The Karyawan — Volume 14 Issue 3

Page 1



JULY 2019

MCI (P) NO: 029/06/2019

ISSN NO: 0218-7434






The Singapore Malay/Muslim Community 2.0 by Prof Dr Yaacob Ibrahim



A Prime Minister in the Making: Will Heng’s Open, Consultative Style Take Off? by Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim


Is Justice by Online Mob a Threat? by Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim


Could the Christchurch Massacre One Day be the Sultan Massacre? by Ameera Begum


New CPF Usage & HDB Loan Rules: A Boon or Bane? by Risdian Isbintara



Obsessions, Compulsions, Depression and the Muslim Community: Reflections from the Singapore Mental Health Study 2016 by Sufian Hanafi


Misunderstood Minds: Living with Mental Illness by Nabilah Mohammad



Islam and Spiritual Abuse by Ahmad Abdullah ENVIRONMENT


Refusing a Culture of Convenient Consumption by Sofiah Jamil

A Lazy Interpretation of the ‘Lazy Malay’ by Abdul Hakeem Akbar Ali PERSONALITY


Intellectual Rigour in Islamic History: A Lesson for 21st Century Malaysian Muslims by Dr Sharifah Munirah Alatas

On the Move with Daliyana Hamid by Nabilah Mohammad BOOK REVIEW Ramadan Stories: Notes After Terawih by Ziks by Mysara Aljaru

EDITOR Mohd Anuar Yusop EDITORIAL TEAM Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim Nabilah Mohammad Dr Nuraliah Norasid Nur Diyana Jalil Ruzaidah Md Rasid Winda Guntor

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

The Karyawan is a publication of AMP. The views expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect those of AMP and its subsidiaries nor its directors and the Karyawan editorial board. © AMP Singapore. 2019. All rights reserved. Permission is required for reproduction.


We use technology in our daily life to communicate, learn, travel and carry out business transactions. Technology impacts not only the human life, but also the environment and society as a whole. In this regard, the challenge we have today is in determining the kind of future we wish to have for our society, and then develop technologies that can simplify the way we do things. Singapore is well-positioned to stay ahead of the challenges posed by the emergence of new technologies. The large degree of automation enabled by digitalisation bears considerable impact in our lives, from disrupting business models to creating new jobs and the need for new skill sets. What does this mean for Singaporeans, and particularly, for the Malay/ Muslim community? In his article on Page 8, Prof Dr Yaacob Ibrahim shares this very concern – whether the Malay/Muslim community is ready to take on the opportunities as well as deal with the challenges of this new digital age. Apart from leveraging on the changes, Prof Dr Yaacob feels that our community could also play a role in shaping the agenda on the constructive use of new technologies while preserving the dignity of the human race. I hope that this article, as well as the rest of the articles in this issue, will spark off further discussion on issues faced by our community and how we can all play a pivotal role in helping our community overcome these challenges and work towards shaping a better future for all. Happy reading.



A Prime Minister in the Making: Will Heng’s Open, Consultative Style Take Off? BY ABDUL SHARIFF ABOO KASSIM

On 23 April 2019, the long wait for a clear indication as to who would be Singapore’s next Prime Minister (PM) seemed to be over. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) announced that Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat will be promoted to Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) as part of the latest changes to the Cabinet. With the general election looming and PM Lee Hsien Loong indicating that he will step down some time after, it is noteworthy that no second DPM has been appointed although there were two candidates who were thought to fill the bill. 02 T H E K A R Y A W A N © ASSOCIATION OF MUSLIM PROFESSIONALS. PERMISSION IF REQUIRED FOR REPRODUCTION.

CABINET RESHUFFLE: A STEP IN LEADERSHIP SUCCESSION There were speculations that Minister for Trade and Industry, Chan Chun Sing, and Mr Heng was neck and neck in the ‘race’ to be PM. Some analysts had thought that, because of concerns over Mr Heng’s health, Mr Chan will pip him to the post. Mr Heng suffered a stroke on 12 May 2016 during a cabinet meeting and was hospitalised at the intensive care unit at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

and his “likeable character”1. He led Our Singapore Conversation, a national consultation exercise that reached out to close to 50,000 Singaporeans on their aspirations for Singapore's future. It portrayed him as one who is open and consultative. In 2015, he chaired the Singapore 50 (SG50) Steering Committee, which saw Singaporeans celebrating the Golden Jubilee with a special public holiday on Friday, 7 August and a long weekend lasting till Monday, 10 August, as National Day fell on a Sunday. This Previous PMs had a longer tenure as DPMs further endeared him to Singaporeans. and there have often been two. Some analysts cited Mr Heng’s “extensive Five years before Emeritus Senior Minister political experience” as a factor that (ESM) Goh Chok Tong assumed the made him a leading candidate for the premiership in 1990, there was a second premiership. This is however somewhat DPM, the late former President, Mr Ong debatable. Teng Cheong. Both men were appointed DPMs concurrently in 1985. Mr Heng, who started his career as a senior police officer – unlike Mr Chan PM Lee was the sole DPM briefly from who was from the military – contested 1993 to 1995 until the appointment of in the general election only in 2011. Mr Tony Tan, another former President. His team of five at the Tampines Group Nine years later, Mr Lee became the third Representation Constituency (GRC) was PM of Singapore. anchored by then-Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan. His election If PM Lee steps down before 2025 and no as a Member of Parliament (MP) was second DPM is appointed in the next two followed by a swift ascension to the years, it will be the first time that there is ministerial level, matched only by former only one DPM close to the time when the Finance Minister Richard Hu in 1984. incumbent leaves office. One wonders if He took on heavyweight ministerial there is a change in Singapore’s leadership portfolios – Education in 2011 followed by configuration and what it could imply. Finance in 2015 – and was appointed DPM this year, all within a duration of eight years. The reshuffle also saw DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam, along with DPM Teo In contrast, ESM Goh and PM Lee took a Chee Hean, moving to a mentoring or longer route to the premiership. advisory role as Senior Ministers. It immediately extinguished any glimmer Mr Goh was elected MP in 1976 at age 35 of hope left in those wishing to see Mr after winning the seat for the Marine Shanmugaratnam become the next PM. Parade Single Member Constituency (SMC) – arguably, a more rigorous test for candidates than contesting in a Group NEXT GENERATION LEADERSHIP STYLE Representation Constituency (GRC). For many Singaporeans, two of the Marine Parade became a GRC in 1988 attributes of Mr Heng Swee Keat that which he anchored. He was appointed stand out are his “open, consultative style” Senior Minister of State for Finance 1

shortly after being elected. Some five years were to pass before he was promoted to Minister for Trade and Industry. It would be another four years before he became the DPM in 1985. In 1990, he became the second PM of Singapore, succeeding the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew. PM Lee’s political career spanned over a period of 20 years prior to his appointment as PM. He became an MP after winning the Teck Ghee Single Member Constituency (SMC) in 1984 at the young age of 32, after which he was appointed Minister of State in the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Defence. He was appointed a full member of the Cabinet three years later, holding various ministerial portfolios, including Finance in 2001, before becoming the PM in 2004. While the “extensiveness” of Mr Heng’s political experience is debatable, what is beyond doubt is his expertise in the domain of Singapore’s economy. He was the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Trade and Industry before serving as the managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore from 2005 to 2011. His accomplishments include being named the Asia-Pacific Central Bank Governor of the Year by the British magazine The Banker in February 2011. After entering politics, his expertise is further enriched by the experience of co-chairing the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE), which charted the strategies for Singapore's next phase of growth. In addition to this, he now chairs the tripartite Future Economy Council, which oversees the implementation of national strategies in areas such as skills and capabilities development, innovation and productivity, and industry transformation. He is also the Chairman of the National Research Foundation, which sets the direction for Singapore's research, innovation and enterprise strategies.


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It is also worth noting that he was the former Principal Private Secretary to Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who was then Senior Minister. In his book titled OB Markers: My Straits Times Story, former editor-inchief of The Straits Times Cheong Yip Seng wrote that former Environment Minister, Dr Ahmad Mattar, shared with him that what the latter missed most after leaving the Cabinet was Mr Lee’s “tutorials”, which entailed a frank sharing of his worldviews after disposing off cabinet matters during meetings. His former colleagues felt the same way too as listening to his monologues gave them more value than discussing other items on the Cabinet agenda. It is likely that, as Mr Lee’s private secretary, Mr Heng may have likewise been exposed to the globally renowned former statesman’s intimate ideas on governing Singapore. In the aftermath of his passing, his legacy continues to be reflected in the leadership style of PM Lee. It remains to be seen if this would be the case with Mr Heng too. Mr Heng has, however, described himself as being “very open” and willing to “listen to all views”, in contrast to the style of the late former PM who famously said in 1987 when responding to accusations that he had been interfering in the private lives of citizens, “We decide what is right. Never mind what the people think”. PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE Mr Heng’s aspiration to lead in an “open, consultative” manner is reminiscent of ESM Goh’s approach when he succeeded Mr Lee in 1990, transforming the authoritarian style of policy making to a more consultative one. However, during the 1991 general election, Goh’s hopes of getting his new liberal approach of governing a mandate from the electorate took a blow when the People’s Action Party (PAP) lost an unprecedented four seats out of 81. At a press conference held soon after the announcement of the final results, Goh blamed the loss on his

consultative style of government and despondently announced that “[c]ertain things have to change now”. Academic James U.H. Chin argued, in his article Electoral Battles and Innovations: Recovering Loss Ground, that the loss of four seats may have more to do with PAP having already returned to power on Nomination Day; thus, voters’ willingness to vote against PAP since they know the opposition could not win the election. It would be interesting how Mr Heng would interpret election results if the PAP, say, loses two GRCs during his tenure as the PM. Mr Heng will face a future that is starkly different from his predecessors when he becomes the PM. How predisposed is Mr Heng to bringing about radical changes or will he temper them with continuity as is characteristic of past PMs?


The policy making approach of the future will have to create space to allow ideas to flow from all segments of society so as to enact policies that are more robust. The complexities of the future will make it an era when the government no longer always knows what is right.

Mr Heng’s strong economic credentials make him a safe pair of hands in the face of an uncertain future economy, and his promise of openness and willingness to listen is reassuring. However, it remains to be seen if he can guide When ESM Goh took over from Mr Lee, Singapore, away from its authoritarian while he did introduce new policies, he tradition, and sustain a consultative style continued with many of his predecessor’s, of government. saying, “… Mr Lee Kuan Yew has done such a thorough job of everything… He has left me with few things to do.”2 PM Lee helmed the government during the time when the global landscape was changing in the post-Cold War era, with the United States as the sole superpower, China rising and the start of the global war on terrorism. He had a tougher task than ESM Goh in balancing continuity with change.

her/ a Researc Kassim is entre for o o b A ff C ari e Abdul Sh ordinator with th s lay Affair Co Projects n Islamic and Ma of AMP. o ry h ia d rc si a Rese h sub e researc (RIMA), th

Mr Heng will likely be the PM during a time when Singapore’s economy needs an overhaul. Well into the developed phase, growth levels of 6% to 8% attainable with decent policies and prosperity visible even to laymen, such as in terms of the abundance of job opportunities, are characteristics of a bygone era. In the advanced economic landscape of the future, it takes a lot more to sustain growth levels of just 1% to 2%. Attention has now turned to SMEs to help them 2

04 T H E K A R Y A W A N

grow, scale up and venture outside of Singapore to capitalise on overseas markets. Education reforms have to be intensified so as to develop talents instead of producing exam smarts, and, on the social front, infrastructure has to be developed to support an ageing population.



New CPF Usage & HDB Loan Rules: A Boon Or Bane?

The new policy for buying residential properties using Central Provident Fund (CPF) monies and Housing Development Board (HDB) housing loans that were updated on 10 May 2019 now gives home buyers more flexibility and makes old flats more attractive to purchase.


Authorities say the change is a reflection of “changing needs” and “higher life expectancy” of Singaporeans. As with the old policy, the aim of this rule is still to encourage buyers to buy homes that will last as long as their lifetime. A quick reality check – the HDB homes that we live in are sold by HDB with a 99-year leasehold tenure. The message from the Government is loud and clear: at the end of the lease, occupants will have to vacate the unit and it will be returned to HDB, which will then surrender the land back to the state.

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Previously, the policy was centred on the remaining lease of a flat. For flats with a balance lease of less than 60 years, buyers of any age up to 55 years would have their maximum CPF usage automatically capped at a percentage of either the purchase price or the value of the property at the time of purchase (whichever is lower). In order to continue buying old flats, they will have to pay a significant percentage of the property price in cash. Also, a property owner is eligible to use his CPF to purchase the property if his age plus the remaining lease of the property is at least 80 years. With the change, as long as the remaining lease covers the youngest buyer to the age of 95, home buyers will now be eligible to take an HDB housing loan of up to the full 90% Loan-to-Value (LTV) limit. This is even if the flat has less than 60 years left on its lease.


USE OF CPF FUNDS (PRIVATE & PUBLIC HOUSING) ALLOWED, SUBJECT TO: • Valuation Limit (or applicable withdrawal limits if higher); and • Remaining lease at the point of purchase* is more than 20 years


The latest update focuses on whether the leases can cover buyers until the age of 95. Young buyers that choose to buy resale flats with leases that expire before they reach the age of 95 can use less of their CPF monies and be eligible for a reduced HDB loan for the purchase.

