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PUBLISHED BY: AMP • VOLUME 14 ISSUE 4 • OCTOBER 2019 • MCI (P) NO: 029/06/2019 • ISSN NO: 0218-7434

National Day Rally Speech 2019: The Goodies and the Problems


CONTENTS OCTOBER 2019

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EDITORIAL BOARD

FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK COVER STORY National Day Rally Speech 2019: The Goodies and the Problems by Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim What is the Foundation of Singapore’s Education Policy? by Dr Nadira Talib Developing a New Generation of Asatizah by Muhammad Faris Alfiq “This is the Choice I Made”: Lived Experiences of Malay Women Staying in an Abusive Marriage by Nurshirah Tabrani

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Mothering Solo – Unwed Mothers in the Malay/Muslim Community by Nabilah Mohammad

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After ‘K. Muthusamy’ by Darren Mak

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The Ideal Muslim Woman by Ameera Begum

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“Thomas Stamford Raffles: Schemer or Reformer” and Singapore’s Bicentennial by Imad Alatas

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Different Uses of the Terrorist Label by Dr Mohammed Ilyas

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Taking That Leap Abroad – Nurlina Awaludin by Nur Diyana Jalil

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Book Review: Alfian Sa’at Collected Plays Three by Mysara Aljaru

SUPERVISING EDITOR Dr Md Badrun Nafis Saion EDITOR Mohd Anuar Yusop EDITORIAL TEAM Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim Nabilah Mohammad 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 corporate@amp.org.sg

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

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Does Workplace Tyranny Exist? by Maisarah Dasukie

editorial board. © AMP Singapore. 2019. All rights reserved. Permission is required for reproduction.

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The Power of Ideas: POFMA in Perspective by Abdul Hakeem Akbar Ali


FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK

Against the backdrop of the Singapore Bicentennial, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong unveiled his plans for Singapore’s future in his National Day Rally speech this year. Whilst noting the nation’s progress through the years, PM Lee also highlighted the imminent challenges facing Singapore in years to come. These include US-China tensions, which could impact Singapore’s economy and relations with the two countries, and at a larger scale, the global issue of climate change, which will see Singapore being adversely affected by it if we do not take action now. In his speech, PM Lee said the way to deal with climate change is in these three ways: understand, mitigate, and adapt to climate change. PM Lee also spoke at length about making education more affordable and accessible at the preschool and tertiary levels. Additionally, he touched on raising the retirement age from 62 to 65 and re-employment age from 67 to 70, while increasing CPF contributions for older workers, in order to help these workers continue working should they choose to. Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim outlined the issues raised during the Rally and their implications in his article on Page 5. There is still much to be discussed about what these changes will mean for Singaporeans, particularly the Malay/Muslim community. I hope that this issue will spark off a discussion among our readers on what lies ahead for Singapore and how we can contribute to the development of our nation.

DR MD BADRUN NAFIS SAION SUPERVISING EDITOR


What is the Foundation of Singapore’s Education Policy? BY DR NADIRA TALIB

The Report on the Ministry of Education 1978 or the Goh report, endorsed by parliament on 30 March 1979, was the first to propose an explicit form of ability-based streaming. It is underpinned by the ‘fundamental belief’ that ability grouping is responsive to learners’ diverse capacities and would better fulfil their ‘inherent potential’ (Ng, 2008, n.p.). The education system externalises at the level of this belief. That is, this central belief system creates the conditions of life, to which we structure our lives around. IS THE PROBLEM OF INEQUALITY IN POLICY? Recently published in the Journal of Language and Politics, the article, “Creating the conditions for human division and structural inequality: The foundation of Singapore’s education policy” proposes a 02 T H E K A R Y A W A N © ASSOCIATION OF MUSLIM PROFESSIONALS. PERMISSION IF REQUIRED FOR REPRODUCTION.

philosophical and analytical synthesis for identifying the conditions that were created through the 1979 policy report to legitimise Singapore’s streaming education system. The aim here is to make transparent these conditions through systematically exposing the underpinning assumptions upon which the streaming system is built on using Critical Discourse Analysis. As the legitimation of structural reforms is contingent on the assumptions that are operating, making explicit the hidden assumptions embedded in policy proposals and propositions is a necessary, critical step needed to tackle structural inequality. The legitimacy of these assumptions has to be demonstrated by those who made the claims, failing which the structural reforms that were built upon these assumptions should be dismantled (cf. Chomsky, 2013, p. 110).

MAKING TRANSPARENT THE IMPLICIT ASSUMPTIONS EMBEDDED IN THE 1979 MOE REPORT The following analysis of an extract from the 1979 Ministry of Education (MOE) report focuses on how a certain segment of the student population, constructed as ‘failures’ are associated with the inability to perform within the prescribed educational system. Extract, MOE, 1979, ‘An Overview of the Problem, Fast and Slow Learners’: Educationists and others who oppose streaming of children according to their ability to absorb instruction often forget that the final result could be even more cruel to the children who do not make the grade and suffer repeated failures. The end product


would have lost self-confidence, self-esteem and developed a host of character defects produced by feelings of inadequacy. It is far better that these children leave school literate in one language. Since they are not exposed to competition from brighter children in classes, there is less danger of loss of self-esteem. (MOE, 1979, p.1–4) In the extract, students “who do not make the grade”, are repeatedly associated with an inability to perform within the prescribed educational system with the words “do not make the grade” and “suffer repeated failures”. Further, when they are “exposed to competition from brighter children”, they suffer from a loss of “self-confidence, self-esteem” and develop “a host of character defects produced by feelings of inadequacy”. The overall effect is one that constitutes the primary categorisation of these students as possessing all these undesirable traits. Through this discursive strategy, policymakers are not just giving their views about “children who do not make the grade” they are formulating and constructing the very nature of these children through personalisation. By properly classifying the child, they can then be referred to the ‘appropriate’ stream, which allows for specialised treatment to avoid “feelings of inadequacy”. The concept of streaming in the ensuing discourse introduces a ‘mild’ form of justified exclusion by pointing to the necessity for differentiated instruction. This necessity is formulated through claims of deficiency. The claim, “Since they are not exposed to competition from brighter children in classes, there is less danger of loss of self-esteem”, reduces complex social and educational inequalities to a lack of innate learning capacity and poor sense of self. That is, the ‘deficiencies’ of these children would be accentuated should they be educated alongside the brighter children. It is assumed that since they are susceptible to failure when exposed to successful children, it falls to the policymakers to intervene on their behalf for their own realistic educational horizons and personal psychological health. Despite in some sense appearing to reinstate a concern for the learner, the failure of the individual, and not the

operationalisation of the system, is constructed as the crux of the problem. Fundamentally, that these assertions or causal link of factors to performance of ‘slow learners’ are assumed rather than supported by empirical evidence makes the education system vulnerable to arbitrary rule. WHAT IS THE FUNDAMENTAL ORGANISING PRINCIPLE UNDERPINNING SUBJECT-BASED BANDING? The MOE recently introduced subject-based banding system in secondary schools. As reported in a Straits Times article titled Subject-based banding to replace streaming in schools dated 6 March 2019,

THE NEED TO OVERCOME THE CONDITIONING OF BELIEF There is a need to examine the implicit assumptions underpinning policy discourse if we are to overcome the conditioning of the ‘fundamental belief that students had varying learning ability, and would therefore be better off being grouped together to learn at their appropriate pace’ (Ng, 2008, n.p). Is this assessment of how students learn the way things really are, that we should continue to act on the basis of this assessment which was from the past? Asking fundamental questions that problematise or challenge this often taken-for-granted or “naturalised” idea are thus crucial in disrupting its continuum. If we seek to advance right away a new profile or formula of the future of the education system without thoroughly examining all the assumptions underpinning historical policy discourse, we run the risk of letting them be reproduced and sustained in subsequent policies. Isn’t there a risk that we may be led into error?

All Secondary 1 students in the 2024 batch will take subjects at three levels G1, G2 or G3, with G standing for “General”. G1 will roughly correspond to today's N(T) standard, G2 to N(A) standard and G3 to Express standard... MOE will develop new admission criteria for students going to junior Currently, the assumptions behind the college, polytechnic, and ITE. These will take effect in 2028 (Davie, 2019, n.p). 1979 MOE report need examining as the assertions or causal link of factors linked to students’ performance are mostly However, how subject-based banding comprising a tripartite system of G1, G2 or assumed rather than supported by empirical evidence. For instance, the G3, is a different system from the current institutionalised form of streaming remains analysis of the 1979 MOE report revealed to be seen, as it may still be underpinned by the way a deficit view of students as failures was constructed and where the the ‘fundamental belief that students had segregation from other children is framed varying learning ability, and would as necessary to avoid exposing them to therefore be better off being grouped together to learn at their appropriate pace’ “competition from brighter children”. But to assume that there is “less danger of loss (Ng, 2008, n.p). If this is the case, subject-based banding can be conceived as of self-esteem” since they are not “exposed a superficial change of streaming. It is not a to competition from brighter children” radical replacement, but merely a modified needs to be examined. Important continuity of what has been, as students are questions regarding the assumption on which streaming is said to be based is that still fundamentally grouped according to “slow learners” develop more positive their ‘learning ability’. Why this form of grouping is adopted, however, is not made attitudes about themselves when they do clear. The burden of proof in choosing this not have to face daily a classroom approach rests with those who propose the populated by those who are judged to be idea (cf. Watts, 1951, p.18). Have we taken brighter must be raised (cf. Oakes, 2005, p. 196). Whether this pessimism is justified for granted the assumption or perhaps, and more importantly, how have we been remains to be seen. conditioned to accept that we should adapt The crucial criteria underlying the our curriculum according to seemingly judgements about students’ educability self-evident notions about the ‘learning are still unexplored, and this is disconcertability’ of our students—a judgement ing given that Oakes (2005, p. 191) argues made based on the students’ standardised that ‘tracking does not appear to be test scores or performance? Under what related to either increasing academic conditions was this value judgement achievement or promoting positive devised?

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Asking fundamental questions that problematise or challenge this often taken-for-granted or “naturalised” idea are thus crucial in disrupting its continuum. If we seek to advance right away a new profile or formula of the future of the education system without thoroughly examining all the assumptions underpinning historical policy discourse, we run the risk of letting them be reproduced and sustained in subsequent policies. Isn’t there a risk that we may be led into error? attitudes and behaviours. Poor and minority students seem to have suffered most from tracking – and these are the very students on whom so many educational hopes are pinned’. The decision made in the 1979 MOE report that reduced academic is appropriate for students deemed ‘less academically inclined’1 may not be a result of critical and compassionate inquiry, but rather would most often result from unquestioned responses (cf. Oakes, 2005, p. 193). In this light, this article is best approached with a willingness to examine the soundness of our world views of how we educate our children, including those we hold most dear. And much may be at stake. But herein also lies an opportunity to promote broad-ranging research into the “Singapore model” and become pioneers for addressing challenges associated with inequality pertinent for similar economies.

