society should be or do, and that his narratives will largely depend on the readers’ position, intentionally or not, he wants to force readers to see the power plays at work in the process of translation. He wrote,
establishment may think otherwise. Either way, that debate is not the concern of this book, although I do accept that such judgements naturally follow from the arguments I have made, that is a conclusion, based on a prior ideological position, which the reader is entitled to arrive at.” 6 If you are reading this review now, I strongly suggest that you read the book too. With current public discourses, such as the change in tudung policy and sunat perempuan, this book will resonate well with these issues. Ultimately, I appreciate that this book encourages readers to think more clearly about the position of Muslim activists in Singapore. It is a thoroughly readable and consistently thoughtprovoking reflection on the future of religious expression in Singapore. As we face new moral dilemmas and challenges that come with social changes, the search for a more solid understanding of Muslim’s narratives will determine where we go next.
n is currently a Master Nur Diana Abdul Rahma S University of SOA the at te dida can of Arts igions and Rel of ent artm Dep ’s London rest is in inte ch ear res Her s. Philosophie on the ally cific spe es, socio-religious issu nity. Malay/Muslim commu
“I do not make a normative judgement on what civil society should be or do. I have merely attempted to explain the nature and implications of activism in Singapore. A reader who believes in the present system may think that it is a good thing that activism is of this sort, whereas someone who is more critical of the
Abdullah, W. J. Chapter: Conclusion: Implications for Civil Society. Islam in a Secular State: Muslim Activism in Singapore. Amsterdam University Press, 2021. p. 271
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