ALLOWED, SUBJECT TO: • Valuation Limit pro-rated according to the extent that the remaining lease can cover the youngest buyer using CPF to the age of 95; and

HDB HOUSING LOAN (PUBLIC HOUSING) ALLOWED, SUBJECT TO: • Loan-to-Value (LTV) limit of 90%; and • Loan tenure is the shortest of 25 years, 65 years minus the average age of the buyers, or remaining lease at the point of purchase* minus 20 years ALLOWED, SUBJECT TO: • LTV limit of 90% is pro-rated based on the extent that the remaining lease can cover the youngest buyer to the age of 95; and

The announcement comes after much public uproar and concern over the • Remaining lease at the • Loan tenure is the depleting leases of old HDB flats, following point of purchase* is shortest of 25 years, a particular blog entry in March 2017 by more than 20 years 65 years minus the National Development Minister Lawrence average age of the Wong. As the nation is now reaching a buyers, or remaining more matured age, he reminded flat lease at the point of owners that not all old flats will be offered purchase* minus the Selective En Bloc Redevelopment 20 years Scheme (SERS). Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also addressed the issue in last * For HDB flats, the point of purchase refers to the flat application date. For private properties and Executive year’s National Day Rally and mentioned Condominium units, the point of purchase refers to the Option to Purchase or the Sale & Purchase Agreement exercised date.



EXAMPLE 2: NEW RULES IN THEIR FAVOUR Nor and Hana (not their real names), 41 and 42 respectively, are just about to purchase a five-room corner flat in the pioneer HDB Previously, older buyers are at a disadvantage town of Toa Payoh. The unit has a balance if they buy any flat with a balance lease of lease of 57 years (or age about 42 years). They truly wish to live in this neighbourless than 60 years. hood as it is near the desired school for their children and close to the home of In my opinion, the new policy is much welcomed and fairer to older buyers. Those Nor’s elderly parents. The couple and the looking to buy older properties near their sellers have agreed on the price of $465,000, which is also the formal parents will also benefit. This helps older valuation of the property. In the old buyers use their CPF for their property scheme, they may only use CPF monies up purchase as some may prefer to set aside to 75% of the property price which works cash for future expenses or retirement. out to be $348,750. Once their CPF Real estate agents and owners of older flats payments have accumulated to reach the said limit, the balance unpaid amount of can rejoice as it will further help flats to $116,250 will have to be forked out in cash. sell in the already slow resale market. However, some buyers in the middle of The sellers have also listed the house on transactions are stuck as the following the market with their housing agent for examples will show. over eight months with only a few viewers and zero offers. EXAMPLE 1: CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE Rizal and Liza (not their real names), both 31, Fortunately, with the new policy in place, the buyers are eligible to fully pay for the are in the midst of their transaction in purchasing a ‘4A’ flat in the mature estate flat with CPF monies. The age of the youngest buyer (41) and the balance lease of Woodlands where the balance lease is 62 years old (or the age of the flat is about (57) add up to 98 years. It has fulfilled the requirement that the purchased flat 37 years). The total of their age and balance lease (31 + 62 years) only comes up reaches the age of 95 years. to 93 years. In this example, both the buyers and sellers benefit from the new announcement. In the previous policy, they would have no usage limits on the use of CPF monies EXAMPLE 3: and HDB loan. In the new policy, the YOUNG BUYERS TO BUY YOUNG FLATS maximum CPF monies they can use Newly married young couple Zul and will be capped and their HDB loan may Nadiah (not their real names), both 25, wish be reduced. to buy a four-room HDB resale flat that costs $330,000 with a remaining lease of At the time of writing, the buyers and 65 years (or age 34 years). their real estate agent are appealing to HDB for the purchase to be considered Based on the old regulations, they can use under the old scheme as they had placed CPF monies up to 100% of the property the deposit and entered the Option to Purchase (OTP) contract before the day of valuation limit as the balance lease of the flat exceeds 60 years and they can be the announcement. eligible for a HDB loan up to 90% of the property’s value. that the Ministry of National Development is looking at how to “improve the liquidity of the resale market, making it easier for people to buy and sell old flats.”

With the new regulation, they do not fulfil the requirement as their age and balance lease only total up to 80 years and very much short of the 95 years target. The couple can only use CPF monies up to 90% of the property value, which amounts to $297,000. The remaining portion of $33,000 will be in cash. The HDB loan amount that is allowed is reduced to 81%. As their real estate agent, I helped them to avoid this huge cash trap and advised them to go for much younger four-room flats of about 20 years in age. They will not face this problem by purchasing younger flats as it will accommodate them past the age of 95. This change will also set the younger generation thinking about their old age. The message is clear: when buying a home, consider the balance lease and whether there is a chance you or your spouse may outlive it. If you still wish to buy a home with a shorter remaining lease, do weigh the financial consequences that come with it.

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The Singapore Malay/Muslim Community 2.0

Technological developments and advancements are not new to the human race. The world has not looked back since the industrial revolution that changed manufacturing and the lives of the workers. These changes boasted better productivity, profits for the companies and wages for the workers. Countries embraced these changes wholeheartedly. It led to better quality of life for much of humanity. Yet there were some downsides to these changes. The automation and routinisation of work led, in some cases, to the decline of workers’ wellbeing and morale. This generated an industry of research and ultimately to solutions that companies can adopt to help boost workers’ morale without undermining the gains from automation. The disruptive effects of new technologies and processes are here to stay.

Today we are seeing another technological revolution brought about by the rapid changes in the info-communications and technology sector. New technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), 5G, Internet BY PROF DR YAACOB IBRAHIM of Things, robotics, autonomous vehicles


caused traditional taxi companies to change their business models. Many more examples can be cited. What is clear is that these disruptions have created better choices for customers and consumers. Given this, some countries, like Singapore, and many others are changing are also disrupting sectors of the economy our way of life. Several and society in a controlled manner. countries, including Government services are being transformed Singapore, are looking using technology to allow better citizens’ towards harnessing the power experience. From the filing of taxes, to of these technologies to bring getting a place in a school for your children about changes to the or starting a new business, the processes economy and many have been digitalised to make it easier for other facets of human everyone to use. The same can also be life. These changes promise a said for the private sector. Given the more efficient and better way of organisglobal challenge to stay ahead, companies ing human life. For example, because of are also changing their business models. more reliable and efficient connectivity, While disruption is not new, what is new information can be shared easily leading is the rate at which disruption is taking to, for example, shorter queues at service place. And this is because technology is counters. Transport information can be growing exponentially. This creates a very shared easily leading to better management different picture of the future which is not of our time. Transportation options can be easily understood. made readily available allowing commuters to make decisions based on personal The upside of these changes are there for choices. everyone to see. It is a lot easier now to use government services. Banking and These new technologies are also money transfers have become easier and disrupting the way we work. From retail safer to do even from the comfort of your to transportation, these industries and home using your smartphone. I will not many others are being disrupted by new belabour the positive benefits of these applications and technologies. New ways changes. What I worry about is whether of doing things are causing traditional the Malay/Muslim community is ready to businesses to either adapt quickly or be take advantages of these changes and made redundant. New ways of transferring whether we are ready to deal with money over the internet has caused some the downside of these changes. banks to lose some business. Travellers now can plan their travel itinerary The Singapore government has recognised without the need for travel companies. the potential disruptive effects of technology Disintermediation is the new normal. and hence has put in place a digital Travelers can also source for room and car readiness blueprint. It has also worked rentals on one platform. Aggregation of with the trade unions and associations to different needs over one platform is the make available training programmes for new way of doing things. workers, of all ages and professions, to learn new skills or even transit to new Companies can either be disrupted or be jobs created by the digitalisation process. the disruptor. Some traditional banks More importantly, the government has have taken the challenge from digital and also helped Singaporeans to make the data-savvy players head on by disrupting transition to a digital world whenever it their own business models in order to stay digitalises its services. When we decided ahead. Car sharing applications have to switch off the television analogue

signals and start digital television services, the government ensured that enough information and support were made available to all households in Singapore. Similarly when the telecommunication companies wanted to switch off 2G signals and migrate users to 3G devices and services, the government worked hand-in-hand with the companies in this transition. Digital inclusion is at the centre of everything that we do here in Singapore. New jobs are being created in place of existing jobs. New skill sets are required for almost every job that we can imagine. A recent report in The New York Times spoke about how Liverpool football club has engaged a data scientist for their team. It will not change the game, but those managing it will have new information to help their team win every game. Universities are grappling with outdated curriculum. University graduates need new skill sets and knowledge in a technologically driven world. Engineers of the future will not only need the knowledge of engineering but will need to be able to fuse this knowledge with insights from data collected. Engineering education, like other fields, will become a lifelong education and even just-in-time knowledge done online. It is a very different world. Are we ready for this future? Is the Singapore Malay/Muslim community ready for this future? In 1999, the PAP Malay MPs organised a conference on the knowledge-based economy (KBE). Prior to that conference, there were several engagement sessions involving various stakeholders such as our workers, families, youths and community leaders. The political leadership recognised the changes taking place in the economy and felt that it was important to inform and educate our community about these changes. And more importantly, to understand how the community could prepare for these changes. I am of the opinion that the technological changes taking place JULY 2019




now and into the future are a lot more disruptive and would require a concerted effort by all in the community to be ready for it. Some of our mature workers will have difficulties in keeping their existing jobs. Our students need to understand this new world and be ready for it. Families need to grasp the implications of this new world and its effects on their daily lives. Apart from being disrupted, it is also important that we seize the opportunities created by the new economy. We can play the role of the disruptor so that our community can benefit from these changes. We must embrace these technologies for the benefits that it will bring to our lives and our community. Technology is merely an enabler. It requires a creative mind to use that technology to bring benefits to the users. Consider the internet for a moment. What started out as a platform for researchers to connect and share ideas has become a global platform where almost everything and anything can be shared and marketed. People venturing into new businesses can crowdsource for funding via the internet. Entrepreneurs can sell their products across the world. The potential to share and trade over the internet is huge including unsavoury items such as child pornography and extremist ideologies. Notwithstanding the downsides of the internet, the potential for good should be harnessed for mankind’s benefit.

We can play the role of the disruptor so that our community can benefit from these changes. We must embrace these technologies for the benefits that it will bring to our lives and our community. Technology is merely an enabler. It requires a creative mind to use that technology to bring benefits to the users. Consider the internet for a moment. What started out as a platform for researchers to connect and share ideas has become a global platform where almost everything and anything can be shared and marketed. People venturing into new businesses can crowdsource for funding via the internet. Entrepreneurs can sell their products across the world. transformation for its services. AMP created space for Malay/Muslim startups. I have been involved with YM in creating a regular networking environment for our startup community. Thus far, four sessions have been held to bring the community together and introduce to them personalities who have been successful in creating new businesses.

already, into the wider startup space and supporting network at the national level would be of great help to them. Our students will be part of the digital revolution. My worry will be for our mid-career workers who may face difficulties in transiting to new career There have been several responses from paths. The CLF was created, among other our community to the changes taking things, to help our workers. I strongly place. Yayasan MENDAKI (YM) created urge YM to look into this as our workers a Future Ready Unit (FRU) to help our While these efforts are commendable, are an important part of our community. students in tertiary institutions make I believe there is a need for our community YM together with Mendaki SENSE must sense of the emerging jobs and career to be more purposeful in this endeavour. work with government agencies to help options in the new economy. Through In this regard it is useful to examine the our workers, both blue-collar and PMETs, the Community Leaders Forum (CLF), state of readiness and ability to disrupt make this transition. YM presented to community leaders and across different segments of our community. Malay/Muslim organisations the benefits Our startup community is nascent but On the flip side is the purposeful of a digitally ready organisation. And growing. Most young Malay/Muslims are disruption that we want to see in our funds are made available for organisations digitally savvy and some have taken the community. For example, how can we keen to embark on the digital journey. plunge to start a business for themselves. leverage on technology so that our YM has also embarked on digital Getting them plugged, if they are not organisations servicing the community 10 T H E K A R Y A W A N Š ASSOCIATION OF MUSLIM PROFESSIONALS. PERMISSION IF REQUIRED FOR REPRODUCTION.

can do a better job? For a start, I would support any effort to improve the organisations’ use of data. Consider the example of residential homes. Data for these organisations could be meshed to generate better insights into conditions and factors common among first offenders. Organisations can also use data analytics tools to identify factors leading to successful rehabilitation. The bottom line is the greater use of data in our community organisations. Some organisations, such as YM, have taken the initiative to institute a requirement for employment where every staff must attend a data analytics course. I would welcome such capabilities within our community organisations.

audience. It is about using technology to improve the quality of life for our people.