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ng a on developi lib focuses al ic ph so Dr Nadira Ta ilo nthesising ph analysis in method of sy rse with discou ns io at er able to have delib policies to be itions that al ci so g in nd co analys e th of g tandin the some unders questioning existence. In divide human govern our d separate an centres systems that r, her work from anothe e on e gs th in to be ring al g how adhe listic politic on examinin ds of surrea an m de d ve in the ith w percei ed at ic are imbr economies d ethics. morality an relations of

THIS TERM WAS USED BY MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, ONG YE KUNG AT THE SCHOOLS WORK PLAN SEMINAR ON 28 SEPTEMBER 2018 IN RELATION TO THE CURRENT SCHOOL CURRICULUM WHICH ‘CATERS TO STUDENTS OF DIFFERENT LEARNING PACES AND LEARNING NEEDS’ (ONG, 2018, N.P). REFERENCES: DAVIE, S. (2019). SUBJECT-BASED BANDING TO REPLACE STREAMING IN SCHOOLS (2019, MARCH 6). THE STRAITS TIMES. ACCESSED MARCH 7, 2019. HTTPS://WWW.STRAITSTIMES.COM/SINGAPORE/EDUCATION/SUBJECT-BASED-BANDING-TO-REPLACE-STREAMING-IN-SCHOOLS MINISTRY OF EDUCATION. (1979). REPORT ON THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION 1978, PREPARED BY GOH KENG SWEE AND THE EDUCATION STUDY TEAM. SINGAPORE: SINGAPORE NATIONAL PRINTERS. NG, (2008). EDUCATING THE NEXT GENERATION. SPEECH BY DR NG ENG HEN, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND SECOND MINISTER FOR DEFENCE, AT THE 4TH ANNIVERSARY PUBLIC LECTURE AT THE LEE KUAN YEW SCHOOL OF PUBLIC POLICY, 14 AUGUST. ACCESSED MAY 15, 2018. HTTP://WWW.NAS.GOV.SG/ARCHIVESONLINE/DATA/PDFDOC/20080814992.PDF OAKES, J. (2005). KEEPING TRACK: HOW SCHOOLS STRUCTURE INEQUALITY. NEW HAVEN, CONN: YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS. ONG, Y.K. (2018). OPENING ADDRESS BY MR ONG YE KUNG, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, AT THE SCHOOLS WORK PLAN SEMINAR ON 28 SEPTEMBER 2018. ACCESSED JAN 15, 2019. HTTPS://WWW.MOE.GOV.SG/NEWS/SPEECHES/OPENING-ADDRESS-BY-MR-ONG-YE-KUNG-MINISTER-FOR-EDUCATION--AT-THE-SCHOOLS-WORK-PLAN-SEMINAR WATTS, A.W. (1951). THE WISDOM OF INSECURITY. NEW YORK: PANTHEON BOOKS.

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National Day Rally Speech 2019: The Goodies and the Problems

BY ABDUL SHARIFF ABOO KASSIM

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Prime Minister (PM) Lee Hsien Loong delivered his seventh consecutive National Day Rally (NDR) speech this year at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College Central. The annual speech was moved to the present venue in 2013 after nine years at the National University of Singapore's University Cultural Centre, underscoring PM Lee’s “longstanding commitment to investing in every Singaporean to his full potential” and to emphasise that “Singapore is at a turning point”. Since the 2013 rally speech and in every subsequent one, Mr Lee appears to have lived up to his promise, touching on a range of issues of concern to the nation and the average Singaporean – preschool, diabetes, cost of living, lease issues of Housing Development Board flats and incentives for the elderly.

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, during a speech in Parliament in July last year, spoke about two paradoxes, one which has to do with meritocracy. The first generation of Singaporeans, he said, were mostly students from similar backgrounds, in the case of his school classmates, mainly humble ones. Meritocracy uplifted many families over the decades, who in turn “spare[d] no effort investing in the next generation, including enrichment classes from a very young age”. He added, "Unlike the first generation of Singaporeans where students are mostly from humble backgrounds, the next generation is pushing off blocks from different starting points, with students from affluent families having a head start.”

Mr Ong’s assessment is arguably more reflective of the realities of education in Singapore – affluent families have a head The goodies announced in 2019 included start. Starting points matter and poorer those targeting the lower-income groups – students will require considerable family making preschool more affordable and community resources to catch up and calibrating the cost of higher from a lower starting point. education to make it more accessible to the lower-income. While some from disadvantaged backgrounds may shine – such as Raising retirement and re-employment 27-year-old former Normal (Academic) age is a pertinent topic as, increasingly, student and Public Service Commission fewer among older workers can afford to scholarship recipient, Zulhaqem Zulkifli, retire or, as some would argue, prefer to who once spent months sleeping in the continue working. void deck – statistically, those from poorer backgrounds have relatively low educational The 2019 speech also marked a milestone: attainments. Mr Lee’s speech raised an issue, the significance of which may not yet have The Organisation for Economic Cooperaregistered in the minds of many Singapore- tion and Development’s (OECD) report, ans – climate change. Singaporeans are Equity in Education: Breaking Down Barriers hearing that its effects are already at their to Social Mobility, while indicating high doorstep. upward educational mobility and narrowing of education attainment gap PRESCHOOL due to family background, also revealed PM Lee’s point “that anyone who works that, in 2015, 46% of socioeconomically hard will have a chance to succeed, disadvantaged students1 in Singapore regardless of starting point or family were attending disadvantaged schools2, background” is debatable. This is because, up from 41% in 20093. even amongst the poor, the climb out of the vicious cycle of adverse socioeconomic Making preschool more affordable is one of the important steps in levelling the outcomes for some is steeper than for starting points and tempering inequity others. A meritocratic system, in today’s context, may not necessarily mitigate the in education in the longer term. The disadvantages of those in the lowest rungs government gave the preschool sector a major boost – doubling full-day preschool of the socioeconomic ladder.

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capacity to almost 180,000 places; upgrading the preschools; setting up Ministry of Education (MOE) Kindergartens; giving preschool teachers better training and career progression; and, now, making preschool more affordable. With better training for teachers and more resources, it is hoped that schools can develop initiatives to identify learning issues at an early stage and address problems such as irregular attendance and long-term absenteeism. POST-SECONDARY EDUCATION Another announcement pertaining to education is about fees and bursary adjustments to make post-secondary education more accessible, in particular for students from low-income households. There are different typologies among post-secondary students, such as those who have their minds set on getting a university degree; those whose aspirations are tempered by their socioeconomic circumstances; hands-on and experiential learners who prefer learning as they earn; and those inclined towards the arts. The pathways they pursue are different. It is heartening to note that the enhancements will be across the board to include Institute of Technical Education (ITE), universities, polytechnics, and even Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and LASALLE College of the Arts. However, whether the enhancements will cater to the needs of the different typologies warrants further studying. Among students graduating with a National ITE Certificate (NITEC), Higher NITEC or polytechnic diploma, those from poorer backgrounds may opt to enter the workforce early as they do not want to be a burden to their family. Ms R Abirami, who TODAY interviewed in November last year, is an example. In 2014, the then-21-year old opted to pursue her undergraduate studies part-time at the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) after finishing her polytechnic diploma as she did not want to further burden her father’s finances. MOE will now lower the annual fees for full-time general degree programmes in SUSS, from

SOCIO-ECONOMICALLY DISADVANTAGED STUDENTS ARE THOSE WHOSE VALUE ON THE PISA INDEX OF ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL STATUS (ESCS) IS AMONG THE BOTTOM 25% OF STUDENTS WITHIN THEIR COUNTRY OR ECONOMY 2 DISADVANTAGED SCHOOLS ARE THOSE WHERE THE SHARE OF STUDENTS WITH TERTIARY-EDUCATED PARENTS IS IN THE BOTTOM QUARTER OF THE NATIONAL DISTRIBUTION. 3 OECD (2018), EQUITY IN EDUCATION: BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS TO SOCIAL MOBILITY, PISA, OECD PUBLISHING, PARIS. HTTPS://DOI.ORG/10.1787/9789264073234-EN, PP 123 (TABLE 4.1)

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RETIREMENT AND RE-EMPLOYMENT AGE PM Lee also announced that the retirement age will be raised from 62 to 63; and re-employment age from 67 to 68 in 2022 at the NDR. By 2030, these will be 65 and 70 respectively. What the retirement and re-employment age means, taking into account the 2022 scenario, is that an employer cannot ask an employee, who is a citizen or permanent resident, to retire before 63 years of age and must offer re-employment to eligible employees who turn 63, up to age 68, to continue their Mr Mohammad Helmi shared with TODAY last November about missing out employment in the organisation. If an on opportunities while at university, such employee is eligible for re-employment but his or her employer is unable to offer a as study missions and overseas activities position, then the employer must transfer that required upfront payment. Eligible the re-employment obligation to another students will be provided financial help employer, with his or her agreement, or but have to first pay out of their own offer a one-off Employment Assistance pockets and are reimbursed later, Payment (EAP). something Helmi could not afford. Revision to university fees and bursary The raising of retirement age is a will hopefully help students from low-income households to channel some much-needed revision, considering that Singapore’s life expectancy at birth, as at funds towards opportunities that can enhance their future career prospects and 2017, is 84.8 years, significantly greater not forced to forgo them as Helmi had to. than it was in 1990 (76.1 years)4. The share of those aged 60 and over in the resident In his 2014 NDR speech PM Lee proposed, labour force rose substantially from 6.1% in 2007 to 14% in 2017. The median age of residents in the labour force rose from 41 “Do not go on a paper chase for years in 2007 to 43 years in 20175. qualifications or degrees, especially if they are not relevant because Moreover, the healthy life expectancy has pathways and opportunities to risen from 67.1 years in 1990 to 74.2 in upgrade and to get better qualifications 2017, which roughly means that one is will remain open throughout your able to work till 74 years of age before the career. It is never the last chance. You onset of a disability, assuming it occurs always have the possibility to advance, towards the end of one’s life. to improve yourself, to take another step as long as you are working, as In spite of the realities, not all stakeholders long as your mind remains fresh and are supportive of raising the retirement active and you dare to go.” age. In January 20176, then-Minister of Manpower, Lim Swee Say, shared in For those heeding PM Lee’s call, thus Parliament, in response to a question starting their careers immediately after raised about increasing the retirement age, obtaining their NITEC or polytechnic diploma, there should be added support to that the tripartite partners (comprising the government, unions and employers) are help them upgrade, at least up to the concerned about the impact of increasing undergraduate level. The government may wish to consider calibrating subsidies retirement age on businesses; and the career progression of younger workers and bursaries according to their current income from work and, if not administra- since the older ones will be holding on to higher positions longer. These objections tively cumbersome, relevance of had then prevented the government from programme pursued to their current raising the retirement age beyond 62. career progression. around $8,000 to $7,500. In addition to this, the government will increase bursaries, from up to 50% of general degree fees today to up to 75%. This could mean that a lower-income student would pay only around half of, say, general degree fees of $8,000. If she uses her bursary fully to her fees and, with enhanced bursary, she pays only $2,000 per year. Ms Abirami missed out on this but was nevertheless happy with what she has accomplished.

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The raising of retirement age is a much-needed revision, considering that Singapore’s life expectancy at birth, as at 2017, is 84.8 years, significantly greater than it was in 1990 (76.1 years). The share of those aged 60 and over in the resident labour force rose substantially from 6.1% in 2007 to 14% in 2017. The median age of residents in the labour force rose from 41 years in 2007 to 43 years in 2017.

EPIDEMIOLOGY & DISEASE CONTROL DIVISION, MINISTRY OF HEALTH, SINGAPORE; INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH METRICS AND EVALUATION. THE BURDEN OF DISEASE IN SINGAPORE, 1990–2017: AN OVERVIEW OF THE GLOBAL BURDEN OF DISEASE STUDY 2017 RESULTS. SEATTLE, WA: IHME, 2019. MANPOWER RESEARCH AND STATISTICS DEPARTMENT, MINISTRY OF MANPOWER, SINGAPORE. LABOUR FORCE IN SINGAPORE 2017. SINGAPORE, 2017, 5. THERE WAS A PARLIAMENTARY DEBATE ON 9 JANUARY 2017 FOLLOWING THE SECOND READING OF THE RETIREMENT AND RE-EMPLOYMENT (AMENDMENT) BILL. THE DETAILS ARE RETRIEVED FROM HANSARD.

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Now that the retirement age has been increased, along with the hike in CPF contribution rates for older workers, there are concerns about whether employers facing cost pressures will resort to unethical ways to circumvent the obligation of keeping an ageing worker till 63 and offering re-employment till 68. For example, the employer could deliberately give an employee a poor performance appraisal as proof of ineligibility for re-employment; or conjuring up a case for resorting to the EAP.

Moreover, following up in Parliament, Second Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong said that funding this astronomical figure could come from a combination of sources – borrowing, reserves and ministry budgets. Such messages should convince pragmatists that environmental activists have a pressing cause and that advocacy should not always be viewed as ‘troublemaking’.

The issue of climate change presents an opportunity for a society hardened by competitiveness to nurture commitment For businesses, there is the Special and care towards common good. As it Employment Credit (SEC) scheme that stands now, such values are apparently provides age-tiered wage offsets of up to lacking. In 2013, a public perception 8% for companies to hire older workers survey by the National Climate Change aged above 55 and earning up to $4,000 a Secretariat involving 1,000 respondents month. In 2015, an additional 3% of SEC, showed that about seven in ten people known as ASEC, was announced. were concerned about climate change. However, SEC and ASEC will last only However, it did not translate into action. until the end of 2020 unless it is extended Singapore lags behind many countries in again, as it was in 2016 for three years. If areas such as recycling. Figures the SEC and ASEC are not extended after from the Organisation for 2020, employers may find it a disincentive Economic to keep older workers until retirement Cooperation and to re-employ them.

and Development (OECD) revealed that Singapore’s domestic recycling rate of 21% is well below Taiwan’s household recycling rate (55%); and South Korea’s and Germany’s municipal waste recycling rate of 59% and 64% respectively. The apathy towards climate change is something to be concerned about as it reflects the values held by society, which have longer term implications. Climate change is but just one of the major challenges Singapore is bracing itself for. The onslaught of an ageing population is another impending challenge that requires collective effort of society to tackle.

Mr Lim had said then that the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices is at hand to watch the human resource practices of companies against which complaints have been lodged. In reality, however, it has always been a challenge for workers to take on employers because of the pro-business climate which aims to help companies grow and thrive in the future economy. A mix of education, especially to banish ageism, and incentives such as wage offsets are needed to sustain the employability of older workers. REALITY OF CLIMATE CHANGE HITS HOME Finally, what sets this year’s NDR speech apart from previous ones is that it touched on climate change, a subject more often broached by environmental activists than policymakers. It is somewhat a departure from the usual economic and policy matters, and bread and butter issues covered in NDR speeches. When PM Lee spoke about climate change, it probably helped that he assigned a figure to what it may cost Singaporeans over the next 100 years to tackle climate change and rising sea levels – $100 billion. 08 T H E K A R Y A W A N © ASSOCIATION OF MUSLIM PROFESSIONALS. PERMISSION IF REQUIRED FOR REPRODUCTION.

cher/ is a Resear Aboo Kassim for Abdul Shariff nator with the Centre ordi irs Co fa ts Af ec ay oj Pr Mal Islamic and iary of AMP. Research on arch subsid se re e th , (RIMA)


Developing a New Generation of Asatizah BY MUHAMMAD FARIS ALFIQ OCTOBER 2019

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The asatizah community in Singapore is one that is well-regarded by the Muslim community here. Asatizah, is the plural form of Ustaz or Ustazah in Arabic, and generally refers to Islamic religious teachers. Their purpose is to provide religious knowledge and guidance to the Muslim community. The contributions of the asatizah are not new in Singapore. In fact, as we commemorate the bicentennial anniversary of Raffles landing in Singapore, it is important to note that the asatizah have been contributing to Singapore’s Muslim community even before that. Several asatizah became prominent within the community over the years, such as the likes of Syed Sheikh Al-Hady, Syed Taha Suhaimi, Syed Abdillah al-Jufri as well as Ustaz Ahmad Sonhadji. They have all contributed to various fields of religious knowledge in Singapore – from fiqh (jurisprudence), tafsir (exegesis) as well as modernising religious education. While these scholars remain intellectual Muslim icons for the Singapore Muslim community, the question is then what are the roles of the asatizah now given the progress of the Singapore Muslim community over the years and the current complexities that entangle the Muslim population? This question seemed to be answered by Prime Minister (PM) Lee Hsien Loong in his Malay National Day Rally Speech. In it, he highlighted Ustaz Zahid Zin, Chief Executive Officer of Muslim Youth Forum, as a ‘role model’ for the asatizah to emulate. PM Lee outlined several traits of Ustaz Zahid that are beneficial for the asatizah community: (1) a fresh pedagogy on religion, (2) inclusive religious outlook in a multi-religious society and (3) active participation in communal- and national -level activities1. While these traits are essential to develop more inclusive and moderate asatizah in Singapore’s context, they do not, however, give a clear definition of the roles that the asatizah should play. This, perhaps, can be 1

Alatas also mentioned that by acknowledging the “new”, it does not mean to discredit the “old”. Each generation of asatizah contributed in one way or another to the community. However, due to the Beyond that, I argue that there needs to be complexities and changing landscape of a clear and conscious decision to develop a the Muslim community in Singapore, this new generation of asatizah who are more newer approach seems to be in line with the context we are living in today. aware of the nuances within the Muslim This also means that the demand for the community and acknowledge their position in giving out religious guidance. future asatizah would be different from the New Asatizah as proposed now. WHO ARE THESE NEW ASATIZAH? This new generation of asatizah are whom CONTEXTUALISING RELIGIOUS THOUGHT I would refer to as the “New Asatizah,” The application of this non-parochial adapted from the concept of the “New worldview can be applied to some of the Malay” developed by the late Professor more concerning problems affecting the Syed Hussein Alatas in his speech titled community. Recently, the discussion The New Malay: His Role and Future3. surrounding mental health has been on the rise. This is especially so within the In his speech, he mentioned the traits of this “New Malay” in terms of religiosity as Muslim circles around the world. “not [to] have a limited, restrictive and Several asatizah have made an important narrow-minded concept of religion”4. note, which is to refer to a mental health specialist if one is suspected to be having Using his idea on the New Malays, it is mental health issues; it is not in the then possible to transpose it to the New asatizah’s area of expertise to comment or Asatizah. Thus, developing the New diagnose mental health problems. Asatizah is then to develop a group of religious scholars who are not parochial Thus, this ability to distinguish between in their worldview towards religion and use sociological lenses in analysing issues a religious and a non-religious problem is a step forward for the asatizah. In this case, and problems faced by the Muslim community in Singapore. Hence, this is to acknowledging that mental health is not say that the New Asatizah would then not a religious issue is an example of how the New Asatizah should deal with such use religion as a tool to solve all of the matters. This would be a departure from problems faced by the community. He or how mental health issues used to be she must acknowledge the structures, commonly perceived – that it is a disease power relations and other sociological of the heart caused by a lack of iman or models that cause the problem and that faith in God – because those misconceptions the solution is also in line with the place the causes of mental health squarely problems identified. within the religious domain. It is also important to note that the term New Asatizah should not be confined only This rational understanding and non-parochial view of religion can be to the outward appearance of asatizah, applied to other fields as well – marriage, by their ability to master the English language in religious discourse nor their financial issues as well as scientific issues. capabilities in reaching out to the masses In fact, this thought process has been introduced and applied in the fatwa by using new media. However, this (Islamic legal ruling)-making body in generation of New Asatizah is defined by Singapore when faced with a problem or their fresh religious outlook yet are grounded in local knowledge and context. an issue that requires non-religious bases to find a solution5. made clearer after the Committee of Future Asatizah (COFA), chaired by Senior Minister of State Dr Maliki Osman, submits their recommendations2.

FULL TEXT OF THE NATIONAL DAY RALLY 2019 (IN MALAY) CAN BE FOUND HERE: HTTPS://WWW.CHANNELNEWSASIA.COM/NEWS/SINGAPORE/NATIONAL-DAY-RALLY-2019-MALAY-SPEECH-IN-FULL-11819990 2 COFA IS A PUBLIC CONSULTATION AND ENGAGEMENT TO DETERMINE HOW TO DEVELOP THE ASATIZAH PROFESSIONALLY. FROM HTTPS://WWW.CHANNELNEWSASIA.COM/NEWS/SINGAPORE/MADRASAHS-TO-BE-STRENGTHENED-HOLISTICALLY-TO-DEVELOP-ISLAMIC-11323932 3 ALATAS, H. (1996). THE NEW MALAY: HIS ROLE AND FUTURE. SINGAPORE: ASSOCIATION OF MUSLIM PROFESSIONALS. 4 IBID 5 ABDELGAFAR, B., & HASSAN, M. H. (2018). THRIVING IN A PLURAL WORLD: PRINCIPLES AND VALUES OF THE SINGAPORE MUSLIM COMMUNITY. SINGAPORE: MUIS ACADEMY.

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It is then hoped the other asatizah can Thus, this ability to follow this rational, universal and nonway of thinking and looking into distinguish between parochial issues so as to develop a multidisciplinary a religious and a non- approach in understanding religion. religious problem is a What I mean by multidisciplinary here does not refer to the asatizah needing to step forward for the have an expertise on sociological theories of Weber, Durkheim or Foucalt. What is asatizah. In this case, meant by multidisciplinary is that they should understand that the cause of a acknowledging that particular problem can go beyond the mental health is not realm of the sacred. ASATIZAH AS PUBLIC INTELLECTUALS a religious issue is On top of the traits highlighted by PM Lee, these New Asatizah would then be a force an example of how in thought leadership within the Muslim community, and at the same time elevate the New Asatizah themselves in the eyes of others. This then mean that the New Asatizah should deal with such would would possess the capacity to be public matters. This would intellectuals. be a departure from An intellectual, according to Prof Syed Hussein Alatas in his book Intellectuals in how mental health Developing Societies, is someone who is able to (1) pose a problem, (2) define a problem, issues used to be (3) give a thorough analysis of a problem lastly (4) give a solution to the commonly perceived – and problem . Armed with these abilities, the Asatizah would then be able to reach that it is a disease of New the level of an intellectual according to as “it is a vital condition for the heart caused by a Alatas nation-building” . lack of iman or faith Hence, with higher expectations of the new asatizah, this will elevate quality or in God – because level of discourse and produce even more those misconceptions intellectuals in the community wellversed in not just religious issues but also issues critical to the development of the place the causes Muslim community in Singapore and of mental health develop a community of intellectuals much like Singapore Muslim intellectuals squarely within the of the past. religious domain. 6

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ch esear is a R rch on iq lf A a e is d Far tre for Res A). He mma Muha at the Cen ffairs (RIM Islam in t n s yA Analy and Mala iscourse o esia, d ic e m h t la Indon tical Is in d n s a e li s li sia nd po Malay specia ore, Malay law, a of Arts in ic p a m g r la lo Is Sin e f f h o o c Ba sity logy socio He holds a nal Univer . io Islam from Nat s Studie ore (NUS). p Singa 6 7

ALATAS, S. H. (1977). INTELLECTUALS IN DEVELOPING SOCIETIES. LONDON: F. CASS. IBID

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“This is the Choice I Made”: Lived Experiences of Malay Women Staying in an Abusive Marriage BY NURSHIRAH TABRANI 12 T H E K A R Y A W A N © ASSOCIATION OF MUSLIM PROFESSIONALS. PERMISSION IF REQUIRED FOR REPRODUCTION.