Quite apart from these changes to jobs and the labour market, these new technologies raise concerns that require global attention. For example, the ethical use of AI has become a global concern. AI and AI-related technologies can be misused. For example, killer robots or lethal autonomous weapon systems are not science fiction. Whose responsibility is it to decide on such systems? A more mundane example but with profound implications comes from things like automated hiring where applicants are judged by AI based on historical data. Discrimination can be hard coded into the system. Now we hear of deep fakes where The disruption for our community facial recognition technology and AI can organisations does not mean their demise, be combined to create almost if not 100% but in their transformation to become replica of human faces. Should these uses more effective in the services they offer. be regulated? These are hard questions One of our government’s aim is to develop confronting the global community. To me anticipatory digital services. What this this is no different from climate change, means is government’s ability to know where some form of global consensus is what citizens need at key stages of their needed on these technologies. The lives. And this can happen if government European Union (EU) has taken the lead is able to crunch and mesh different to issue guidelines on the use of AI. As a streams of data across stages of our community what can we contribute to citizens’ lives. I believe this is something this debate and to forming a global for some of our organisations, such as consensus on these technologies? those dealing with the poor and needy families, to have as they can then better In short, I believe there are many steps serve their clients and catch these clients we need to take to be ready for this future. so that they don’t fall through the cracks. The last few months I have engaged many young people conversant with this new Our institutions also need to adopt digital world. I am not worried about them. solutions to better serve their clients. I am more worried about our workers, Our Syariah Court has embarked on businesses, organisations and institutions. making the rather painful process of Changes brought about by technology divorce as seamless as possible for their are coming very fast. The pressure comes clients. Our mosques can also look into from our nation’s desire to remain embarking on changes that can lead to a competitive and be among the leading more welcoming environment for the nations to use technology in every aspect congregants. By leveraging on technology of our nation’s life. While national efforts our mosques can help to enhance the are in place to help our nation transit to spiritual experience of the congregants. a different world, these are not sufficient. Again, it is important to constantly Our community needs to understand remind ourselves that technology is only these changes and have an appropriate an enabler. And that we must use it, only response to these changes. Our workers if it leads to better outcomes for our target need to be aware that their jobs are not

immune to these changes. And that they need to consider the variety of options available at the national level. Our businesses need to understand the benefits these changes can bring to their businesses. And the steps they can take to adopt technologies which are appropriate and meaningful to their operations. Our community organisations and institutions should consider all available technologies and adopt those that can help them to do a better job. Apart from merely reacting to these changes, it is also important to seize the opportunities created by these technologies. Many young Malay/Muslims are looking into new businesses using these technologies. They should be encouraged in this endeavour. Yet it is also important for existing businesses to explore opportunities made available by these changes. One clear example is e-commerce. If it makes sense to move to the internet, then do so by all means. E-commerce opens up new markets for our businesses. In fact, now there is a growing presence of individuals such as religious clerics, property agents and others making their presence in the internet space. By leveraging on the internet, a whole new world opens up to the businesses and individuals creating new opportunities. Of course, there will be challenges in moving into the internet space. But it is a space ready to be exploited if it makes sense to do so for all parties concerned. Yet another dimension that warrants our attention is how our community can play a role in helping to shape the agenda. Emerging issues of privacy and security of data to the ethical use of new technologies such as AI, affect all of us. I do not think as a community we can afford to remain passive. These are global issues affecting this generation and beyond. Our voice matters as our future is at stake. Hence, I hope there will emerge groups and individuals from our community cognisant of these issues who contribute to a JULY 2019




Changes brought about by technology are coming very fast. The pressure comes from our nation’s desire to remain competitive and be among the leading nations to use technology in every aspect of our nation’s life. While national efforts are in place to help our nation transit to a different world, these are not sufficient. Our community needs to understand these changes and have an appropriate response to these changes.


meaningful debate on these issues. These technologies, if used correctly, can help the global community. We need to contribute to a debate that leads to a constructive use of these technologies while preserving the dignity of the human race. Hence, I am in favour of more purposeful and directed efforts at confronting these changes taking place now. In so doing a new Malay/Muslim community will emerge, one that is unafraid to confront the future head on, changing and adapting constantly as new ideas and technologies arise, and reshaping constantly our hopes and dreams of a better future for all.

the is currently ob Ibrahim ore ap ng Si e th Prof Dr Yaac of e President e th th to in or ed rv vis Ad . He se Technology ars helming Institute of ye 16 r fo t bine was the Singapore Ca st of which istries, the la formation. In d an several min ns io mmunicat SGTECH, Ministry of Co vernors for board of go panies m co T IC He is on the for association p on the ry ou st gr du in ry st an or for an indu ber vis em ad M so a al and currently of AI. He is GRC. ar ethical use es B n la t for Ja of Parliamen


OBSESSIONS AND COMPULSIONS Mental illness and Muslims interface in unique circumstances. In the Singapore Mental Health Study (SMHS 2016) completed in 2018, researchers from the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) had found that those of Malay ethnicity had higher odds of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). (For the convenience of this article, Malay ethnicity has been taken as representative of the local Muslim community.) The SMHS went on to state that “the higher odds of OCD are difficult to explain and needs further research to elucidate the underlying cause(s)”.

Obsessions, Compulsions, Depression and the Muslim Community: Reflections from the Singapore Mental Health Study 2016 BY SUFIAN HANAFI

Those familiar with OCD would know that this mental health condition consists of two components – obsessions and compulsions. Persons with OCD may have varying obsessions and compulsions. According to Dr Elna Yadin, an authority from the International OCD Foundation who visits Singapore occasionally for consults, the main anxious obsession of a person with OCD is the desire not to become “a bad person”. As for compulsions, some of its more typical forms involve maintaining cleanliness and acts of washing. When these dots are connected, it becomes understandable if one tries to hypothesise how OCD interfaces with Muslims. OCD: An Obsession with Piety? Given the emphasis of Islamic teachings on cleanliness as an indicator of one’s faith, members of the Muslim community may run the risk of turning cleanliness into an unhealthy obsession. It is indeed important for the Muslim to perform acts of ritual purification such as taking ablution and compulsory baths properly, in order to perfect his acts of worship. However, overzealousness masked by attempts to attain absolute JULY 2019




perfection during such acts of ritual washing may land such a Muslim in a psychological trap and throw him into a spiral of compulsive behaviours. Such persons then become preoccupied with washing and keep repeating their ablution, sometimes to the point of missing their prayers entirely.

prevalence of OCD of 4.3%. For data visualisation’s sake, this could mean that at least one out of every 25 Malays may be experiencing clinical OCD. Imagine how many persons in any given mosque at a Friday congregation actually suffers from OCD?

Leaders in the community must be concerned about this 25th person, for if Unfortunately, this is sometimes he has an existing schema that renders compounded by extreme fear-mongering him psychologically more vulnerable, about the perils of not taking proper this person may turn innocent intentions ablution, by unwitting yet well-meaning into obsessions, and innocent rituals religious teachers and elders. Anecdotally, into compulsions, at the expense of his it is not uncommon in religious settings to mental health. It becomes more worrying hear about the ‘punishments’ to be when one considers that persons with suffered by one who is lackadaisical in OCD have been shown to delay seeking washing after himself after using the professional help the longest (11 years). restroom to pass bodily waste. Are members of the Muslim community then able to distinguish the difference It is then drilled into the psyche that one’s between ‘piety’ and OCD in their religious ritual worship will be invalidated, and that practices? Does this indicate that more he would be tortured in the grave due to a psychoeducation for OCD is needed in the lack of proper hygiene when using the toilet. Muslim community? While such teachings are essential, there may be a greater need to mediate such messages when they are delivered on public platforms.

While these questions fester in our minds, we should also call for a more nuanced delivery of Islamic teachings with regard to ritualistic practices, especially as religious rituals inevitably become It is true that maintaining cleanliness is associated with the accumulation of part of a Muslim’s faith, and this article ‘merits’ and ‘demerits’ – a significant does not seek to deny this religious phenomenon because of its attributed injunction. However, when it is internalised role in determining where one ends up in by an unwitting layman without nurturance the afterlife. and guidance, it may become problematic. In striving to perfect one’s faith, such a Solutions can be found within the Muslim may end up obsessing irrationally vast Islamic scholarship on this matter. about cleanliness and miss the higher Therefore, adopting a moderate objectives of the religion instead. approach in Islamic teachings cannot be overemphasised here, accompanied by The Need to Prevent OCD in critical thinking skills to help individual Religious Practice Muslims contextualise and accommodate The SMHS found that OCD has the highest or adapt their daily rituals accordingly 12-month prevalence among mental without jeopardising their mental health. disorders at 2.9%. Statistically, this means that for every 50 persons in the street, DEPRESSION at least one person would have had a Not far behind OCD in terms of prevalence, diagnosis of OCD within the past 12 months. is depression. While Malays (again by In fact, the data for Muslims may be even extension, Muslims) had the lowest more startling as Malays have a 12-month lifetime prevalence of Major Depressive 14 T H E K A R Y A W A N © ASSOCIATION OF MUSLIM PROFESSIONALS. PERMISSION IF REQUIRED FOR REPRODUCTION.

Disorder at 4.9%, Malays were still second highest for 12-month prevalence at 2.9%. It must be noted that while not every person who feels depressed receives a diagnosis of major depressive disorder, there are many variants of depressive symptoms which are equally disruptive to daily functioning. Even without manifesting as a fullblown episode of clinical depression, it is possible for one to experience acute stress, adjustment difficulties, grief and complicated grief, or simply one of the many symptoms of depression such as loss of appetite, poor sleep, irritability, low mood, suicidality and so forth. These presentations could eventually lead to depression, or may possibly exist in isolation without ever meeting the clinical criteria for depression. Although the rates of prevalence for mental illness for Malays were not flagged in the SMHS, there are still potential risk areas which may be of interest to helping professionals, and the community at large. Specifically, these risk areas pertain to relationship difficulties. The Relational Dimension of Depression The causes of depression are multidimensional and the onset of depression may be caused by biological factors, environmental factors, or both. Extrapolating from some of the evidencebased psychotherapy treatments for depression, we will find that such ‘environmental factors’ which contribute to depression may have developed out of difficult couple and interpersonal relationships. This poses some questions for the Muslim community because anecdotally, the community is more communal, connected and family-oriented (read: interpersonal relationships) and where the prevalence of marriage and divorce (read: couple relationships) is relatively higher.

Certainly, it will be a huge leap to suggest that members of the Muslim community are therefore at higher risk of developing depression. There is simply no data to support such a correlation. Furthermore, despite ranking second highest for 12-month prevalence, Malays still ranked lowest in terms of lifetime prevalence for depression.

Systemically, this implies that marriage preparation programmes and divorce counselling programmes in the community may need to include some form of awareness with regard to the impact of mental health on marriage, and marriage on mental health.

A NOT-SO-FINAL WORD These reflections are a cumulation of the One hypothesis is that perhaps somewhere author’s professional practice experiences in the social and mental health sectors, after an acute 12-month period, Malays and have been crystallised by the ethnic (and Muslims) find a way to overcome depressive symptoms, or simply ‘manage breakdown of data in the SMHS 2016. The to get by’. Possibly, this could either be due role of mental health cannot be neglected to the communal and social support that in social and community development, the tight-knit community lends to its and this can only be achieved with members, or in spite of this tight-knit relentless advocacy. community. The latter might suggest that the Muslim community is resilient and Dots of social problems, health problems can buttress against chronic depression. and their respective solutions keep Yet, given the literature on ‘disability interconnecting, even as more dots days’ due to depression, paired with its continue to appear in our highly ‘economic burden’, it still behooves helping developed society. The impact on the professionals, and the wider community, Malay, and Muslim, community is to be able to detect signs and symptoms of significant. While some of the ideas that this illness. The social impact of depression have been suggested in this article remain is such that one person with depression in moot for now, it is hoped that they may the community remains one too many. spark ideas for research and uncover new social and mental health solutions for Depression, Marriage & Divorce the future. Another question then lingers: If we cannot definitively conclude that difficult interpersonal relationships lead to depression, can we say the reverse instead Sufian Hanafi is a senior social worker i.e. that it is depression that leads to and counsellor who has been providing difficult interpersonal relationships? counselling, psychotherapy and psychoeducation for individuals, couples, Could this then finally explain the families and groups for more than a pervasive marital difficulties in the Muslim decade. He has worked in both the health community, and even in society at large? and social These questions run the risk of oversimplifying both depression and couple conflict, yet it seems intuitive to do so. Adopting a systemic mental model, depression may possibly correlate with numerous other contributing factors to couple conflict such as unemployment, financial difficulties, marital/parenting role adjustment, addiction, sexual dysfunction and more.

If you know anyone who, or that you yourself, would like to speak to someone because of suspected symptoms of mental illness, do not hesitate to call the following numbers to discuss: MENTAL HEALTH HELPLINE: 63892222 (24 hours) SOS 24-HOUR HELPLINE: 1800-221-4444 (24 hours) SINGAPORE ASSOCIATION FOR MENTAL HEALTH HELPLINE: 1800-283-7019

services sectors, specifically in outpatient children and adolescent mental health, inpatient and community adult mental health, specialised services and mandatory pre-divorce counselling programmes for inter-ethnic and blended families. He currently runs a private practice, Just Guidance Counselling & Psychotherapy.

JULY 2019




Misunderstood Minds: Living with Mental Illness BY NABILAH MOHAMMAD


Disorders of the mind are among the most misunderstood and can have a devastating impact on a person’s quality of life. According to the latest nationwide study spearheaded by the Institute of Mental Health in 2016, 1 in 7 people in Singapore has experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime. Mental illness is a general term for a group of illnesses that may include symptoms that can affect a person’s thinking, perceptions, mood or behaviour and can strike anyone at any time, making it difficult for the person to cope with work, relationships and other social demands. Some of the main groups of disorders include mood disorders, anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders, personality disorders, eating disorders, trauma-related disorders and substance abuse.

with indifference or fear, both of which are borne out of ignorance and this is probably and largely due to the sensationalised stories portrayed in the media. There are even cases where individuals are abandoned by family due to lack of understanding, just like our interviewee, Alif (not his real name). Alif, a 27-year-old who was diagnosed with schizophrenia last year, was kicked out of his own home by his family. His divorced parents and siblings are not willing to care for him so he is now seeking shelter in a psychiatric rehabilitation home.