Singapore society is plagued with incidences of intimate partner violence (IPV)1. From 2012 to 2018, more than 70% of those who filed for Personal Protection Order (PPO) or Expedited Order (EO) or Domestic Exclusion Order (DEO) in Singapore are women2. However, we rarely hear women’s voices going through an abusive marriage. The lack of women’s narratives limits our understanding on the reasons they choose to remain in an abusive marriage. In order to capture the narratives of Malay women who have faced IPV, I conducted in-depth interviews with three Malay women: Siti, Nurin and Farah (not their real names). Siti, a diploma holder in her late 40s, has two daughters aged 9 and 12. She got married in 2003 and stayed in the marriage for 12 years before leaving her ex-husband in 2015. Her divorce proceedings have been ongoing for four years and as of now, remain incomplete. At the age of 38, Nurin, an ITE graduate, is a mother of two daughters aged 9 and 17. She had been with her ex-husband since 2004 and they got married in 2008. It was only recently that their divorce was finalised after much struggles with the Syariah Court. An N-level graduate, Farah is 33 years old and has a son aged 7. She is currently unemployed and is hoping to proceed with divorce after getting a job. She had been married for seven years before separating from her husband in 2018.

this has influenced women to remain in abusive relationships to preserve the family unit. Divorces are read as ‘broken marriages’, making the family ‘abnormal’ thereby not ‘ideal’3. Additionally, marriage is seen as a personal choice, and individualises failure of married couples to handle marital issues like IPV. Many women find it difficult to disclose abuse and seek help because of the perception that, because she had chosen to marry the abuser, she must therefore deal with the accompanying difficulties. Nurin shared, “All my friends disagree when I am with him. Slowly one by one they just walked away silently. Because this is the choice I made, I cannot blame anybody so whatever, I just swallow.” IPV is perceived as a domestic matter that should be resolved privately without external interventions. Additionally, discourse on family and marriage as propagated at the national and community levels constrains women’s choices to leave her abusive marriage, forcing her to confront issues of IPV alone. PERCEPTIONS OF FAMILY AND SPOUSAL RELATIONS Siti, Nurin and Farah indicated that their expectations of marriage entail spouses sharing equal responsibilities. However, how their marriage is performed in their everyday lives indicate that gendered roles are rigidly defined and enforced. Husbands see to breadwinning while wives see to caregiving. This idea of gendered roles ties in with the notion of the ‘ideal’ family, subscribed by married couples.

Nurin’s idea of family and spousal relations is infused with gendered roles. During her childhood, her experiences living with her aunties shaped her idea of a ‘perfect’ family. Moreover, she was Existing discourse on family and raised by a single mother and never had a marriage in Singapore influences father figure. Nurin was searching for a Malay women’s choice to stay in father figure for her eldest daughter who abusive marriages. Part of the discourse includes the notion of an was about one or two years old then. Her ‘ideal’ family as one that is ‘intact’. eldest daughter is the child of another It constructs a cultural conception man from her previous relationship. In her circle of friends, Nurin’s ex-husband of marriage as lasting forever and 1

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was holding a job and looked promising in helping her achieve her dreams of having the ‘perfect’ family. However, her ex-husband’s extramarital affairs destroyed her dreams of a ‘perfect’ family. Farah’s husband demanded that she stay at home and see to household chores. She agreed as long as he performs his role as a financial provider dutifully. However, he failed to do so. Financial debts were incurred and strained the marriage. Such narratives indicate that there is disjuncture between women’s expectations of family and spousal relations, and the lived realities of their marriage. This disjuncture needs to be understood visà-vis existing discourse on family and marriage in Singapore. Knowing the women’s first encounter of abuse is important. It helps us to understand their rationale for staying in the abusive marriage. Siti and Nurin first noticed their ex-husband’s abusive behaviour during the courtship period. Siti recalled, “He started hitting before marriage and continued. I wanted to break (the engagement) off but my dad was sick, after that he passed away. I am engaged, I am the eldest daughter, so everybody is waiting for a wedding to take place.” “While we are in courtship, he already slapped me, pulled my hair. But I got immune to it, saying to myself that I must stay because like, so-called loyal,” Nurin shared. Farah did not experience any abuse during her courtship. However, she noticed that her husband’s behaviour changed after marriage. She shared, “Firstly, he prevented me from having friends; cannot mix around with my relatives. Why I cannot go to the shop all eh; why my husband like this eh? Like (I’m) being controlled.” After some time, Farah’s husband became physically violent towards her. It started because of financial problems as he was unable to earn a fixed income. “He cannot get rid of the stress at work so he comes

INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE (IPV) IS USED INSTEAD OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE BECAUSE THIS ARTICLE ONLY FOCUSES ON VIOLENT ACTS OF HUSBANDS ON THEIR WIVES. THE TERM INTIMATE PARTNER CAN BETTER DEMONSTRATE THE POWER RELATION BETWEEN A HUSBAND AND A WIFE WITHIN A SOCIETY WHERE GENDER VIOLENCE EXISTS. HTTPS://WWW.MSF.GOV.SG/RESEARCH-AND-DATA/RESEARCH-AND-STATISTICS/PAGES/VIOLENCE-APPLICATIONS-OF-PERSONAL-PROTECTION-ORDER-%28PPO%29EXPEDITED-ORDER-%28EO%29DOMESTICEXCLUSION-ORDER-%28DEO%29.ASPX PURUSHOTAM, N. (1993). THE NORMAL FAMILY: A STUDY OF IDEOLOGICAL REFORMULATIONS CONCERNING THE FAMILY IN SINGAPORE. PAPER PRESENTED AT THE THIRD MALAYSIA-SINGAPORE FORUM, 1- 4 NOVEMBER 1993, NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE.

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back raging at me. I'm afraid when he is home, he beats me,” she added.

as controlling economic resources, subjecting his wife to constant surveillance and isolating her from her family and These women’s narratives suggest that friends. Siti shared how her unemployed they did not leave their husbands at the Additionally, the notion of malu (shame) ex- husband abused her verbally, emotionfirst instance of abuse. Instead, they is inscribed to the failure of marriages. She ally, financially, psychologically and rationalise the abusive behaviours to added, “Malu to tell people; they always physically. “He bought the iMac with my maintain their marriage. The different think that my marriage is perfect because money but I cannot touch it. Verbally reasons they have for staying in their we have everything we need. It is very always telling me that I am very fat, ugly respective marriages are borne out of the embarrassing for people to know that this and stupid like I am a prostitute. I am not context in which they got married and the is the lifestyle I am actually going through allowed to go out anywhere with my kids perceptions they have of the family and behind closed doors.” because there is a camera at home so spousal relations. he can see us. I was kicked. I was raped. IDEOLOGY OF THE ‘IDEAL’ FAMILY I hated it,” she recalled. RELIGION In Singapore, welfare policies and Women’s faith can be manipulated by legislation reinforce the ideology of the WEAK SOCIAL SUPPORT their husbands in order to maintain It is difficult for women who are abused ‘ideal’ family which citizens are expected dominance over them. The patriarchal to conform to. Values encompassing the to reach out for help because support culture of family and marriage institution ‘ideal’ family are often associated with from family, community and state is not combined with patriarchal reading of women’s identity. This ideology deters readily available. This is referred to as Islamic teachings can cause women to women from leaving her marriage in spite the phenomenon of social violence7. It suffer a form of spiritual abuse4. of the abuse as she will be scrutinised for stigmatises women and leads to their isolation due to women being cut off from her failure to preserve the family unit. Siti shared that although her ex-husband Nurin withdrew her PPO three times former support or due to them being is a non-practising Muslim, he asserted avoided by others. Social violence because she wanted to keep her family dominance over her via misogynistic reinforces tacit acceptance of abuse and intact. Her ex-husband knew about her interpretations of Islam. She mentioned, prevents them from receiving formal desire to have the family intact and “Even during honeymoon, he said, support such as law enforcement or manipulated her into withdrawing the ‘As a Muslim man I can divorce you on health services. PPO. She mentioned, “I always think if the spot.’” I report him, there goes my family which I always want so much. I feel torn apart.” Farah was unable to turn to anyone for Farah expressed the notions of dosa (sins) help. She could not even confide in her as a reason which prevented her from mother-in-law. Furthermore, at the onset ECONOMIC DEPENDENCY disclosing the abuse and leaving the Women’s economic dependency on their of her marriage, both of Farah’s parents marriage. It stopped her from filing for husbands is one of the barriers that limits had already passed on and her only sister divorce because it would mean that women’s choices to leave abusive marriages. lives in Malaysia. She said, “She likes to she was disrespecting her husband, listen to her son say things that are not Women’s economic insufficiency puts transgressing religious obligations. true. That is why I cannot tell everything them in a state of ‘helplessness’ because to my mother-in-law.” they do not have enough resources to NEGATIVE LABELLING OF DIVORCEE sustain themselves or their children if Female-initiated divorce within the Moreover, Farah could not seek help they were to leave their marriage6. Malay community is often perceived as from her next-door neighbours because shameful and implies an attack on men’s Farah faced difficulties in leaving her their doors are always shut. Nurin shared superior social status. Such women are similar constraints with Farah when marriage because of her economic considered as transgressive and exhibiting dependency. She shared, “I depend on him seeking help from neighbours. She shared, impropriety5. “Even when one neighbour saw I was because I am not working. If I think far beaten by him, he (ex-husband) shouted (long-term), I want to get out. But when Siti avoided divorce and put up with the I think near (short-term), can I live ‘You don’t get involved ah, this is my without my husband? Can my son live family matter!’ So, the neighbour was also abuse because she did not want to be labelled as a janda (divorcee). She filed for without his father?” scared of him.” a PPO three months into the marriage but withdrew it. She did not want to upset her Ironically, financially independent GAPS IN LAW ENFORCEMENT mother for having a short-lived marriage. women can trigger their husband’s IPV is also trivialised in legal discourse. aggression. Due to the husband’s inability Singapore’s legal system and law enforceShe shared, “(Society) has the idea that divorce is wrong. When my late father’s to earn a higher income than his wife, he ment agencies continuously uphold the best friend came to our house, he got very asserts his dominance in other ways such family unit above women’s safety. It treats 4 LILY, Z. M. (2005). DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN INDONESIA. MUSLIM WORLD JOURNAL OF HUMAN RIGHTS, 2(1). SITI AISYAH, & PARKER, L. (2014). PROBLEMATIC CONJUGATIONS: WOMEN’S AGENCY, MARRIAGE AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN INDONESIA. ASIAN STUDIES REVIEW, 38(2), 205-223. 6 MUDALY, R. (2011). DANGEROUS ALLIANCE: CONSTRUCTING MARRIAGE ON THE FAULT-LINE OF GENDER. AGENDA: EMPOWERING WOMEN FOR GENDER EQUITY, 25(1), 75-83. NURUL ILMI, I., & BENNETT, L. R. (2003). PRESUMED CONSENT: MARITAL VIOLENCE IN BUGIS SOCIETY. IN L. MANDERSON, & L. R. BENNETT, VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IN ASIAN SOCIETIES (PP. 41-60). 5

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upset with me because I got a divorce. “How can you get divorced, why don’t you work things out?””