“I was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2018 when I was 26. I had a violent dispute with my dad in a public space. Unfortunately, many individuals with He reported me to the police and the mental health issues are forced to keep authorities then sent me to IMH. That their condition under wraps because of was when I was officially diagnosed and the taboo surrounding mental illness. was prescribed medications immediately. Persons with mental disorders are often I was warded for about two weeks before stigmatised by society. A survey conducted they finally referred me here to this care by the National Council of Social Service centre,” Alif said. (NCSS) in 2016 found that most people agree that more needs to be done to Schizophrenia is a mental illness that reduce societal stigma of mental illnesses, affects a person's sense of reality. A person yet they are also reluctant to accept them with schizophrenia may develop false at an individual level. The social isolation beliefs of grandeur or persecution makes it harder for those suffering to get (delusions), or experience sights, sounds, the help they need. They may be reluctant smells, and tastes or touch that others do to seek treatment, or not follow the not experience (hallucinations). Such prescribed course of medication for fear of symptoms make it difficult for sufferers to being found out. Indeed, according to the distinguish between what is real and what same IMH study, the proportion of the is imagined. people with mental disorders who were not seeking help remains high, and a When the effect of schizophrenia hits, significant treatment gap remains. it is a struggle for Alif to hold on to his thoughts and put them together in a Schizophrenia, for instance, is quite coherent manner. At the height of his possibly one of the most stigmatised last psychotic episode last year, Alif was mental disorders. If you think it's all convinced that there was a war going on multiple personalities and murderous in Singapore. whispering in one's mind, you're severely misinformed. According to the people the “I started remembering stories that later Karyawan team spoke to, the stigma and became delusions. All my thoughts fear involved when someone mentions followed a storyline where I eventually schizophrenia can be discouraging. believed that Singapore and Malaysia Society looks at schizophrenia either were going through a war. I also heard

voices telling me that my family was in trouble,” he said. Alif also shared that he has stopped taking his medications. “I took the prescribed antidepressants for a few months. I was constantly drowsy and tired. I’ve stopped my oral medications now but still take my routine jabs. They make me feel drowsy and fidgety too,” he said. The team asked him if finding employment has been tough given his diagnosis. He shared that he did not disclose his health status as he worries that it might jeopardise his chances of getting a decent job. According to him, stigma is still one of the largest challenges plaguing mental health. While there have been improvements in awareness and acceptance, this is certainly not the case for all workplaces. When asked, Alif spoke of his hopes of getting out of the care centre and moving on with life. He said, “I just want to finish my studies, get a good job and move out of the care centre. I want to get married. I’m working on my Nitec certification now so on some days I will attend school. I wish my friends would visit me here. I didn’t celebrate Hari Raya last year. I spent it at the care centre. My parents are separated. My biological father won’t let me live with him. My stepfather doesn’t like me. So I have no choice but to stay here until I can support myself.” The Karyawan team also spoke to a close friend of Alif’s, Hafiz (not his real name), who saw the gradual changes that happened to Alif over the years. “He was a well-groomed guy and a very talented football player. Everything spiralled down last year since his divorce. He started to behave oddly in public, no longer seemed to care about his appearance or social pursuits, and always looked tired. None of his family members seemed to care for his well-being and his relatives do not acknowledge him when they see him outside,” Hafiz said. JULY 2019




Let’s not forget that those suffering from mental illnesses are also people with emotions, hopes, dreams, and challenges just like the rest of us. Let's not forget that they are suffering from a serious mental health condition, yet most are living capably through it. They live a normal life, for the most part at least, and they want their opinions to be heard and respected.

The team’s conversation with Alif highlighted the struggles that a person with a mental disorder has to go through on a daily basis. Employment opportunities are perceived to end the moment you reveal your diagnosis. Friends may walk away, never to hear from them again. And the worst feeling is knowing that your family does not always know how to support you no matter how much you need them. Family can play an important role in helping to keep their affected family members supported and oriented to reality. According to studies, families, as primary caregivers for persons with psychiatric disability, are increasingly recognised for their potential role in fostering mental health and well-being. The recovery paradigm in mental health acknowledges families as important players in the recovery process. Before they can be properly supportive, however, they must first understand that some of the actions are not intentional on the part of the people with the disorder, who are in many ways victims more than anything else. They need to accept that mental illness, in this instance, schizophrenia, is a disorder of the brain just like diabetes is a disorder of the body. Unfortunately, Alif is not the only person who does not have family support. We spoke to Rahman (not his real name), aged 44, also diagnosed with schizophrenia. “After leaving primary school, I worked as a waiter and cleaner. In 2017, I was caught by the police because I took my sister-in-law’s cat and threw it down from the 14th storey. The cat died. I don’t know how the police found out but I was arrested. They sent me to IMH and I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I was warded for about four months before being transferred to the centre that I’m currently staying at now. The hospital asked if I was still hearing voices. I said no even though I was still hearing them

because I didn’t want to continue staying at the hospital,” Rahman shared. Rahman is currently working at the care centre as a cleaner. He is paid $1.50 per hour for four hours which adds up to $6 a day. Rahman shared that there are other jobs available at the workshop in the care centre but they pay only $0.20 per hour. According to him, he is not allowed to work outside the centre because he is ‘sentenced’ there until 2020. When asked about what a typical day at the centre is like, he shared, “There is nothing much I can do at the care centre. Once I’m done with work, I’ll just wander around. I do get lonely at times. My family doesn’t visit me here and they won’t let me live with them. My relationship with my dad hasn’t been good since young. However, I have a lot of friends here and they treat me well.” During the interview, Rahman suddenly started talking to himself. According to him, the voices were telling him something. It went on for about five minutes before the interview could resume. When asked about the voices, he said he had no idea what was said because it was in another language. The team asked how he copes with the voices he hears and he said, “I will talk to them. Sometimes, I will ‘zikir1’ to distract myself. I started to hear more of these voices ever since I started taking my medication. Once, I went out to buy four bottles of detergent but the voices told me to throw them away and I did. When I go to the gym at the centre to exercise, the voices will tell me not to. Sometimes, they will ask me to throw the cats down again.” According to the next interviewee, the biggest misconception about mental illness is that people tend to view it as a sign of weakness that people should just be able to ‘get over’. 1



We spoke to Nadia (not her real name), a 22-year-old who was diagnosed with Anxiety Disorder in 2014. She had anxiety as a young child and would avoid crowds and public trains. She was also briefly bullied in school, which made her anxiety worse.

night or when I’m alone, overthinking something. I’m a workaholic and that is one way I cope with my anxiety. I also listen to music and talk to someone to distract myself from these torturous mental thoughts,” Nadia shared.

With respect to how society perceives Nadia was eventually referred to IMH and people with mental illness, Nadia shared diagnosed with anxiety disorder after she that more needs to be done to raise mental health awareness. had a major anxiety attack in school one day which caused her to faint. “Many think those with mental illness are “When I was there, I didn’t tell the doctors crazy psychotic people that would run up to you and kill you. But the fact is, we're that I was also hearing voices. I lied because I did not want to be warded. I felt just normal people like everyone else, who are as conscious of our feelings and like dying at that time. I was prescribed emotions. I think society needs to educate medications but I am no longer taking themselves on mental illnesses instead of them because I can’t think when I’m on assuming. And to the people out there them, and my work requires me to move with mental illness, do not be afraid to go around. The medications make me feel worse, not better. And you tend to depend out. Stay strong. Not all days are bad. It's just how you react to it. If you think on them. I’ve also stopped seeing my doctors although they’ve been wanting to negatively, your day will be negative. If you think positively then it'll be good. do a follow-up,” Nadia shared. Surround yourself with positive people who encourage you. Don’t be affected by Our conversation with Nadia revealed what people say about you. Do not be that childhood trauma was a major afraid to seek help from counsellors or contributor to her anxiety. your families,” she said. “I went through a rough childhood. I was STRIVING TOWARDS BETTER MENTAL bullied when I was younger. I was also HEALTH AWARENESS sexually harassed. I didn’t tell anyone It’s difficult to empathise with those who because everyone was busy with their have a mental condition if you or the own lives. And who would believe me? people around you have never experienced It happened at the staircase and there were no CCTVs at that time, unlike now. it. It could lead to the ‘othering’ of people with mental health disorders. Let’s not I kept it from everyone until late 2014 forget that those suffering from mental when I eventually told my sister and the illnesses are also people with emotions, rest, except my parents,” she shared. hopes, dreams, and challenges just like the rest of us. Let's not forget that they are Nadia also shared that she hears voices suffering from a serious mental health at times. condition, yet most are living capably through it. They live a normal life, for the “The voices usually tells me things like I'm always a burden, I'm not good enough, most part at least, and they want their opinions to be heard and respected. and it’s always my fault. I’ve ever acted upon it by cutting myself. When I see Mental illness may not typically leave blood, it relieves me. It makes me feel marks, scars or bruises on the body, but better through numbing my pain. I am better now. I know how to handle it better. can be even more debilitating than some My attacks are random and often comes at serious physical illnesses. It takes a

community to support and build a mental health-friendly society. Like other patients, those with mental illness need the support and help from the people around them to get better. Although some may act in ways that seem unexpected or strange, we should remember that it is the illness, and not the person that is behind these behaviours.

Nabilah Mohamm ad is a Research Analyst at the Centre for Research on Islam ic and Malay Affairs (RIMA ). She holds a Ba chelor of Science in Psych ology and a Spec ialist Diploma in Statis tics and Data Minin g.

JULY 2019




Islam and Spiritual Abuse BY AHMAD ABDULLAH


In recent months there were at least two Indeed, in recent years, several such cases However, this does not and should not reported cases of sexual abuse involving involving leaders in the Muslim community translate into us perceiving them as being asatizah, or Muslim religious teachers, that have come to light internationally. ma’sum or infallible, a status afforded only made the headlines here in Singapore. to the prophets in the Islamic tradition. Most prominently perhaps was the case of In April, a 73-year-old religious teacher prominent Swiss academic Tariq Ramadan, As Ustadha Zaynab Ansari puts it in her was given a 16-month jail term for a professor of contemporary Islamic 2015 piece for MuslimMatters entitled molesting his 36-year-old female student. studies at Oxford University and author “Blurred Lines: Women, “Celebrity” of several popular books on the religion. Shaykhs, and Spiritual Abuse”: The crime was committed in 2017 – in a mosque, no less – under the guise of curing Ramadan was charged with several counts “We are doing ourselves and our teachers her of black magic. of rape last year. He denied the charges, a tremendous disservice when we elevate confessing instead to a number of them beyond human frailties. Our ‘ulama, Just a month earlier, a 31-year-old man – a extramarital sexual relationships with his teachers, and Mashayikh are not perfect. religious teacher at a local madrasah – was accusers. In doing so, he admitted his They are flawed human beings, with the jailed for eight months for molesting his conduct was not in accordance with the same weaknesses, shortcomings, and student, a girl who was just eight years old. religious principles he espoused. challenges with which we struggle.” These are only the most recent of such incidents that have occurred in the Republic. A quick scan of news headlines over the years turns up numerous other cases – and these are only the ones that have been reported. Such cases would qualify as examples of “spiritual abuse”. In Shaykh’s Clothing – a North American organisation, run by students of sacred knowledge, which seeks to address such issues in the Muslim community – defines spiritual abuse as the misuse of religious authority to “manipulate, control and bully through the guise of religion, religious principles or claims to spirituality”. While molest and sexual assault are clear examples of spiritual abuse, the concept is not limited to what would be considered crimes by a secular court of law. The website of In Shaykh’s Clothing lists several examples of offences committed under the broad scope of spiritual abuse. These include financial misappropriation, secret marriages, bullying, and psychological harm, among others.

And though he was accused of secret sham marriages and other inappropriate relationships with women in 2017, Texas-based preacher Nouman Ali Khan – who dismissed sexually suggestive text messages and shirtless selfies sent to female students as “communication” between consenting adults – continues to operate his Quranic studies outfit Bayyinah Institute and give talks across the world today. Domestic violence, secret marriages and other illicit relationships – these are not unknown among the community here. And as much as some may want to use such cases to promote partisanship or sectarianism, they are also not limited to any particular group or school of thought. There are no easy answers to the problem of spiritual abuse. However, to address the issue, the community and its leadership must first acknowledge the problem exists.

She argues that treating teachers as being beyond reproach creates a toxic environment where the proper boundaries between students and teachers are not respected, where abuse of power is commonplace and where women in particular are subject to deception. Of course, the pendulum cannot and should not swing to the other extreme such that we treat all religious leadership with scepticism and distrust. Nor should we take it that those who might be guilty of such acts are somehow unworthy of repentance or forgiveness – by their victims, by the larger community or most importantly, by God. Such a form of “cancel culture” does not befit a religion which recognises Ar-Rahman, the Most Merciful, as one of the Names of Allah. Still, the Muslim ummah (community) must work to protect the most vulnerable among us from being taken advantage of by those who abuse the authority invested in them.

It is true that a hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) recognises Though our religion calls for us to make scholars as the “inheritors of the prophets”, 70 excuses for our brothers and sisters in and as such, deserving of respect. faith, we cannot simply sweep such cases under the rug under the guise of covering the a’ib (shame) of others.

JULY 2019




After all, another hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him) holds that a Muslim is one from whose tongue (i.e. speech) and hands other Muslims are safe from, and who else should hold to this principle more than religious teachers and leaders?

no tolerance of deviant or extremist teachings, as well as criminal or unethical behaviour. Still, however far-reaching, any such scheme can only do so much.

It falls upon both the laity and the leadership in the Muslim community – as followers of the final prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) – to not tolerate instances of spiritual abuse, but rather hold people accountable for their actions Such abuse also hurts the reputation of religious teachers as a group, and ultimately and ensure bad deeds do not hide behind beautiful words. can shake the foundations of a person’s faith in Islam as a belief system and a way And in doing so, we should also cast the of life. mirror on ourselves lest we ourselves unknowingly become the monster we History has shown us this before, in the experience of other religious groups whose battle, as Friedrich Nietzsche put it. leadership was shaken by controversy and In his 2017 piece “What Do I Do When I cases of spiritual abuse. Find Out My Favourite Preacher Is Corrupt?” – published shortly before the In numerous works, the 11th century scandal involving Nouman Ali Khan went scholar Imam Al Ghazali warns against public – Imam Omar Suleiman advises: those who are learned, but corrupt. It needs to be recognised that the harm abusers do – whether physical, mental, emotional or otherwise – goes beyond whatever they inflict on their victims.

In his magnum opus the Ihya Ulumuddin (Revival of the Religious Sciences), Al Ghazali writes:

“The first thing we should do when we see someone fall from glory is to seek refuge in Allah from encountering a similar fate. Every person in religious authority needs to be vigilant with themselves. Protect yourself with a strong spiritual regimen, mentorship that can hold you accountable, and do not put yourself in a situation where you could be lead astray.”

“Their evil influence upon religion is greater than that of Satan, because through their aid does he arrive at removing religion from the hearts of men. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah upon him) said, “At the end of time there will be ignorant Only then can the Quran injunction found worshippers and corrupt learned men.” in verse 110 of Surah Ali Imran – that (Hakim) Muslims are the best nation and an Inasmuch as our reliance should be solely example for humanity, and that we enjoin what is good and forbid what is on Allah, the spiritual wellbeing of evil – ring true. individual Muslims as well as that of the community depends very much on having trustworthy religious teachers and leadership. Thankfully, Singapore has an accreditation programme – the mandatory Asatizah Recognition Scheme – intended to keep religious teachers here above board, with


It falls upon both the laity and the leadership in the Muslim community – as followers of the final prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) – to not tolerate instances of spiritual abuse, but rather hold people accountable for their actions and ensure bad deeds do not hide behind beautiful words.

Ahmad Abdullah holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Goldsmiths , University of London. He is a part-time write r.


Refusing A Culture Of Convenient Consumption





Environmental sustainability in Singapore is increasingly contradictory. Although globally known for its clean streets and greenery, it has become commonplace to see the streets being cleaned and trees pruned – often times not by Singaporeans themselves. Additionally, despite the immense societal concern on the effects of climate change, most people believe that government action is more important than individual climate action1. It is clear that, while Singapore prides itself with top-down environmental systems and technical capacities, its ability to influence societal behaviours and actions is still less than desired. This is particularly evident in the country’s waste management efforts, in which the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) and waste-to-energy incineration plants are central pillars of solid waste management in Singapore. Indeed, the latter offers optimal technical solutions given Singapore’s limited land size, so much so that the near-odourless Semakau landfill has garnered international visibility for not embodying a typical landfill. Yet, surveys in recent years indicate the limited success of the 3Rs campaign. In 2015, the national recycling rate in 2015 was 61% but this was largely due to the high recycling rate in industrial sectors. Domestic household recycling, however, was at a low 19%, despite more than 15 years of the National Recycling Programme. This rate is well below other developed economies like the United Kingdom and Taiwan, where the household recycling rates in 2013 were 44.2% and 42%, respectively. What’s more, many Singaporeans are not aware of the specific conditions and types of wastes that are recyclable2. Consequently, 30% to 50% of items found in recycle bins cannot be recycled, or worse, contaminate items that are recyclable.

and some government initiatives (such as Our Tampines Hub), compact household size composters are also available online – and at a cost.

Yet, both these Rs are particularly important in relation to two major sources of waste in Singapore – singleuse plastic and food waste. According to Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA), the total food waste generated in 2017 was 809,800 tonnes – an increase of over 24,000 tonnes since 20153. Food waste is generated not only within the home, but at eateries as well. Statistics reveal that 85% of Singapore Recycling merely tackles the symptoms of residents eat out at least once a week, with roughly one in 10 of them eating out this consumerist culture of convenience rather than its root causes. Contemporary every day – most frequently at hawker centres, coffee shops and food courts4. environmentalists note that simply promoting 3Rs is outdated. Two lesser The use of plastic (including micro-plastics) known, but arguably more significant, Rs are “Refuse” and “Rot” – each of which has become so pervasive in our lives that it is already in the food we eat and the respectively come before and after the conventional 3Rs. Refuse, as it suggests, is water we drink. In the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)’s recent report, the extent to refuse consuming a certain item or of micro-plastics in our water sources or resource, and making do with what we need rather than what we want. Rot refers ingested by fish is so acute that humans are consuming up to 6 grams of plastic to the act of composting. By composting a week – the equivalent amount of plastic food scraps into organic fertiliser for plants, it facilitates a closed loop in which in a credit card5. There is a harrowing irony in the thought of consuming biodegradable waste is not wasted. a credit card every week, in that our consumerist habits have come full circle. Refuse and Rot, have not had sufficient In a bid to feed our desires for convenilimelight, and have yet to reach their optimal levels in Singapore. Consumerist ence, greed and opulence, we are now literally consuming it. trends of buying more than we need or keeping up with the Joneses still dictate much of our buying behaviour. With our OUR GREEN Taking a step back and reflecting on small apartment sizes, composting is traditional norms and practices, one perceived to be unrealistic. However, technology has made this easier with food would find substantial resources from digesters by speeding up the composting within Islam that reflect notions of “Refuse” and “Rot”. In recent years, there process and limiting the presence of odours and flies. Although currently used have been more visible efforts to promote environmental awareness from Islamic in businesses such as hotels (with perspectives. From Quranic verses that cost-savings being an important driver)



24 T H E K A R Y A W

While the limited success in recycling is concerning, there is the elephant in the room that fails to be recognised – our consumption behaviours are embedded in a culture of convenience. Convenience that has not only been market-driven, but at times even state-driven. Policies geared at ensuring proper sanitation such as rubbish chutes installed in HDB flats and more recently health regulations on catered food, have inadvertently encouraged a throw-away culture. For businesses, single-use plastics and styrofoam remain a norm in Singapore’s takeaway food culture.


sustainability is not a Contemporary environmentalists note that environmental major consideration for many Muslimowned businesses. simply promoting 3Rs is outdated. Two point here is not to discourage lesser known, but arguably more significant, The patronage of Muslim-owned businesses, Rs are “Refuse” and “Rot” – each of which but rather put forth certain questions: Are Muslim consumers making better (ethical and environmentally sustainable) respectively come before and after the choices? Are Muslim business owners conventional 3Rs. Refuse, as it suggests, willing to provide these better choices to their clientele? Are the businesses that we is to refuse consuming a certain item or are generating in the Muslim community meeting social and environmental needs, resource, and making do with what we or simply feeding vanity and greed? And can we cultivate a circular economy need rather than want we want. Rot refers how and business ecosystem that promotes environmental behaviours and services to to the act of composting. By composting all levels of the Muslim community? food scraps into organic fertiliser for These are difficult questions, and such practices may be plants, it facilitates a closed loop in which implementing harder. Yet, these are highly crucial in a time which cannot afford further biodegradable waste is not wasted. regard waste and excess as haram (forbidden), to Hadith on actions such as planting trees and proper waste disposal are seen in Islam as forms of charity, it is clear that Islam provides guidelines on how Muslims should consume sustainably and live in balance with nature.

needed to produce cattle is also higher. This is particularly acute given that some of the poorest and most water-stressed regions are also dependent on livestock and agriculture. What is perhaps more sobering is that, in a bid to meet the religious obligations of pilgrims in Mecca, part of the livestock imported for Eid Al Adha are from water-stressed and That said, the extent to which Muslims have internalised these principles as part impoverished countries such as Somaliof their daily life has not reached a critical land and Somalia8. mass. Despite several references to the Moving forward, as Muslims in Singapore, prohibition of waste in the Quran6, it is it is important for us to think about how ironic that the amount of waste in the Muslim world is higher during Ramadan, we are alleviating or contributing to these problems. How can we not only build on than other times of the year. Moreover, despite Islamic principles on stewardship existing environmental strategies, but more importantly, facilitate market practices and consciousness of the earth’s balance (mizan)7, few realise how their developed that are environmentally conscious and sustainable. This is particularly crucial world consumption patterns adversely given the growth of the halal industry, impact the world’s finite resources. For instance, not only does the production of and SMEs and home-based businesses red meat emit a higher amount of carbon within the Muslim community. Take a stroll down Geylang’s Ramadan bazaar emissions than that of poultry and or a Halal Expo, and it is clear that vegetables, but the amount of water 6 7 8

environmental apathy and inaction. Environmental challenges have sociopolitical and economic consequences. The faster we get up to speed with incorporating environmental sustainability measures into our businesses and daily lives, the better we are in ridding the stigma of playing “catch up”.

Sofiah Jamil is Co -Founder of Hornb ills: Concepts and Co mmunications, an d Adjunct Researc h Associate at the RSIS Centre for Non-T raditional Security Studies, Nanyang Technological Un iversity in Singapore. Sh e is finalising her PhD at the Australian Na tional University on Islamic environme ntalism. Sofiah is also a former member of Young AMP’s Bo ard of Management.


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Intellectual Rigour in Islamic History: st A Lesson for 21 Century Malaysian Muslims

BY DR SHARIFAH MUNIRAH ALATAS The growing pains of political transition after a general election is a common occurrence in many societies. Malaysia is no exception. A year after the overthrow of the Barisan Nasional (BN), the more “democratic” coalition of Pakatan Harapan (PH) is not without its harsh critiques. There are rising tensions due to PH’s capitulation to far-right Malay/Muslim sentiments. 26 T H E K A R Y A W A N © ASSOCIATION OF MUSLIM PROFESSIONALS. PERMISSION IF REQUIRED FOR REPRODUCTION.

Most worrying are the slumbering reforms in the education sector, which are seen to be increasingly basted by racial and religious undertones. Malaysia is made up of a dominant majority who are struggling to assert themselves. 61.7% of Malaysia’s population are Muslim. The remainder consists of the Chinese, Indians and other indigenous minorities. According to the constitution of Malaysia,

100% of the Malays must be Muslim. Yet, the ongoing discourses in the media, educational institutions, parliament and civil society groups highlight consistent messages. These are bellicose appeals to “stop insulting” Muslims, the need to “protect” Islam from Shias and Christians, and the “threat” to national security. There is an overwhelming feeling of insecurity among Muslims in Malaysia.

A small percentage of progressive MalayMuslim and non-Malay intellectuals remain in conceptual oblivion. This is apparent in the realm of Malaysia’s spiralling education crisis. Their noble attempts to highlight the root causes for the failure of education have eluded political leaders. This is due to the shrinking of an intellectual spirit among Malaysians. This is the very spirit that propelled the 9th century Muslims to establish Islam as an inclusive and progressive civilisation. Instead, the situation in contemporary Malaysia, according to sociologist Syed Hussein Alatas, is one of “intellectual indolence” (Intellectuals in Developing Societies, 1977). There may be individual pockets of intellectual activity, confined to the universities and civil society, but, as a collective, institutionalised and “assiduously promoted activity”, there is a failure to discuss vital themes. To illustrate this point, let us look briefly at Islam’s “golden age”.

science and humanities became restricted. This was not a result of geopolitical events alone (i.e. the Mongol invasions). Actual reasons were already inherent in the restrictive ideological worldview nurtured by political, cultural and psychological conditions prevalent among late-Abbasid leadership. It was fueled by the decline in the intellectual spirit, an ongoing trend in the Muslim world today.

intertwined. It was evident that al-Mulk’s worldview was in stark contrast to previous leadership. Nizamiyah was anti-Shia, in favour of a narrower, ego-centric Sunni theology. His political ambitions rendered universalism and inclusiveness irrelevant. His policies promoted a repressive, despotic leadership which interpreted Islam to suit nefarious desires to remain in power, at all cost.

EDUCATION IN MALAYSIA In the case of Malaysia, the vital theme of the decline of the quality of education needs to be approached critically. The intellectual spirit to deconstruct education failures from every possible angle, would be the best approach. This includes consistent discourses on the politicisation of race and religion in the school system. It would also include honest methodological approaches to re-interpret Islamic history and the role of institutions. After all, education policy in EMERGENCE OF INTELLECTUAL Malaysia is rooted in its constitutional INDOLENCE provisions of Islam as the state religion. ISLAM’S “GOLDEN AGE” Towards the latter Abbasid period, However, skewed interpretations of Sunni Islamic history is rich in progressive ideas there was a zealousness of political and Islam based on Wahhabism and Salafism that encouraged inter-religious dialogue religious authorities to suppress the have seeped into the school curriculum as and inter-communal mingling. Muslims freedom of experimental ideas in the well as the general public domain. It experienced centuries of intellectual natural, religious and philosophical reinforces an ideological backwardness, development, in the natural and social sciences. It resulted in the unsustainability within an intellectual vacuum. This sciences, the arts and humanities. The of knowledge production. There was a vacuum has been filled with ideas that civilisation of the Abbasid Caliphate gradual rise in religious intolerance which Shia Islam is deviant and that Shias (al-Khilafat al-‘Abbasiyah, 750-1258 A.D.) led further to the decline in intellectual should be “wiped out”. They conveniently fluorished with institutions of higher activity. Muslim leaders manipulated or unknowingly omit discourses on the learning that spread throughout the dogma to justify an extravagant and false interpretation of Sunni Islam by Islamic world. They are among the oldest arrogant elite class, fed by corrupt opportunistic religious leaders. in human history; the oldest university administrators. One such leader was Abu on record, for instance, is Ez-Zitouna Ali al-Hassan al-Tusi (1018-1092), also Discourses on Sunni Islam as represented University. It was established in Tunis, known as Nizam al-Mulk. by the Saudi Wahhabis, remain silent, in 737 C. E. Well-known sociologist and despite overwhelming evidence of the philosopher, Ibn Khaldun, is among its Nizam al-Mulk, the grand vizier of the moral indignation of the leaders of the notable alumni. Seljuq dynasty, was the driving force House of Saud. The economic, social and behind intellectual inertia. He created a political crises prevalent in most of the Throughout the 11th and 12th centuries, system of education known as “Nizamiyah” Muslim world is fertile ground for institutions of higher learning that focused on religious studies at the intellectual pondering in Malaysia. Yet, mushroomed all over the Muslim world. expense of independent inquiry. For most activity is confined to apologetic These were centred in Baghdad, Damascus, the first time in Islamic history, Islamic analyses and sectarian defence. We need Cairo and Cordoba. Towards the end of studies became institutionalised and to tap the lessons of Islam’s past if we are the 12th century, however, intellectual was seen as a more lucrative career path. to address today’s racial and religious crises. progression into modern science, social Previously, sciences and Islamic law were Sociologist Toby Huff (Intellectual Curiosity and the Scientific Revolution, 2010) explained that a “cultural artefact called curiosity” allowed Western society to be open to foreign ideas. He declared that this was the key ingredient that contributed to the scientific revolution in the West. He surmised that this was lacking in the late medieval Muslim world. A more accurate explanation, though, is the emergence of intellectual indolence among the Muslim leadership.