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It is difficult for women who are abused to reach out for help because support from family, community and state is not readily available. This is referred to as the phenomenon of social violence. It stigmatises women and leads to their isolation due to women being cut off from former support or due to them being avoided by others. Social violence reinforces tacit acceptance of abuse and prevents them from receiving formal support such as law enforcement or health services.

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IPV as a private matter thereby silencing abuse on women within the household. Farah faced difficulties making police reports or calling the Family Service Centres. She recalled, “Even that time he hit me, my handphone was taken, after that the house phone wire he disconnected. Then he locked me.” According to Farah, she faced difficulties in making a police report. On one occasion, she approached a police officer whom she met on the streets when she went out of her house for a stroll. The officer told her that the abuse must happen on the day the report is made. Police reports can still be made even if the abuse occurred a long time ago. However, the officer did not explain this to Farah and gave her the impression that it is a requirement for the abuse to happen on the day the police report is lodged. This reflects gaps in the operational policing of domestic violence whereby police officers tend to limit interventions in cases involving abuses between married couples8. Siti was often locked out of the house by her ex-husband. When she went to the police for assistance, they declined to accompany her to her flat as there was no violence taking place at that time. She mentioned, “The police did nothing, it was just a report. “Unless the violence is taking place, then we can go with you.” Do I have to wait for violence then I call you?” Siti’s encounter with the police officers indicates that there remains to be a problem of police intervention in cases of IPV. There is ambiguity amongst police officers to intervene in cases of IPV which is considered to be a private crime9. I have identified six constraining factors that limit women’s choices to leave an abusive marriage. Knowing these various constraints helps to pinpoint how and where interlocutors can intervene to make better choices possible10. There is a need to rethink women’s choices in a just society. How a woman decides to perform her role as a wife and/or a mother, are choices subjected to a wider patriarchal discourse. This patriarchal discourse inhibits them from making other favourable choices because it is perceived

as deviating from the ‘ideal’. In order to empower women, perceptions on family and spousal relations must first change. To do so, there needs to be a rebranding of family and marriage institutions that no longer permits patriarchal ideology to take root. Gendered roles must not be normalised, the notion of the ‘ideal’ family has to be discarded because various forms of family units exist such as single-parent families, married couples without children, cohabiting couples and so on. Religious discourses must continue to uphold the stance to support family and marriage institutions that elevate the status of women within the household and make no room for misogynistic interpretations to take place. To empower women is to increase their capacity to make choices without being subjected to patriarchal ideology. When women have more capacity to make choices such as entering the workforce, to divorce her husband, to remain unmarried and to not have children, society needs to value those choices and not judge them. This would require us to cease our prejudices against the role of women in the family, community and society. IPV stems from gender violence and gender violence is a symptom of gender inequality. Gender inequality takes root because of patriarchal ideology. Patriarchal ideology will remain if society does not empower women to increase her capacity to make choices and not judge her for making those choices.

st Nurshirah Tabrani is a Research Analy ic and at the Centre for Research on Islam Bachelor Malay Affairs (RIMA). She holds a of Arts degree in Malay Studies. This thesis, article is part of a chapter from her Malay es: Choic ions, ontat Confr s, Constraint Partner Female Survivor’s Agency in Intimate Violence.

GANAPATHY, N. (2006). THE OPERATIONAL POLICING OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN SINGAPORE: AN EXPLORATORY STUDY. INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL JUSTICE REVIEW, 16(3), 179-198. IBID, 186-187 SHOWDEN, C. R. (2011). CHOICES WOMEN MAKE: AGENCY IN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, ASSISTED REPRODUCTION, AND SEX WORK. MINNEAPOLIS: UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA PRESS.

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Mothering Solo –

Unwed Mothers in the Malay / Muslim Community

BY NABILAH MOHAMMAD 16 T H E K A R Y A W A N © ASSOCIATION OF MUSLIM PROFESSIONALS. PERMISSION IF REQUIRED FOR REPRODUCTION.


Raising a child is no easy feat. We often hear about the sacrifices a parent makes and the time and energy it takes to care for a child. A single mother's responsibilities are no different, except that she is on her own. She has to be both a mother and father to her children, a disciplinarian as well as someone from whom her children can seek comfort and safety. The challenges become even more complicated when the single mother is one who has had a child out of wedlock. On top of parenting solo, she has the added pressure of fielding uncomfortable questions from disapproving family members or prying friends. Indeed, unwed motherhood comes with a unique set of socio-emotional challenges that can, at times, be overwhelming. This article aims to highlight their stories and perhaps help us gain a better understanding of this invisible group in the community.

employed. I sent both my boys to the childcare centre, which is quite a distance from home. In the past, there were many occasions when I had to take urgent leave to attend to them, and there were times these led to me losing my job. The kids are in school from 9.00am to 5.30pm so I have to narrow down my job search to one that fits their schooling hours and “Raising a child alone is challenging enough as it is. It is unfortunate that there location so that I can rush to and from work,” Riana said. is no housing scheme easily available to unmarried mothers. We will have to wait Unlike the teenage pregnancy stories until we turn 35 years of age before we we often hear, Riana found out she was can purchase a flat under the Singles Scheme. Policies should not deprive us of pregnant at the age of 33. She feels that any support, in this case, a suitable public there are no definitive factors such as age, socioeconomic or educational background housing to raise a family, regardless of how we became single parents,” Shida said. that contribute to an unplanned pregnancy outside of marriage, like hers. Children from single-parent families are also likely to be short-changed in terms of “It can happen to anyone, young or old, economic and time resources as there is no rich or poor. I know a few unwed mothers UNWED MOTHERS IN THE MALAY/ who are highly educated and financially division of labour within the household. MUSLIM COMMUNITY comfortable. It is probably more prevalent The parent’s decision to work is often The plight of unwed mothers is something heavily influenced by many factors among the lower-income because they we often hear about, even within the might not have enough money to go for including child care concerns, just like Malay/Muslim community. Most of us an abortion,” Riana shared. Riana (not her real name). probably know of one such mother who has to face the daily challenges alone. Riana, who is herself born out of wedlock, Statistics reveal that between 2014 and However, their stories are largely left 2018, there was an average of 428 registered is now a mother of two. She is staying untold because they are often perceived to with her aged parents in a two-room births per year in Singapore that did not be an embarrassment to the family, and rental flat which is not conducive to raise have a father’s name. This means there are even the community. By and large, unwed her two young boys in. The daily chaos more than 2,000 mothers who may be motherhood is often looked upon as a struggling to raise their child on their own of unreliable work hours and negligible violation of a cultural norm in our society. pay often undermine her hope and sense in the span of five years1. While depicting of control. a gradual decline, the incidence of The Karyawan team had the opportunity childbearing out of wedlock remains the to sit down and discuss the life and “It is not that we are unwilling to show up highest among the Malay community in challenges of four single Malay/Muslim Singapore. and work hard. It’s very tough to stay mothers with children born out of wedlock. According to Shida and the other mothers we spoke to, the social taboo surrounding unwed mothers is often bolstered by the legal system. Such mothers may not enjoy the social welfare benefits such as housing subsidies, the Baby Bonus cash gift, tax reliefs and even inheritance.

SINGLE PARENT BY ETHNIC GROUP *Refers to live births registered without the father’s name

We spoke to Shida (not her real name) who found out she was pregnant at the age of 60.0% 20. Growing up, Shida shared that she had 50.0% a rough upbringing – she went through neglect and poverty as a child – and often 40.0% got into a lot of trouble. 30.0% 20.0% 10.0% 0.0%

20 05 20 06 20 07 20 08 20 09 20 10 20 11 20 12 20 13 20 14 20 15 20 16 20 17 20 18

She shared that staying employed is difficult when you are raising a child on your own. She is currently staying in a rental flat and has been moving around a lot. She is often jobless and fell into depression following some bad episodes in her life. She recently fell into further depression when she lost custody of her son to her ex-husband who suddenly decided to file for child custody.

MALAYS

CHINESE

INDIANS

OTHERS

SOURCE: MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS - IMMIGRATION & CHECKPOINTS AUTHORITY

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MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS - IMMIGRATION & CHECKPOINTS AUTHORITY. (2019). SINGLE PARENT & TEENAGE BIRTHS BY ETHNIC GROUP. RETRIEVED ON 20 AUGUST 2019 FROM HTTPS://DATA.GOV.SG/DATASET/SINGLE-PARENT-BIRTHS-BY-ETHNIC-GROUP

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“I believe that the number is probably higher among our community because we don’t easily turn to abortion. The sin of taking a life bears heavier than premarital sex. Terminating my pregnancy was never an option for me from the start,” Riana said. The Karyawan team also talked to another unwed mother, Lydia (not her real name), who shared the same sentiments on abortion. Lydia was 24 years old when she first got pregnant in 2004. However, unlike our other mothers, Lydia knew she was ready to be a mom the moment she found out she was pregnant. “I didn’t tell anyone until I was five months pregnant. Being an unwed mother was still a taboo. So when I eventually broke the news to my family, they were devastated and expectedly, told me to abort. However, growing up, I was taught to bear the consequences of my actions, so I told them I will keep the baby. Also, I’ve never believed in abortion. I’ve sinned once; why sin again by killing an innocent life?” Lydia said. Lydia also opined that the immediate family should be the first line of support for unwed mothers like her. “My daughter is now 15 years old and she knows of her status as a child born out of wedlock. I personally feel that the close age gap helps me understand her better and thus, has brought us closer. I am also lucky to have strong family support. We are a close-knit family. Obviously, they were disappointed (when they found out about my pregnancy) but they didn’t chase me out of the house. They were supportive enough that I was able to pursue a diploma in hospitality management and a few other courses. I was juggling between being a mother, a career woman and a student,” Lydia shared. MARRYING TO COVER SHAME Three out of the four interviewees we talked to, married the biological father upon their parent’s requests; some without even being given the chance to comprehend the consequences. All of them are now divorced. “We got married because his family wanted to cover malu (shame). There was no wedding reception, just a ceremony at the Registry of Muslim Marriages. Our 18 T H E K A R Y A W A N © ASSOCIATION OF MUSLIM PROFESSIONALS. PERMISSION IF REQUIRED FOR REPRODUCTION.

marriage lasted for 17 days. My relationship with my then mother-in-law was horrible. One night, I overhead her telling my ex-husband to divorce me and take the house and my daughter. We got into a huge quarrel and our marriage spiralled downwards since then,” Lydia shared. Lydia wasn’t the only one who had a tense relationship with the in-laws. Shida shared that she also had to cope with difficult in-laws throughout her marriage with her ex-husband.

pressured into marriage or aborting the foetus if they do not want to. If the option is for them to keep the baby, the mother would need assistance and space to decide on what’s best and what’s next for them,” Mdm Zaleha shared. According to her, there are many agencies and shelters that these mothers can reach out to. “If there are plans to marry, the couple can go to agencies such as INSPIRASI@AMP, for a premarital consultation session with our counsellors. During the session, the counsellors can help them to re-evaluate and re-examine their decisions with the partner and their parents, and decide what the best choice is for them. There are also other agencies such as Babes that would be able to assist them during their period of pregnancy if marriage is not the decision. There are also shelters that they can go to if they do not have places to stay. If these mums wish to get more information, they can contact INSPIRASI@AMP for assistance,” Mdm Zaleha explained.