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Multiculturalism and multireligiousity in Malaysia are concepts which have been pushed to the forefront of daily political and popular discourse. However, calls for multi-racial and cross-religious harmony (i.e. “unity in diversity”) have become clichés. Although there is increasing “unity” rhetoric mouthed by school children and university students, racial and religious harmony has declined. Three cases in Malaysia’s recent political development reveal that our education has failed to foster unity in diversity. In December 2018, a mufti of a state in the north was grilled on Shia and Sunni Islam, by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia’s (Suhakam) inquiry into the disappearance of an activist accused of practising Shia Islam. His stand was that Shiism is a threat to national security. He was merely parroting the political Islam of extremist groups such as ISIS and ISIL, which operate in an entirely different Muslim environment, with an entirely different historical experience. Yet, this mufti has a strong following, where millions of rural and urban Malaysian Muslims support banning books, articles and scholars that portray Shiism objectively, within a historical context. In January 2019, a by-election was held in the Cameron Highlands constituency. The issue that had been cropping up is whether the position of Islam and the Malays is under threat, since last year’s general elections. This narrative has lingered because PH consists of a coalition of 4 parties, one of which has been branded a “Chinese” party (the Democratic Action Party, DAP). The politics of identity has reverted to the centre stage of the political landscape. Malay Muslims fail to understand causation in the context of social change. If the intellectual spirit was alive, Malaysian academics would be feverishly churning out research and popular writings to extol the benefits of inter-communal understanding. In the process, the link between race and the failure of good governance would dissolve. 28 T H E K A R Y A W A N © ASSOCIATION OF MUSLIM PROFESSIONALS. PERMISSION IF REQUIRED FOR REPRODUCTION.

In the case of Malaysia, the vital theme of the decline of the quality of education needs to be approached critically. The intellectual spirit to deconstruct education failures from every possible angle, would be the best approach. This includes consistent discourses on the politicisation of race and religion in the school system. It would also include honest methodological approaches to re-interpret Islamic history and the role of institutions. Attitudes of Islam’s golden age could be The socio-political tensions in Malaysia re-ignited, making full use of Malaysia’s are due to the failure of the education fertile mix of races, cultures and religions. system to encourage the intellectual spirit. It has resulted in the “closing of the door In May 2019, the NGO Gerakan Pembela to ijtihad”. Universities do not engage Ummah (Ummah) organised a rally to in research aimed at de-politicising race “defend the sovereignty of Islam”. This was and religion. Backlashes against this are to protest against Malaysia’s ratification to confined to superficial narratives rather the Rome Statute of the International than independent analyses using universal Criminal Court (ICC). Demonstrators held concepts of ethics grounded in Islam. A placards supporting a certain “crown politically-matured Malaysia can flourish prince” and other royalty. Opposition to under the new PH coalition, provided it is the Rome Statute was based on the narrow nurtured by the intellectual spirit. understanding of a constitutional monarchy. The Federal Constitution of Malaysia posits that the royalty safeguards Islam and the interests of emic at as is an acad Muslims pertaining to religious matters. Munirah Alat alaysia. She is also h ifa ar Sh r D of M Matters pertaining to governance and mitted to l University the Nationa an NGO com ber of G25, ugh em ro m politics are outside the purview of the th e a tiv an ac Malaysi multi-racial tion to her di royalty. Since Malaysia’s official religion ad a moderate, In . id and Maqas ternational Wassatiyah olitics and in is Islam, accession to the ICC would ork in geop e qu iti cr gs academic w in rit subject the royalty to a higher, external Muslim r popular w currents in relations, he us io lig re d an al ic lit juridical process, should the need arise. po oat soci hed e can be reac However, the public’s dramatic outpouring societies. Sh ai gm @ at in peanutm of feudal emotions became entwined with desperate calls to “defend” Islam. The entire issue became heavily politicised with racial undertones, obscuring the original fact that the ICC was an instrument of justice, upheld by Islam.


Is Justice by Online Mob a Threat? BY ABDUL SHARIFF ABOO KASSIM When National University of Singapore (NUS) student Monica Baey learnt that a voyeur, a fellow NUS student, who filmed her showering was “let off” with a 12-month conditional warning by the police and a semester’s suspension by NUS, she was appalled. She posted a series of stories on Instagram that went viral. While some netizens questioned Ms Baey’s motives for going public with her

story, her case does not appear to be one of a victim bent on exacting disproportionate punishment on the perpetrator out of vengeance. During a packed townhall meeting involving university administrators and some 600 students, testimonies of female undergraduates who shared their experiences of sexual assault point to the possibility of gaping holes in campus security and victim support. NUS itself admitted it has failed Ms Baey and gave

assurances that it would take a tougher stand on such issues. The key questions that emerged from this episode are the role of the online community in mobilising opinions against the decision taken by the police and the rules set by a university; whether it has been reasonable in its critique of the status quo and whether its influence on public opinion is a liability. This is a JULY 2019




question for which Ms Baey’s story makes a good case study. It is a question that has larger implications, such as its effect on the rule of law.

In the opposing camp are those concerned that the sentiments of the ‘vociferous’ online ‘mob’ will undermine the rule of law and trust in public institutions. The response of the police is a case in point: their conditional warning to the perpetrator, Nicholas Lim, was ridiculed online and some netizens even went to the extent of making the false allegation that his “influential” parents may have something to do with their ‘leniency’ towards Lim1. Others wondered what his fate would have been if he was a member of a minority ethnic group.

deterrence, with giving offenders a second chance to reform, based on assessment of the relevant factors – heartwarming. The idea that the intent of the criminal justice system should not be to make punishment an end but a means to reform an offender and reintegrate him or her into society should sit well with them.

The decision undertaken by the police is by no means arbitrary but one which has gone through the rigours of evaluating multiple factors, including an assessment Not everyone, of course, is active on social of the likelihood of rehabilitation, taking into account that Lim possessed no other media or engage in discussions on the more critical social or political issues but obscene materials in any of his other views posted on it are often heard, shared devices. They also clarified, in response to some netizens highlighting cases in and talked about, prompting responses which harsher penalties were meted out, from authorities or concerned parties. It can even begin with just one person’s post the difference between Lim’s case and a going viral, as was the case with Ms Baey’s similar one that resulted in a polytechnic story. Social media thus has the potential student being prosecuted by the police. In the case of the latter, multiple criminal to impact Singaporeans’ worldviews trespass offences were committed and profoundly. there was evidence of premeditation to Ms Baey’s online plea for a tougher stance evade detection. on sexual harassment garnered two online petitions of almost 44,000 signatures. This Lim’s testimony to The Straits Times dated is by no means a small number and could 26 April 2019 does give credence to the argument put forth by the police about possibly influence even those who may the likelihood of his rehabilitation. He have had a more supportive stance on rejected the view held by some netizens existing measures. It led to the police explaining its position and NUS reviewing that he is the victim, steadfastly declaring that he is the perpetrator. He made no its rules. excuses for committing the offence and acknowledged outright that what he did The online community’s peeve was with was “very wrong”2. NUS’ apparent lax attitude towards a crime of a sexual nature and the perceived GOING VIRAL: leniency on the part of the police – its conditional warning is deemed insufficient ACTIVISM IN THE DIGITAL AGE to accord adequate protection for potential The online community, known to often victims and to serve as deterrence against champion values like justice and compassion, should find the approach taken would-be offenders. by the police – tempering punishment and

Returning to Ms Baey’s case, the involvement of the online community resulted in an outcome that could hardly be described as an unjust one. NUS acknowledged its woeful shortcomings in providing a safe environment for its students and support for victims of sexual crimes. Even Education Minister Ong Ye Kung saw the penalties meted out by NUS for a sexual offence as "manifestly inadequate”3.

THE SOCIAL NETWORK Singapore’s online community is huge – nearly seven times the size of the resident Malay population – and is growing. In 2014, a report by We Are Social revealed that Singapore has the world’s second highest social penetration rate at 59%, more than double the global average of 26%. In 2015, some 3.6 million people – or around 66% of the population – in Singapore use social media, according to the media agency’s 2015 statistics, up from 50% in March 2013.



Thus, can what the netizens sought for Ms Baey be described as justice by the online mob – that is, an irrational one peppered with skewed notions of fairness, driven purely by emotion instead of objectivity?

Ms Baey turned to the online community only after the due process that she went through with NUS and the police failed to result in a more concrete action to address what could be a longstanding problem that is difficult for victims to raise, given prevailing notions about sexual offences. This merits the question of whether one turning to the online community for support when a decision is made through legitimate processes constitutes an abuse. In cases of sexual offences against women, it is worth noting that awareness in many aspects was sorely lacking. It took considerable effort by women’s groups to forge an understanding of the trauma that women go through and for greater sensitivity to prevail, such as getting the police to shift its message from “Don’t Get Rubbed the Wrong Way”, which betrays elements of victim-blaming, to one that portrays the perpetrator squarely as the culprit. Taking such realities into account,


The online world is chaotic in terms of the diversity of views it generates, whether good or bad. There may have been falsehoods, half-truths and untruths posted online but social media is also a rich source of rational voices that objectively assess matters – from social issues to business to government policies. It may not necessarily represent the views of the majority but some of the best insights, commentaries and responses to issues have been shared by social media users.

it is quite difficult to conclude that the approach taken by Ms Baey is abusive. Speaking up, even against authorities, has to have its space.

of the Penal Code, the debate over capital punishment for drug trafficking, the reserved presidential elections and the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation (POFMA) Bill. It is a fairly good gauge for society’s position on issues. While media literacy is a prerequisite for dealing with the information that the online community generates, it is nevertheless a good source of feedback and often reflective of the sentiment on the ground.

Is the online community capable of exacting mob justice – swaying public opinion and thus rendering laws, regulations and legitimate decisions undertaken by legitimate institutions subordinate to views made popular by influential social media personalities, persuasive arguments posted by the eloquent among social media users or large The view that the online community can number of netizens expressing support? subvert the rule of law, undermine trust and confidence in public institutions or Social media is not a platform only for divide a society is still quite far-fetched. faceless “keyboard warriors” who hide Mob justice can take place if an exclusivist behind anonymity to eschew accountability. overwhelming majority share a common The ones who are more influential are view about what is right or wrong and usually personalities, public figures, force a situation where their demands are domain experts, artists, writers and those acceded to. However, this is not the capable of putting forth viewpoints characteristic of the online community, articulately. given the massive diversity within it and its inclusive nature in terms of facilitating It is possible for netizens to peddle a diverse range of perspectives. problematic opinions, such as those fraught with ignorance, bigotry, let alone falsehoods, and still extend their reach but they will find it a challenge to establish sim is a Researcher/ their credibility as they will be called out Abdul Shariff Aboo Kas for rdinator with the Centre Coo s ject Pro in a matter of time. mic and Malay Affairs The online world is chaotic in terms of the diversity of views it generates, whether good or bad. There may have been falsehoods, half-truths and untruths posted online but social media is also a rich source of rational voices that objectively assess matters – from social issues to business to government policies. It may not necessarily represent the views of the majority but some of the best insights, commentaries and responses to issues have been shared by social media users.

Research on Isla sidiary of AMP. (RIMA), the research sub

The online community is not always as nearly unanimous in supporting a cause as it was for Ms Baey’s. There have been numerous instances when opinions were divided, particularly in more complex issues such as the repeal of Section 377A JULY 2019




Could the Christchurch Massacre One Day be the Sultan Massacre?



It was 10am on 15 March 2019, and I was sitting on one of the benches at the newly-opened Wisma Geylang Serai while waiting for a friend’s lunch break so I could eat with her. Working remotely means that you almost always have your laptop with you when out and about, and it was the same this time. I was doing work when my phone chimed – it was our work group chat. LaunchGood’s Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Chris Abdul Rahman Blauvelt, shared an article titled, “#BREAKING A man with a gun has opened fire at a mosque in New Zealand”. My heart fell. Working with LaunchGood, a global Muslim crowdfunding platform, responding to such horrific incidents were no longer new to us but still saddens us deeply. Because of the networks we have created after years of building relationships with Muslim leaders, activists and scholars on the ground, we’ve managed to help local community leaders and partners respond to tragedies such as the Pulse Orlando shooting, Grenfell fire, and Palu tsunami fairly quickly. However, when we had cases of shooting, it was only in the US. This time, it felt too close to home. Immediately, we reached out to the leaders we knew in New Zealand. Within the hour, several New Zealand Muslim organisations had agreed to start a crowdfunding campaign for the victims of the shooting and we had started a WhatsApp group chat to coordinate efforts. Soon, our Chief Operating Officer, Amany Killawi, sent a message to our work group chat, “ASEAN team, we’re going to need you to keep an eye out since most of our North American team will most likely be sleeping.” This was one of the perks of having a global team; we could respond to emails and situations round-the-clock. Fortunately, or unfortunately for me, I had a lunch date with a friend but a few thousand miles away, a deranged man had just 1

killed 51 people in a mosque and so, lunch that it could happen in New Zealand, but had to wait. not surprised. Islamophobia had been steadily on the rise since the September 11 HORRIFIC BUT NOT SURPRISED attacks on the World Trade Center in As I worked that day, more details Lower Manhattan1. In the past few years, emerged about the tragedy that I had seen more Islamophobic comments was quickly being referred to as the not from far away, but from amongst my ‘Christchurch massacre’. The shooter fellow Singaporeans on social media. attacked not one mosque, but two, during I used to think such an incident would Friday prayers, a day when most mosques never happen in my country. We grew up across the globe would be packed with together – as neighbours, as classmates, as worshippers. On top of that, he was colleagues. Surely my non-Muslim grotesquely live-streaming his despicable Singaporeans knew us better than the act on Facebook. Even though Facebook white nationalists that were carrying out managed to remove the video, by then such attacks? I really hope to be proven hundreds of thousands of people had wrong but months after this incident, and already watched the horror unfold in by reading some comments online, I’m real time. still not sure. Would Singaporeans truly rally around the Muslim community as I was glued to my laptop all day, refreshing swiftly and compassionately as the Kiwis news articles, reading as much as I could, did in the wake of this massacre? Or do updating the campaign page, and looking they harbour similar thoughts as senator at the faces of the victims as more of their Fraser Anning from Australia who stories were shared on social media. By the described Islam as “a violent, fascist time I passed it over to my colleagues in religion promoting savage beliefs” the US, I was spent – emotionally, immediately after the attacks? mentally and physically. I had cried about 6 to 7 times throughout the day; fear, I’m reminded of the many times I had horror, dread and deep sadness, and grief come across racist and Islamophobic enveloped me as I saw the victims’ comments online. As an example, recently, pictures; the old, like 71-year-old Haji when Subway and A&W in Singapore Daoud Nabi, who actually welcomed the announced that they were in the process shooter and said, “Hello brother” before of being halal-certified, some netizens being killed, or the young, 3-year-old went ballistic. Something as harmless as Mucad Ibrahim – the same age as my own halal food had somehow brought out the nephew – who died in his father’s arms. worst in people. A comment read, “By the same logic Subway might as well remove In only one hour, the campaign hit its all meat from the menu so that vegetarians initial goal to raise NZ$10,000 for the can also enjoy their great sandwiches! victims’ families. In seven hours, it had Completely brainless and disgusting reached NZ$100,000 as the campaign move.” Many others chimed in and said went viral worldwide. After only 20 hours, they were going to stop supporting the campaign had reached NZ$1 million. Subway because to them, going halal The campaign eventually ended on meant that they were not being diverse 1 April 2019, raising a total of NZ$2,734,717. and inclusive, and that these food But the grief of the global Muslim establishments were “pandering to a community continued. certain demanding demographic”. Other commenters said that Singapore should Despite growing up in safe Singapore, this prepare for polygamy and child brides incident truly scared me. I was horrified soon. While most of the comments I had


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seen in the aftermath of the Christchurch massacre was about humanity and denouncing terrorism, there were pockets of comments that were along the lines of “If you guys stopped killing other people, maybe others would also stop targeting Muslims”. Another time reading the comments section made me disappointed was when Mdm Halimah Yacob became the President of Singapore. Instead of focusing on her political achievements, many comments were bordering on being racist and Islamophobic, with the hashtag #NotMyPresident making its rounds, even though the hashtag was originally used when President Donald Trump assumed power. History has proven that violent speech leads to violent acts. I was reminded of an article in The New York Times. An excerpt from the article reads as follows:

but people can be kind to you in person and still hold such thoughts about the religion you believe in. I’ve lost count the number of times when non-Muslim Singaporeans would say, “Aiyah, but you’re different from those other Muslims”, as if to say that if someone was truly a devout Muslim, they would be a terrorist, or barbaric, or violent. Or that Islam was inherently a violent religion catered to would-be terrorists. FOREVER CHANGED For the first time in my life, I prayed for the safety of the worshippers in my local mosques. This was a prayer I had previously reserved for those in Palestine, Syria or Myanmar. I never imagined I would say the same prayer for fellow Muslims here. I think about Eid prayer at Masjid Sultan, overflowing with worshippers who fill the streets of Bussorah Street and around it. How would we react if a similar Christchurch attack happened? Where would we run to? I had so many questions.

to spread fear and hatred. We must not allow such acts to divide our societies.” Local Muslim community leader, Mr Mohamed Nassir from educational outfit SimplyIslam, wrote, “A small country like Singapore must be extremely careful, as it is the most religiously diverse nation on earth. Individuals or a band of people that spew hatred and violence towards any faith group or racial group should be unequivocally condemned, and their physical and online presence in Singapore’s multi-ethnic, multi-religious society must be clearly rejected. Their ideology of hatred has no space in any community, and it has nothing to do with freedom of speech, but rather keeping to the basic human code of conduct for people to speak freely, but responsibly.”

While I appreciate the swift and firm responses from our leaders, I still wonder if Singaporeans would stand as one should such an attack happen in our mosques, “No historian can claim to have insight other places of worship, or any local into the motives of living individuals. But landmarks. I am hopeful that the online history does show that a heightening of Some weeks ago, in preparation for comments that I have seen in the past few rhetoric against a certain group can incite Ramadan, a close friend who had migrated years come from a loud and bigoted violence against that group, even when no to Melbourne got her children to draw minority and that the majority of violence is called for. When a group is and colour mosques. Her daughter, barely Singaporeans would rise up and be proof [labelled] hostile and brutal, its 5 years old, cut out and added white blobs to our racial and religious harmony members are more likely to be treated on the mosques. My friend asked her initiatives. with hostility and brutality. Visual daughter about it and this girl earnestly images are particularly powerful, spurring responded, “Oh they are locks, Mama. To actions that may well be unintended by the lock all the doors and windows of the images’ creators." mosques to keep bad people out. Only the Regional Manager Ameera Begum is the good people will have the key and can a global Muslim d, Goo nch (APAC) of Lau The article was about how the Christians’ enter. So no bad people can enter and Prior to joining crowdfunding platform. the Digital Director rhetoric about the Jews after 1100 led to do bad things.” I don’t remember even LaunchGood, she was over eight years, large-scale anti-Jewish violence but I thinking about the “bad people” when at for nts, classes and eve se ani org to helping couldn’t help but think about the ways I think of mosques as a kid. for the Singapore lish Eng in es programm I had seen Islam or Muslims being running the and nity Muslim commu , described in recent years. Words such as Shortly after Senator Anning made his online Muslim magazine yang “terrorist”, “barbaric”, and “violent” are comments, Home Affairs and Law She graduated from Nan sity ver Uni ical log Techno just some of the more common ones. Minister K. Shanmugam described the in with a Bachelor of Arts Cartoonists had repeatedly drawn comments as "sickening" and Islamophobic. in Sociology and a Minor offensive cartoons about Muslims as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also said Public Administration. terrorists, monkeys and the like. in a letter to Ms Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, who was lauded I had thought fellow classmates, neighbours worldwide for her leadership and and colleagues wouldn’t think that of us, response: “This heinous act is an attempt 34 T H E K A R Y A W A N © ASSOCIATION OF MUSLIM PROFESSIONALS. PERMISSION IF REQUIRED FOR REPRODUCTION.

A Lazy Interpretation of the ” y a l a M y z a “L BY ABDUL HAKEEM AKBAR ALI JULY 2019




It is a tepid Tuesday night at the Geylang Bazaar. The air is arid and still, typical of a June’s night in the bustling Eastern locale. The smoke-scented waft of barbecued meat and the cloying sweetness of buttery corn cups fills the air, all wrapped up in the sweat-filled stench from its largely millennial crowd. It is teeming with a farrago of flavours and people. As someone with a slightly unhealthy love affair with the indoors, constant travails in the outside world tire me. For a few fleeting seconds, I get lost in the moment.

only one shop, and so deprive the other of their patronage, relations between the pair radiate understanding and goodnaturedness. Thinking back, the Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar was a very strange place for a man to gain enlightenment. If it was, in any way, a dictum of larger thought, it was this: there is more to life than profits and “success” (often defined in relation to capitalism); social relations matter too.

palatable portions. Today, the typical mat or minah must by necessity own or play a guitar, rev their motorcycles at ungodly hours of the morning, chain-smoke or are of low socio-economic status.

EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY Trawling through history, one finds evidence of the opposite. Syed Hussein Alatas’ The Myth of the Lazy Native is one such. Before European contact with the Malay world, native populations were quite engaged in long-distance trade. They could largely fend and provide for “Lelong, lelong! 100 grams, 4 dollars. 500 Geylang Serai, therefore, makes for the themselves. European monopolies grams, 18 dollars only!” The guttural voice most fitting of scenes. brought a reversal of this trend. Mercantile of a dendeng salesman pierces the air and economic practices, as was rampant at the snaps me out of my inward stupor. Next to As a person who, in big part, has been time, destroyed local livelihoods and his stall, is yet another one – differently brought up in a largely “Malay” setting socially dislocated many. Once dignified named – selling dendeng, the flavours of (customary practices, food served at home, merchants and traders were forced into meat offered near identical down to the etc.), I recoil slightly when I hear the old peasantry and other forms of living letter. The first dendeng seller pivots his and rancorous ‘Malays are lazy’ diatribe. cohesive to the wants of their new masters. body towards the second. They seemingly Due to a failure to meet certain narrowly They tilled the lands, they fished in the share a joke, based on the giant guffaw that defined criteria for ‘hardworking’, Malays seas; Malay merchants camouflaged into I faintly registered through the cacophony as a whole are tossed into the indolent the background like unnoticed tinnitus. of other sounds echoing through the crowd. abyss. Badly paraphrasing Shakespeare, there are more things in heaven and Earth, Nevertheless, they continued to thrive As a disciple of the Keynesian kind, the Horatio, than income per capita and total in their own capacities. Turnbull narrates sight of two stalls selling near identical fertility rate. a story of peaceful and industrious products did not sit well with me. Econofishermen, woodcutters and connoisseurs mists have attempted – for the best part of Not only are such simplistic assertions of artisanal crafts1. These people chose the the last 300 years or so – to theorise the reductionist and inaccurate, they become accompaniment of kith and kin over world, albeit imperfectly. In economics self-perpetuating. This is not meant to be anonymous market transactors. They led argot, competition in undifferentiated an apologist essay: laziness is everywhere, simple, happy and wholesome lives, and products (i.e. products that are identical to not only among Malays. In fact, so largely steered clear of capitalism’s vast each other) generally leads to a lower (or, pervasive is this stereotype that it has been tentacles. in the extreme case created by some legitimised via coinage into the phrase economics models, zero economic profits) “the Malay problem”. Flash forward many decades, after the profit margin. Thus, two stalls selling ravages of the Second World War. dendeng at the same location can do better To the ardent Anglophile and people who Throughout the Malay Peninsula, by expanding their product range. If one should know better, Malay men were said fledgling states were starting to sprout. paints a portrait of what competition on to be kopi-sipping sloths who laid on their Cries for self-determination echoed loudly these battlegrounds for profit would look hammocks for the best part of the day, – efforts at independence shifted into fifth like based on textbook interpretations, it only foraging out to fish when the risk of gear. Reasserting control, states reacquired certainly wouldn’t be pretty. starvation loomed large. Malay women, land, stripping populations not only of not to be outdone by their male counterhomes, but livelihoods. Across the pond, Yet, though market competitors, these parts, sat at the foot of their doorsteps and this had especially acute implications to men seemed genuinely cordial. Though it engaged in banal chit-chat and gossip, particular groups, especially Malays whose is highly likely that dendeng-buying while hacking away at vegetables and livelihoods were largely land-based. customers will choose to purchase from blobs of meat to be fashioned into more 1



The esteemed Hungarian sociologist Karl Polanyi, in his masterpiece The Great Transformation, talks about land as “only another name for nature, which is not produced by man”. One of the uses of land he alludes to in his book is what he calls “householding”, where in short, people produce for their own consumption (e.g. building a boat for personal use, growing crops for eating). Land forms an important part of his book. For those who, for long stretches of time, were accustomed to the earth for sustenance, denudation of land had disastrous effects.

income. In these rental estates, lift landings tend to be plastered with messages utilising negative reinforcement that eat into the soul. Pithy messages unfurled pour encourager les autres, of the big bad Ah Long, and the life of hell that awaits the unrepentant borrower. Don’t take from them, don’t promote them – don’t, just don’t; always don’t. Poverty becomes a vicious cycle. Left unstopped, the cycle continues.

Writing more than 70 years ago, Polanyi talks about the “embeddedness” of Again, I would like to restate the economic activities: namely, the extent to “unapologist” intention of this exposition. which economic needs are subjugated to I am aware of the many undesirable indices social ones. The economy should serve (e.g. higher relative underachievement in people, and not the other way round. The school, lower economic growth, etc.) out economy is a means to an end, and not an there that suggest laggard performance. end in itself. Instead of pillorying the “lazy” The heretics in the far corner frequently Malay (or anyone else, for that matter) use these as ammunition. It goes without with unkind and hurtful words, let us use saying that we should acknowledge and the means at our disposal to create a better remedy these issues. future for those who, by little fault of their own, may be victims of poor circumstance. Alas, I am many things. But one thing I am not is a denier of facts. Let us pause and reflect, and take the time to consider why we believe the things we Meanwhile, I believe that these statistics do, and the ideologies that seem to shape may end up acting as confirmation biases, public policy. Let us rid ourselves of stitching together the observable (for infectious and dogmatic beliefs that we, example, more Malays relative to others in up to now, may unreflectively hold. the normal technical streams) with what must be (for example, Malays are Be kind to one another, not as divorced inherently lazy) into a seamless whole. others, but as a united people, united only by the common denominator of human race. Teo You Yenn’s mightily informative This is What Inequality Looks Like, in a general In a world dominated by the hegemony of way (i.e. not touching on the issue of race), neoliberal ideas, I sometimes wonder: have addresses this. She observes a correlation we lost our way? Is the pecuniary motive between low-income and low social all that matters in this highly globalised mobility. In other words, with less money, world? What about culture, community people are less able to escape out of the and gotong-royong? quicksand that is their economic woes. These people tend to live in small and To reduce the substance of an entire people cramped rental flats. They live from to certain and definite axioms is foolishness paycheck to paycheck, one mishap away of the highest order. from utter ruin. Children are often diverted away from school to activities Regardless of race, language or religion. that require immediate attention, like caring for a young sibling or earning extra

The economy should serve people, and not the other way round. The economy is a means to an end, and not an end in itself. Instead of pillorying the “lazy” Malay (or anyone else, for that matter) with unkind and hurtful words, let us use the means at our disposal to create a better future for those who, by little fault of their own, may be victims of poor circumstance.

Abdul Hakeem Akbar Ali was formerly a Research Assistant at the Centre for Research on Islamic and Malay Affairs (RIMA). He will be pursuing his postgraduate studies in International Political Economy at the London School of Economics this September.

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On the Move with Daliyana Hamid BY NABILAH MOHAMMAD


The global workplace offers a wealth of opportunities. For some, working abroad is a personal career goal, with opportunities to experience new cities and different cultures. Gaining international work experience can be a career change and open many doors for the future. Working abroad may even give you an edge over others and set you apart as immersing in a foreign environment would likely mean that you would have dealt with challenges that have put you out of your comfort zone. A study by the British Council found that having the experience of working abroad plays a key role in enhancing innovation and productivity in the workplace, and at the same time, helps build skills which benefit the individual, businesses and the society1.