“The idea of marriage appealed to me initially because I loved my partner at the time. His parents didn’t agree but we got married anyway. My in-laws treated me badly. They were so calculative. They actually made me pay to stay with them. They told me that I ate a lot at their home but I didn’t. I was underweight, in fact. I had to go back to work to support my small family because my in-laws said that it was me who decided to keep the baby. To make matters worse, my then husband had affairs. We were constantly fighting. I eventually got kicked out of the house and we finally filed for divorce,” Shida WOMEN OFTEN UNFAIRLY BLAMED shared. One common predicament raised by our interviewees is the different treatment Riana also shared that marrying the towards unwed mothers and the biological biological father of the child just to cover fathers in society. The blame and shame up shame is not always the best option. often fall on the unwed mothers. From Her ex-husband had an affair and even our conversations with them, society wanted to get married to another woman. is often quick to punish them. They are often stereotyped as promiscuous, “Remaining unmarried does not necessar- irresponsible and selfish. Meanwhile, the ily mean you would lead an unhappy life. men are rarely, if ever, on the receiving There are many government support and end of such stereotypes. family service centres that can help you now. Find the right place for support. The team also spoke to another Think of what’s best for yourself and your interviewee, Nadia (not her real name), kids,” Riana shared. who became a mother around the age of 20. Back then, Nadia shared that her The Karyawan team also spoke to Mdm ex-boyfriend, who is also the biological Zaleha Ahmad, a counsellor with more father of her daughter, was a drug abuser. than 20 years’ experience at AMP who She eventually got addicted to drugs and said that support is key in helping these not long after, found out she was pregnant. mothers navigate parenthood. “The biological father was around for a “Unwed mothers need a lot of support and while. We planned to get married within guidance, especially from family members, that year but I found out he cheated. He and not harsh treatment or blame. There started taking drugs again and got is always room for forgiveness and physically abusive. I fell into depression guidance that would enable the single and eventually told him to leave. He left mum to reflect on their actions. They when my daughter was three months old would also need support in decision and that was the last I heard from him,” making with regard to the child whom Nadia said. they are carrying. They must not be


shared that the stereotype of an “What’s done is done. She unmarried mother as dysfunctional gets reemphasised every now and then, and Do not make the especially when she meets a new person. same mistake again. “When people learn about my status, they say I’m an ‘easy’ woman. It is like my If they do not have name card. They already judge you before any plans to marry, they get to know you. I know it was my mistake but at the end of the day, I’m they should ensure responsible enough to stay and raise my daughter. If society actually cares about that they move on reducing or eliminating the number of out-of-wedlock births or even abortions, with their lives. hold men accountable for their actions If they are still young, too,” Nadia said. Shida further shared, “When the girl gets continue with their pregnant out of wedlock, it’s never the fault. It’s the girl who got herself education and pursue guy’s pregnant, don’t know how to take care of herself, and lack maruah (dignity). It is their dreams and frustrating!” ambition where Given how difficult it is to raise a child alone, it is not a lifestyle choice many possible. With the would willingly make. It is usually a support of family situation one finds themselves in and tries to make the best of it. One unwed mother members, ensure left her partner who was cheating on her, another couldn’t cope with her that the child is well while in-laws. Yet another said she was not ready to marry her baby's father, given the fragile taken care of and state of their relationship. Whatever their reasons, giving birth out of wedlock was give them a good not a decision taken lightly. No matter what society thinks of them, these mothers upbringing. Every soldier on for the sake of their kids. child deserves a good “You could have gone for an abortion. You and nurturing life so could have given your child away for adoption. You could have left your child they will grow up to outside a hospital, like in a drama series, but you didn’t. Even though the situation be strong, healthy wasn't ideal, remember that you chose to be a mother,” Shida reminded. and well-balanced. advice to other unwed mothers: just How they are brought “My do what makes you or your kids happy. It might hurt but just focus on raising your into the world will kids properly. People will tell you that you will not be able to raise your child properly not have much but it is still your responsibility. Keep encouraging and continue to guide your impact on them if child,” Nadia commented. they are cared for in Mdm Zaleha shares similar sentiments, saying, “What’s done is done. Do not make a caring and loving the same mistake again. If they do not have any plans to marry, they should environment.”

ensure that they move on with their lives. If they are still young, continue with their education and pursue their dreams and ambition where possible. With the support of family members, ensure that the child is well taken care of and give them a good upbringing. Every child deserves a good and nurturing life so they will grow up to be strong, healthy and well-balanced. How they are brought into the world will not have much impact on them if they are cared for in a caring and loving environment.” While acknowledging that traditional perspectives do not encourage motherhood outside of marriage, there also needs to be a shift in focus towards enabling and empowering these mothers to provide the best care for their children. It would be more beneficial for our society if we could help these unwed mothers improve their lives and their children’s, leave the castigation behind, and offer ways to develop policies to remedy the negative implications on them.

Nabilah Mohammad is a Research Analyst at the Centre for Resear ch on Islamic and Malay Affairs (RIMA). She holds a Bachelor of Science in Psycholog y and a Specialist Diploma in Statistics and Data Mining.

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After

‘K. Muthusamy’ BY DARREN MAK

In the wake of the ‘brownface’ incident and subsequent Preetipls controversy, a friend of mine approached me with an older Preetipls video, ‘PREETIPLS WISHES U A GONG XI FA CAI!’ – one in which she quite literally prances around in a cheongsam, employs Chinese stereotype after Chinese stereotype, and pokes fun at Chinese poetry and songs. Intrigued, I decided to search for it on YouTube and watched it myself. I found it funny and entertaining and, judging by the comments made before the ‘brownface’ period, I was not the only Chinese person who thought that way either. It made me wonder: Was her ‘K. Muthusamy’ video racist? Why 20 T H E K A R Y A W A N © ASSOCIATION OF MUSLIM PROFESSIONALS. PERMISSION IF REQUIRED FOR REPRODUCTION.

didn’t I find her video offensive? Why did the comments section for the same video see a distinct turn, from amused and supportive reactions when it first came out, to outraged and disgusted ones over a year later? And perhaps most importantly, what now? I was lucky enough to have seen the original ‘K. Muthusamy’ video prior to the advisories against its distribution. I say ‘lucky’, because it meant that I did not have to rely on secondary sources to tell me if the video was offensive or not – it did not strike me as offensive nor racist. She had mentioned in several parts of the

video disclaimers that the video did not refer to all Chinese people, and contrary to some accounts of the video using vulgarities to attack Chinese people, it actually used the common, arguably even popular colloquial phrase ‘to f*** something up’, which has a closer meaning to ‘to mess something up’ than to any explicit curse. It was only when explaining this to my friend that he confessed: he had not seen the actual video and, going by second-hand accounts, had bought into the story of the video being explicitly against the Chinese. It occurred to me that attempts to limit the damage caused by the video by taking it


down had the unintended consequence of obscuring the issue even further, with no proper recourse for clearing up the misconceptions as the primary material had been removed from the public sphere. Bungled salvage operations aside, the contention around the language especially caught my interest – the expression in question was one used regularly by my friends and I throughout our early teens and into our now young adulthood. We used it at one another, sometimes in the context of schoolwork, sometimes in the context of a shared project, sometimes even with regard to personal endeavours, yet the language never caused such friction between us – so why the big deal now? I believe it to be an issue of miscommunicated audiences and contexts. Even my friends, aware as we are that the expression itself is not used as a vulgarity, would be mindful not to use it in a formal setting, for example an audience with a professor or with senior family members around. Left unsaid in this mindfulness is something that we all do, consciously or not – we alter our speech patterns to suit our given audiences and contexts. I see this happen with my father and his friends, even my uncles – after a normal conversation with me, a phone call from his friend arrives and he switches into another ‘language’ – Hokkien laced with vulgarities to greet his friend. And so too does his friend, who will respond with more Hokkien vulgarities. It is a convention between them. Yet, once when my father overheard a song that had the infamous English four-letter word in its lyrics, he expressed concern about why I was listening to such obscene songs. The word alone does not make an offensive vulgarity – the context and audience are important factors as well. Among Preetipls’ largely young audience, and within the context of her relatively consistent comedy style, the term should not have been taken as an offensive attack. So why did it trigger a defensive uproar of such scale? In my opinion, it was a combination of the change in context and audience, as well as the break in her very style of comedy with this video. With the video being released in lieu of and directly

referencing the racist E-Pay advertisement, While the main consequences of the it positioned itself as a reaction video. ‘brownface’ saga centred unfairly, I think, around Preetipls, the realm of social Given the trending status that the media does not involve only producers advertisement had already begun generating content. More so than ever, receiving prior to the video, this propelled people actively engage with content on it beyond an audience that understands social media in real time. As much as I her style, leading to a knee-jerk reaction think social media influencers need to that a little too quickly pounced on the learn how to occupy the public sphere in a word, without any context – neither her way that doesn’t draw unwanted existing comedy style nor language attention a la ‘K. Muthusamy’, so too must conventions among young people. the interlocutors of social media do so Without these contexts, it became all too responsibly. easy to perceive it as an obscene attack on the entirety of the Chinese population in As we enter this new age of social media Singapore. and hyperconnectivity, we must define for ourselves the proper terms of engagement However, it is not my intention to simply in cyberspace. It might have been possible, justify her video unreservedly. Watching even easy, to segment off a physical space some of her other videos, both before or venue for a specific audience to enjoy and after the saga, I noticed that the a specific form of entertainment, but ‘K. Muthusamy’ video stood out in with open access platforms like YouTube, contrast to her other works. Going back would such methods achieve equally to the Chinese New Year video, and even desirable outcomes? Should we ban her latest video after the ‘brownface’ saga outright and sanction what we don’t ‘PREETIPLS CELEBRATES NATIONAL like? Would that even work given the DAY 2019! (My Singaporean Alphabet)’, extremely porous nature of the internet? her videos often employ stereotypes I think we, as with many other societies and coarse language, along with a around the world, have not conclusively light-hearted tongue-in-cheek tone that come up with solutions to these issues. I, as an ethnic Chinese Singaporean, However, one thing is for certain – we genuinely find funny and entertaining. must talk about it constructively. Anger is natural, but how should we deal with it ‘K. Muthusamy’, on the other hand, had an now that we have this unprecedentedly understandably angry and reactionary powerful tool at our disposal? tone to it. While not finding it offensive, neither did I think it sought to entertain. A recent and related trend I have noticed Acknowledging the exasperation that she on my own social media is that of netizens undeniably felt as an ethnic minority in using it to air their grievances and Singapore facing systemic racism yet thoughts on social issues, sometimes with again, her elevated public platform comes unconstructively directed anger. With with a certain level of scrutiny and ‘blackface’ it was racism, with Pink Dot awareness that she possibly miscalculated it was LGBT rights, with the Monica in releasing ‘K. Muthusamy’ when she did. Baey saga it was sexual assault, and with ‘This is what Inequality Looks Like’ it Self-directed as the modern day social was inequality. media influencer is, and without guidelines or superiors to help pre-empt More will come as we grow as a society, potential backlash, it is still important and I, for one, welcome the increased that they realise they tread a space that attention and engagement these not only caters to their intended audience legitimate issues are getting, facilitated by but can, for better or worse, also be social media. However, this calls to mind accessed by people who may not properly the American ‘politics of outrage’, understand what they intend to do. In the described by numerous articles and essays case of ‘K. Muthusamy’, I can only wonder in the past decade as the heavily emotive if, had she released the video after the and heavily polarising rhetoric that ‘brownface’ furore had eased or filmed the dominates the public sphere, often video after recalibrating her anger and making nuanced or civil discourse frustration, things would have turned out difficult if not outright impossible. differently?

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Social media, as handy a tool for publicly berating someone who fails to understand the problem adequately, can also be an equally handy tool for educating that very same person and guiding them through relevant and understandable ideas. As the saying goes, ‘Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.’ We need not play the fool and set up our own maze of polarisations.

While we surely have not fallen into a situation as bad as the American public sphere to warrant a full decade of warning against these ‘politics of outrage’, I think it can do us no harm to reflect on whether our own online spaces can head in that trajectory – and whether that is something beneficial, both here within our shores as well as across the Pacific. Clearly, the controversies I mentioned earlier, all of which occurred very recently, indicate that we do have many deepseated issues that we urgently need to resolve. Real lives are negatively affected in profound ways by all of these problems, and there is a dire need to collectively progress as a nation to ensure a better future for all. The issue I hope to highlight, however, is how we approach this progress. Social media, as handy a tool for publicly berating someone who fails to understand the problem adequately, can also be an equally handy tool for educating that very same person and guiding them through relevant and understandable ideas. As the saying goes, ‘Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.’ We need not play the fool and set up our own maze of polarisations. Yes, it is difficult, frustrating, and exhausting to repeatedly attempt to cleave through bigotry, only to be met with a fresh layer of ignorance. I have personally had these encounters more times than I would like – and the genuine empathy we feel for the many stories of those downtrodden we encounter online only adds to the infuriating helplessness. But societal progress must be a collective effort, and this collective includes, like it or not, those who knowingly or unknowingly perpetuate the issue by effectively telling them to stop.

Darren Mak is an English Linguistics graduate from the National Universi ty of Singapore and vol unteers at Jamiyah Youth Group. He has pa rticipated in region al and international confe rences on various social issues including religion and race.

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The Ideal Muslim Woman BY AMEERA BEGUM

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Growing up, I heard about Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) excellent character. Teachers from my weekend Islamic classes extolled the virtues of Sayyidina Abu Bakar (may Allah be pleased with him) and Sayyidina Umar (may Allah be pleased with him). I marvelled at the rank and stature of Sayyidina Uthman and Sayyidina Ali (may Allah be pleased with them both). Sayyidina Umar’s sense of justice and fierce personality captivated me, seeing a tiny bit of my personality in him. As a teenage girl and young woman though, I was constantly told that I was “too loud” and had to be “less fierce” or “less assertive” in order to be “more modest” as a woman. I would counter by saying that my role model after the Prophet (peace be upon him) was Sayyidina Umar but would swiftly be rebuked and told “But he’s a man, and you’re a woman!”. It took me many more years before I finally learnt that the Prophet’s wife, Sayyidatina Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) was feisty. And that Nusayba bint Ka’b physically defended the Prophet (peace be upon him) in battle! In a course called “Companions of the Prophet” by Rabata (an educational outfit led by Shaykha Dr Tamara Gray based in the United States) that I took last year, we learnt about both male and female Companions and while there were some male Companions I hadn’t heard of before, most of the female Companions were completely new to me.

Islam didn't come to mute women’s personalities. It came to help all of us use the specific qualities God has honoured us with, to help us hone them to what is pleasing to Him, in order to help positively revolutionise society. The male and female Companions of the Prophet worked together to create that Prophetic community and if we want to continue their legacy today, we need to also value each and every person in our community and what they can offer, instead of valuing them only through narrowly-defined roles.

DEFINING A GOOD MUSLIM WOMAN AND THE ROLES WE PLAY The recently-departed Toni Morrison said, “Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined.” In our case, it is not society that gets to decide who or what constitutes a good Muslim woman. It is God Himself. In the Quran, Allah says in Surah al-Hujurat, Verse 13: “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble After years of learning the religion, I finally of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you.” What is righteous for began to see the Companions, both male one person can be in their role as a wife, for and female, as rounded, complex, multianother, their role as a mother, and yet dimensional human beings, instead of the one-dimensional characters that I had been another, as a community leader, daughter, introduced to. This was especially important entrepreneur, sincere hardworking civil servant or any manner of roles that Allah to me as a woman because I felt like I was has predestined for this person. always asked to make myself smaller, quieter, more invisible to fit the ‘ideal And yet, righteousness in our society has Muslim woman’ role. I would look at my different connotations, especially for brother or my male cousins and they women. Those who do not get married or could be ‘good enough Muslim boys and become mothers are somehow seen as less men’ without needing to sacrifice their righteous, or incomplete. personalities, and yet for myself and my peers, there seemed to be only one way for us to be – quiet, modest, compliant. This isn’t In a Facebook post by Ustadha Maryam Amir, she said: to say that there aren’t shared good values for both genders to emulate. Indeed, the Virgin Mary miraculously bore Jesus, one of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the most incredible men to walk the planet, sent for everyone, and his noble character but she was never married. and traits of mercy, empathy, courage and more were for all of us to aspire to. 24 T H E K A R Y A W A N © ASSOCIATION OF MUSLIM PROFESSIONALS. PERMISSION IF REQUIRED FOR REPRODUCTION.

Aishah had an incredible marriage, but she was never a mother. She was also a widow. Asiyah was an adoptive mother to Moses, but was married to a tyrannical husband. The blessed Prophetic father of Hajar's son Ismail was alive but physically separated from them and so she essentially raised her son as a single mother. Eve had one child who was committed to morality, and she had another who must have torn her heart out when he murdered his own brother. Zaynab bint Jahsh was divorced, but then remarried the best man on earth. Fatima was repeatedly described as the most devoted daughter in addition to her roles as wife and mother. Khadija had the most amazing husband with the most amazing children and the most compassionate, passionate marriage. The Queen of Sheba is described in the Quran in connection with her position, but not explicitly in connection to marriage or motherhood. God gave us examples in history of some of the most spiritually elevated women in


different types of single/married or motherhood/less situations. It is unjust for our community to portray a woman's piety being connected solely to her marriage or motherhood status when even some of the most important figures of our history did not fulfill some of our community's contemporary expectations. Yes, marriage and motherhood are so important. But not every woman will experience them, nor find happiness in them. That is not a commentary on her worth or the level of her connection to Allah.

Ameera Begum is the Regional Mana ger (APAC) of Launch Good, a global Mu slim crowdfunding pla tform. Prior to joi ning LaunchGood, she was the Digital Dir ector at SimplyIslam.sg for over eight yea rs, helping to organ ise events, class es and programmes in En glish for the Singa pore Muslim commun ity and running the online Muslim magazin e, MuzlimBuzz.sg . She graduated from Na nyang Technolog ical University with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and a Mi nor in Public Administration.

During the Prophet’s time, the ‘good Muslim women’ around him and in his society were not a monolith. They were outgoing, reserved, mothers, childless, married, divorced and so on. The Prophet’s community's narrative highlighted everyone's narrative. Islam didn't come to mute women’s personalities. It came to help all of us use the specific qualities God has honoured us with, to help us hone them to what is pleasing to Him, in order to help positively revolutionise society. The male and female Companions of the Prophet worked together to create that Prophetic community and if we want to continue their legacy today, we need to also value each and every person in our community and what they can offer, instead of valuing them only through narrowly-defined roles. On that note, when we raise our children, it is important that both boys and girls are taught about more male and female Companions. This will help them to see that there are many ways to be and many ways to serve. Modesty is not about being loud or not. It is about knowing how to respectfully act and carry yourself in different situations. It is very popular today to talk about the importance of representation in the media. For Muslim children, teaching them about the full lives and contributions of various Companions and their different personalities will help them better appreciate their own gifts. Whether a child is naturally loud or quiet, assertive or shy, they will be celebrated regardless because God has made them that way. I pray the day will come when young Muslim girls will not have to feel like Islam has a different yardstick on which to judge them for their righteousness just because they are too loud, too fierce or too assertive. OCTOBER 2019

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Does Workplace Tyranny Exist?

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Whilst there have been many open discussions and platforms to raise the awareness of workplace discrimination, there is often little said about workplace tyranny which can make one’s life in the office intolerable. No one wants to wake up in the morning only to commute to a toxic work environment.

About 74% said their colleagues are the biggest bullies with bosses making up 62% of the culprits. Some 21% said they were bullied by clients.

EFFECTS ON THE INDIVIDUAL As a human resource (HR) practitioner with more than a decade’s experience, I have seen this happen too many times. While there are laws in place to protect Belittling others and questioning one’s one from workplace harassment, inadequacy in front of colleagues during workplace bullying seems to be taken meetings are not uncommon. Also more lightly. included are uncalled-for comments, name-calling or using one’s superiority to Imagine this: Your superior begins finding intimidate others, with some going to the fault with your work, scrutinising you extent of refusing basic rights like granting more closely to try and find your mistakes annual leave and even sick leave. I have – basically, setting you up for failure so heard of comments like, “It’s not your that there might appear to be a ‘legitimate’ brain that is sick, only your leg is swollen, reason for firing you, denying you that so get on and submit the report by today”; promotion, or marginalising you. Or “The monkey is not in today?” (in having a job delegated to you that is twice reference to a subordinate); and “Why is the load, yet expecting you to complete it your mother/child always sick?”. within the same time frame. Employees and, often, performing ones, would then Workplace bullying affects one’s sense of choose to leave. value, casts doubt on one’s competence, gives him or her a profound sense of WHY IS IT SO DIFFICULT TO DETECT? worthlessness when inflicted on deeper The issue itself is a concern as it happens levels, and, in worst-case scenarios, leads to at a personal level in a professional setting. depression. It would take a lot of courage for one to speak up about their experience, and even While going to HR seems like the most then, it might not get resolved. Many logical thing to do, often doubts would fill perceive that the issue, if it is ever raised, the individual on how the situation would would be swept under the carpet. This is turn out. There are no clear parameters on true in a majority of the cases, as often, the acceptable work behaviour. One can bullying is done by someone who has choose to keep silent and suffer until he authority over the employee, or by reaches the breaking point and then leave. someone who is more influential, The alternative is to raise the issue but be outspoken or senior in rank. prepared for the worst. It will unlikely be solved at the first attempt or instance While bullying can be obvious in the form unless you have gathered substantial of threats and verbal abuse, it can also evidence, but it would help to make the occur in other forms like isolation, workplace slightly better if the issue is on intimidation, sabotage, unwarranted the radar. negative evaluations, rumours, or deliberate withholding of information. The process of reporting workplace bullying in itself can be difficult – Though workplace bullying usually evidence gathering or recordings while occurs in a hierarchical situation, it is also going through the experience on your common amongst peers, especially if one own. One has to be very discreet and is new to the organisation. careful in the fact-finding process. Sharing or talking to other colleagues may The New Paper reported that an online sometimes add fuel to the fire, as others survey conducted by Jobstreet.com in 2012 could take advantage of the situation for showed that 24% of Singapore employees their own benefit. You could also end up felt they were victims of office bullying1. being ostracised, with others spreading