Q: Could you tell us about yourself and your family?

logistics industry is an age-old one, dating back to when the Egyptians first learnt how to coordinate the logistics of building materials for the pyramids to the ancient seafaring days where trade was a common language amongst different nations.

Daliyana: Just like many Singaporean families, we’re a small family – I have an older brother who lives in Singapore with his two young children, and I’ve been married for 13 years to a lovely Malaysian- Starting from the transportation of raw Indian gentleman. materials through to the factory they were made in, to the mode of transport they got I’d say both my brother and I had typical onto and the warehouse they were stored childhoods growing up. I had gone to in, all material objects we have today have schools within the neighbourhoods we’d found their way to our homes through a lived in then. When we lived in Katong, supply chain. Logistics helps our world I went to Convent of the Holy Infant tick by getting us what we want and need Jesus (CHIJ) Katong Primary School and in our lives – whether it’s a life-saving Tanjong Katong Girls’ School (TKGS), and vaccination or the latest mobile phone. when we moved to Pasir Ris, I went to There are also so many opportunities in Tampines Junior College, which has since the logistics industry where technological merged with Meridian Junior College. advances through digitisation can augment the industry to be even more Taking this leap can also be daunting. Looking back many times over the years, effective and efficient. Where I work, Being away from the comfort of your I can say that my most formative years innovation is a central theme to our dayhome will force you to meet new people, to-day business, making the industry a experience new things and adjust to new were spent at TKGS, and I’m ever so grateful to the teachers I’d had the great very sexy one to work in. There are few cultures, customs and languages. But in fortune to have met. They encouraged us industries out there that touch each and return, you will gain new confidence, to explore the vast expanse of our minds, every single one of us the way logistics does. independence, and friends. and the world. Q: Why did you choose to work Working abroad is an experience that I’d diverged from the conventional path overseas, particularly in Germany? can see you develop both personally and professionally, and it is indeed achievable. when I was 19. We had some difficult years, which came to the hilt towards the Daliyana: My husband and I have lived Seize the opportunity to expand your end of my teenage years. School then quite the nomadic life, having resided in global outlook just like how our multiple cities, sometimes together and personality feature for this issue did. The became less of a priority for me and as a result of this, I’d started working young, sometimes apart, from Doha to Dubai in Karyawan team interviewed Daliyana and had quickly discovered my fiercely Hamid, 37, who is currently working in the Middle East, and Ho Chi Minh City Germany as Global Engagement Director independent spirit – coupled with a sense and Shanghai in Asia, before moving to of adventure, I’m guessing this is why Bonn, Germany over five years ago. It was with the Deutsche Post DHL Group. always a mix between actively looking for Daliyana works closely with internal and I have found my way to Germany. an opportunity and seizing the ones that external partners to drive strategic, Q: What motivated you to join the came our way. What was clear from the cross-divisional employee feedback and logistics industry? engagement initiatives that further beginning though was, we were, and are always open to new experiences. enhance and embed a positive, innovative, Daliyana: For many years, I’d wanted to and productive culture for employees in be a doctor. Then, a psychotherapist. Before moving abroad, we’d ruminate on the company. Funnily enough, today, I am neither. the decision together, balancing the opportunities and risks. But I’d found that My father was in the logistics industry, at the end of the day, our final decision and that was how I got my first gig. I’d was based on instinct as well – it had to stayed on as I found it fascinating. The feel right for us both, that a move could



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potentially bring personal and profesgrowth mindset, and constantly learning sional development to either or both of us. from both the situations and the people around us. We did not specifically move to Germany because of Germany per se – the job for Q: What’s a typical work day for you? which I had to move happened to be based in the headquarters in Bonn. I find that Daliyana: On weekdays, I’m usually up Germany is often underrated as a place to between 5am and 6am, which was never live in and this often surprises me. the case for me in my younger years – Germany is beauty and nature incarnate, I’d often seen myself as a night owl. After my yoga and meditation practice, and it’s an industrious and prosperous I usually connect with friends online, nation. Language challenges aside, it is a wonderful place to work and live in. especially those based in other countries. Staying connected with them is important to me; I suppose this is one of the reasons Q: What is it like working abroad? Is the working culture very different why I’m never homesick. from Singapore? Sometimes, I have breakfast; other times, Daliyana: While every nation has its I have it at work. At work, we’re often in own unique working culture, I’ve found team dialogues or project/topic meetings, that there is more that binds us than and sometimes I schedule in quiet time to differentiates us. Everyone just wants to hunker down on topics that require research and conceptualisation. get their work done; it’s just how the work is done that’s different from country to country. Lunch is often a highlight as I take the opportunity to catch up with work friends, and as much as possible, we try not to talk As a guest in any country, we need to be about work topics so we can give our open to a different way of working, then take on the role of an observer by looking brains a creative pause. If the weather is at how people behave and work in certain lovely, we often do walking meetings or take a walk in the park behind the office. situations, ensuring that we take on a 40 T H E K A R Y A W A N © ASSOCIATION OF MUSLIM PROFESSIONALS. PERMISSION IF REQUIRED FOR REPRODUCTION.

Some days can be longer than others, but I make sure I “switch off” entirely when I leave the office, making sure that I take the time to take in my surroundings, and be present with the people I’m with instead of thinking about an email or a meeting. Q: What are the best bits of your job? And what are the challenges? Daliyana: What I enjoy most at work are two things: people and challenges. I enjoy working with passionate, dedicated and intelligent people, and I enjoy a good challenge. I also love the international environment we have at work – many studies have found that the more diverse an organisation is, the better it is likely to perform. The challenges we face at my company are no different from the many challenges any large multinational organisation have to work with, but what’s important is how we solve problems creatively and respectfully in an effective manner with the people we work with.

Q: What do you like to do when you aren't working? Are there things that help you maintain a healthy work-life balance?

than we are at rejuvenating our own energy levels. Though we have a lot of fun at work, there are some things that I simply cannot do at work like stand-up paddling, kayaking and swimming, which Daliyana: It’s funny you should ask about I try to do a lot in the summer. What I like work-life balance – I don’t believe in the to do regularly, regardless of the season, idea of “work-life” being on a scale or are walking, reading, and simply chilling spectrum where one can measure how with my friends. Oh, and there’s nothing much one outweighs the other, or gauge if quite like a good Netflix show! they are evenly balanced. How could one possibly measure that quantitatively? Q: If you were to summarise the main skills, attributes or qualities for We spend so much time at work; work is your role in three words, what would part of life. I do not make a distinction they be? between “work” and “life”, and many of my colleagues are also my closest friends. Daliyana: I’d rephrase this to, if I were to We spend so much time at work; we must summarise the main attributes required enjoy what we do and build relationships for any of the roles I’d worked in, I’d say that are as meaningful at work as they this: resilience, creativity, and a growth are outside of the office environment, mindset. And if I’m allowed a fourth, and make time to explore who we are, empathy. what our interests are and pursue those beyond work. Q: What are your future plans? Do you plan to stay in this industry or continue In my case, the line between work and life working abroad? are also incredibly blurred. I teach yoga in my personal time, after office hours, and Daliyana: We remain open to all run mindfulness sessions in the office opportunities, whether they’re based as well. In this case, my personal interest overseas or in Singapore. As long as we are became a “job”, and I’d brought in my in jobs we can enjoy and bring value to, personal passion for mindfulness-based and can continue giving something back emotional intelligence into the workplace. to the societies we live in, we are in no hurry to move anywhere. We feel at home As long as we remain focused on what our anywhere. core values are and stay true to ourselves, the environment or situation we are in Q: What is your advice for the younger does not matter. If you have a verve for life, generation in our community who want if you can derive joy from meaningful to pursue a career abroad? connections, if you work hard for your goals, you can celebrate your achievements Daliyana: Stay open, and take calculated irrespective of whether these situations risks. It is better to try and fail or try and happen at the workplace or in your figure out something’s not for you, than to personal life. Our work lives enrich our have never tried at all. Great things have personal lives, and vice versa. never come from comfort zones. And when you do take the plunge, think about I do make sure that I intentionally what you can bring to the role, and how engineer two things into my life – rest you can give back to the society you’ll live and fun. You can only be at your best in. And never forget your roots – stay in when you are well-rested, when you’re touch with everyone who has helped you adequately “charged”. We are often better get to where you are. at charging our phones on a daily basis

Analyst at Nabilah Mohammad is a Research and the Centre for Research on Islamic Bachelor Malay Affairs (RIMA). She holds a ialist of Science in Psychology and a Spec g. Diploma in Statistics and Data Minin

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Notes After Terawih is a compilation of word sketches by Ziks. Her writings and sketches were based on her observation during her terawih prayers done in a single mosque. After deciding to perform her terawih prayers consistently one year, she recalls her experiences by documenting them on her phone before publishing them into a book. The cover of the book instantly catches your attention – a simple drawing of shoes and slippers mimics a familiar sight outside the entrance of any mosque during Friday and Eid prayers. That sense of familiarity upon seeing the cover of the book is also captured in her stories. The stories that Ziks narrates in her book are those that we would have either experienced ourselves, or have heard from our family members and friends at some point. It’s an insight into the Muslim community here in Singapore, in particular, during the holy month of Ramadhan. STORIES OF THE EVERYDAY MUSLIM In Notes After Terawih, Ziks shares her various experiences that would make a reader recall their own experience during terawih. It takes away the usual religious narratives but focuses on the human element of terawih. It highlights the time of the year where the Muslim community would gather, each member with his or her own colourful characteristics and quirks waiting to be told. It is the story of the everyday Singaporean Muslim, all gathered in congregation to worship their creator. Ziks writes about the nenek who lent her a brooch while she was feeling insecure about her scarf. She describes the comfort given by the old lady who leaned in closer and put her arm around her to hear better as a “comfort only neneks can give”, and instantly one can imagine the warmth of the grandmother, who eventually gave Ziks the brooch to keep. The reader would also feel the same warmth as Ziks tells her observation of a girl dressed in white who

hugged her mother before declaring that her mother was the best mother in the world.

she identifies her neighbours not by their names, but the flat level they were staying at – "Tingkat 6” (sixth storey) for example, before finding out that a little boy calls But beyond that, some of her stories also her “Tingkat 7” (seventh storey). Such remind us how the month is personal and stories would make the reader chuckle, spiritual to many – that it is a month and again would be a familiar experience many use to build a closer connection to to some of us, especially for those who God. The month, while filled with joy and live in HDB flats – neighbours are a happiness, is also filled with a sense of common sight but how many of us heaviness, especially for those seeking actually know their names? healing in silence. She writes in her experience meeting a woman who was CONCLUSION there for prayers as well: While Notes After Terawih served as a nice collection of short writings that will make “Her eyes were wet, and she was in no readers reminisce on their Ramadan, more way the composed person she was could be explored in her stories. There when she entered the room…” (p. 21) were many stories that would leave readers with more questions than answers. And in another story, she narrates of There were times after reading a story I another worshipper, found myself wondering if that was all to the story. Granted, her stories reflect the “Then, all of a sudden his voice broke. power structure of the Malay/Muslim That jolted me. He was breaking down.” community here in regards to gender (p. 22) especially, but this is not explored as much as it could be. Reading it makes Those short stories remind readers that me question if that’s the state of the regardless of age and gender, everyone community and if so, why, but readers comes to their creator with their own would unfortunately not get the answer. stories and carry their own silent heaviness Her stories often show the sense of in their hearts. comfort the community seeks through religion, but also shows that there might There are still more stories that would be a lack of support in the community – make readers realise how personal religion many times we see people crying during can be. Ziks shares her encounter where prayers and hoping to seek answers to she saw a man who looked familiar – it God, but we are reluctant to speak to turns out the man in songkok and baju them, because of a fear that we might kurung was the same man who had once intrude into their personal life. dressed up as sleazy fireman for a costume party. Many of us in the community There were stories that seemed would assume religion is absolute – that heartwarming at first, but later leads to someone who still believes in the faith has confusion – like the story of an active to dress a certain way or carry himself or little boy in the prayer section who was herself a certain way but often, we are there with the mother. At the end, it was wrong and that we don’t know what is in told that she heard the little boy call for a person’s heart. his father once prayers ended. Why was the boy not with his father? Why do little Her shared experiences go beyond just children usually stay with their mothers the terawih prayers. Writing about during prayers, and not with the father? the culture of exchanging food with Stories she wrote as amusing like that neighbours during Ramadhan, she shares isn’t uncommon, but it does make readers how, much to the annoyance of her father, JULY 2019




wonder at the issues of power and structures of hierarchy, especially in the context of gender in the community. It would have been interesting to read more of her critical perspectives in the stories she shares and the things she observes beyond mere observations and even romanticisation of prayer spaces and religion. However, Notes after Terawih is a good attempt by a new writer. It is a nice “feel-good book” that would make readers chuckle, smile and, at times, even reflect on the state of the community. The writing is not pretentious and there is plenty of code-switching between English and Malay that would make most of us feel right at home. The stories are relatable, reflecting experiences and realities that many of us would have gone through, bringing a sense of familiarity to the reader, but at the same time, the stories linger in our minds long after the pages have been turned, and we wonder what happened to the people in Ziks’ stories long after terawih prayers are over. The writing is straightforward and it would make for a good read before the next Ramadhan, helping to get us excited not only for the terawih prayers, but for the opportunity to build a sense of community during the holy month.

Mysara Aljaru is a Master’s candidate in the Department of Malay Studies in National University of Singapore. Prior to this, she was a journalist and producer with local mainstream media. Her writings have also been published in Growing Up Perempuan and Budi Kritik.


Her stories often show the sense of comfort the community seeks through religion, but also shows that there might be a lack of support in the community – many times we see people crying during prayers and hoping to seek answers to God, but we are reluctant to speak to them, because of a fear that we might intrude into their personal life.





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