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gossip or rumours to the point that you feel isolated, creating a more tense situation which could instead be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. ADDRESSING BULLYING INCIDENTS Workplace bullying isn’t always an obvious situation to spot. Firstly, it is important to recognise that specific groups of employees are more likely to be susceptible to bullying so you should keep a closer watch on them. Secondly, take note of incidents of bullying by looking out for unacceptable behaviours. During exit interviews, look out for tell-tale signs and repeated incidents of bullying. You should also listen carefully to any grievances that they may come across. It is much easier to brush someone off than to investigate his or her claim, but by taking their grievances seriously, you could intervene to stop any negative experiences early. Once you are aware of the situation, keep an eye on the suspected bully, and carefully analyse his or her interactions with other employees. If you witness any particular incidents that could raise a red flag, document them immediately, and keep the documentations organised and accessible. Unsubstantiated claims of grievances with no proper documentation could weaken your case. While listening to fellow colleagues and documenting incidents are vital steps in addressing bullying incidents, it’s also important to show that the organisation does not tolerate such behaviours. Bullies don’t like to be called out, so it’s important to not put any power back in their hands. Establish proper body language and tone of voice when communicating with the bullies. Speak firmly to show that you are serious and will not tolerate toxic behaviours in the workplace when you meet them in private. Public scrutiny could lead the bullies to feel cornered and wronged. It is also important to report these interactions to the higher authority or HR. Organisations should consider implementing initiatives in addressing workplace bullying to show that such behaviours will not go unnoticed as it would have a negative effect on recruiting and retention efforts. It could introduce an anti-bullying

HTTPS://WWW.TNP.SG/NEWS/SINGAPORE/MAN-SUFFERS-MENTAL-BREAKDOWN-AFTER-CONSTANT-BULLYING-WORKPLACE

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Organisations should consider implementing initiatives in addressing workplace bullying to show that such behaviours will not go unnoticed as it would have a negative effect on recruiting and retention efforts. It could introduce an anti-bullying policy that integrates well with its culture and other initiatives. The policy often comes with training sessions and topics ranging from diversity and inclusion, proper communication, and early recognition. If every employee and executive undergoes these trainings and takes the policy seriously, workplace bullying can be better mitigated. policy that integrates well with its culture and other initiatives. The policy often comes with training sessions and topics ranging from diversity and inclusion, proper communication, and early recognition. If every employee and executive undergoes these trainings and takes the policy seriously, workplace bullying can be better mitigated. Bullying is an unfortunate reality that some may have to face in their lives, but it doesn’t have to be a reality in the workplace. By learning how to identify situations, prepare proper documentations, take a firm stand, and implement long-term policies to end workplace bullying, you will find yourself with a healthy and happy workplace culture. My final advice is to not let anyone belittle your capability and especially your self-esteem. If you’re confident in yourself and you’ve given your best, you really don’t have to worry about your capabilities. If you’re faced with workplace bullying, do not suffer in silence and move on. The organisation may lose a valued employee but if the manager is incompetent, it will be losing a lot more than just the affected individual.

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Maisarah Dasukie is a Human Reso urce Manager of AMP. She has over a de cade of experience in hu man resource ma nagement.


The Power of Ideas: moribund image of a future world – or a future state evenual is likely to be there result of POFMA in Perspective the lean reservations that people have about it. Yes, there is cent as need to regulateans. BY ABDUL HAKEEM AKBAR ALI OCTOBER 2019

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Somewhere, in a not too distant place, trouble is brewing. Unlike traditional Clausewitzian clashes fought on fields of rubble, in thick foliage, the new terrain bears little resemblance to this former image. The clanging of steel swords, as armies have at one another, the cracking of rifles in the background, displaced by the clickety-clack of keyboards. Displays of might and raw heft matter little in cyberspace – herein lies the new frontier.

Supporters of POFMA insist that, compared to legislation that came before it, the bill is narrower in terms than the current law. For instance, Senior Counsel Siraj Omar pointed out that the government – under the existing Broadcasting Act and other legislation pertaining to deceptive online content – already has considerable powers2. Under old legislation, the government is able to block access to specific sites, as it did with the States Times Review, and unlike POFMA, does not offer an outlet for one to appeal a minister’s decision – taken up with the courts – should they deem it disputable. POFMA then, it has been said, seeks “to scope down and calibrate the Government’s powers in key areas”3, where no one is exempt from the judge’s impartial hammer.

two entirely different judgements4. If, for example, a member of the political opposition opines that the older generation of Singaporeans cannot accept a nonChinese Prime Minister, would it still count as an opinion? Would it still be considered an opinion-based utterance, or would it be deemed a political move aimed at stirring the racial stew?

In addition, acting in what is commonly called an environment of ‘imperfect The battle of ideas is inescapably tied to information’ – in which there is less than the battle for hearts and minds. The wise complete access to accurate information – are privy to this, and anywhere and can easily render intended statements of everywhere seek to manage it. The opinion as alleged statements of falsehoods. ascendancy of this ideational tug-of-war In any case, legitimate fear exists that these is not new: from Socrates’ corruption of informational asymmetries, artificially youth charge to the gleichschaltung of maintained (e.g. classified nature of some minds in Nazi Germany, ideas matter a documents), can be employed and Nevertheless, the law’s ambit is somewhat ‘weaponised’ for particular ends, further lot. A conduit of this informational broad, and includes websites – where stream, the Internet gives anyone stifling truth-based debate. These deeds regardless of inclination or demographic, social media dungeons and e-forums are of democratic derring-do – of which viewed as open hives for grapevine talk – a platform to make their voices heard. It journalists, academics and activists are has reshaped how we do things every day and closed private platforms, such as no stranger to – are then seen as ill-fated and reinvented our access to information. messaging apps. enterprises. Insofar as one is not allowed This does, however, set up a Catch-22 or does not have sufficient resources to situation, given that that very fountain of Governing officials, on their end, are quite freely question, ‘truth’ then becomes aware of the possibility of miasmas limitless knowledge – dependent as we ossified, further distorting the citizenry’s building up in the cyber cloud, leading – have grown to be on it – could well be a decision-making capacity. among other things – to increasingly poisoned chalice. fractious interactions between people of The bulk of the opposition to the bill, different backgrounds, skepticism towards however, relates to the amount of power THE ACT: ITS PROMISES Here is where Singapore’s Protection from state institutions, and, after a few missteps, that it vests in ministers who, as Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act – a Hobbesian war of all against all. Set mentioned earlier, are ordained with the against the backdrop of these situations, or POFMA for short – comes in. The Act power to make initial judgements (and states increasingly step in. aims to protect society from the damage consequently decisions) on what is ‘fake caused by deliberate online falsehoods and news’, with a take down or correction APPREHENSION ABOUT POFMA fake accounts used to spread such notice issued where necessary. The bill’s If regulation is entirely compatible with a opponents, which include members of the falsehoods1. It promises to mitigate the free society, and if the public at large Workers’ Party, take issue with the excesses created by so-called ‘fake news’, agrees that some form of regulation of ‘uncertainty’ relating to the circumstances which, in step with copious bandwidth laissez faire internet is desirable, why all around which a government minister and reverberating digital media echo the fuss surrounding the bill? The answer wields their powers5. At the heart of the chambers, have the potential to grossly has to do with the following points. mislead. Who could forget the brouhaha law’s concern, said Minister for Law K. over hearing news of roof collapse of a Shanmugam, is the need to quickly break First, that interpretations of ‘opinions and the virality of online falsehoods before it HDB apartment building in Punggol? criticisms’, supposedly not covered by the animates any latent unrest caused by its While a good number of these fake news instances are individually too isolated and bill, can be highly subjective, doing little to spread6. This, together with Clause 617 of the bill, and suddenly, that all too familiar abate the fake news conundrum. In a trivial to be of significant concern to speech made in parliament, Workers’ Party beat (and fear) about ‘absolute power’, society, as a whole, policymakers in and its centralisation, begins to drum ever MP Low Thia Khiang highlighted the particular are understandably vigilant. more loudly8. possibility that two identical speeches – albeit by different people – may produce 1 HTTPS://WWW.CHANNELNEWSASIA.COM/NEWS/SINGAPORE/SINGAPORE-PROPOSES-MULTI-PRONGED-LAW-TO-COMBAT-ONLINE-FALSEHOODS-11400614 2 HTTPS://WWW.STRAITSTIMES.COM/OPINION/A-MORE-CALIBRATED-APPROACH HTTPS://WWW.CHANNELNEWSASIA.COM/NEWS/SINGAPORE/ONLINE-FALSEHOODS-BILL-POFMA-FAKE-NEWS-NARROWS-GOVERNMENT-POWERS-11496172 4 HTTPS://WWW.TODAYONLINE.COM/SINGAPORE/LAWS-FIGHT-FAKE-NEWS-PASSED-WORKERS-PARTY-RAPPED-OPPOSING-MOVE 5 HTTPS://WWW.SCMP.COM/WEEK-ASIA/POLITICS/ARTICLE/3009263/SINGAPORES-OPPOSITION-CALLS-FAKE-NEWS-BILL-DAMOCLES-SWORD 6 HTTPS://WWW.CHANNELNEWSASIA.COM/NEWS/PARLIAMENT/NEWS/ONLINE-FALSEHOODS-BILL-COURTS-DECIDE-POFMA-SHANMUGAM-PRITAM-11514102 7 ‘THE MINISTER MAY, BY ORDER IN THE GAZETTE, EXEMPT ANY PERSON OR CLASS OF PERSONS FROM ANY PROVISION OF THIS ACT.’ HTTPS://WWW.PARLIAMENT.GOV.SG/DOCS/DEFAULT-SOURCE/DEFAULT-DOCUMENT-LIBRARY/PROTECTION-FROM-ONLINE-FALSEHOODS-AND-MANIPULATION-BILL10-2019.PDF 8 “POWER TENDS TO CORRUPT, AND ABSOLUTE POWER CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY.” — LORD ACTON 3

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Cherian George, in his commentary about the potential perils of POFMA, adduced the bill’s wide latitude as compelling individuals – be they academics, journalists or ordinary citizens – into ‘self-censorship’ out of fear of ‘miscalculating’ the bill’s breadth9. PROPOSALS AND ITS LIMITATIONS There is a sizeable calling, therefore, for the establishment of an independent body – composed of a diverse selection of individuals across society – to surveil POFMA-related matters, much akin to a POFMA court. Putting aside the potential ‘principal-agent’ problem that may arise from the issue of who ultimately gets to decide who makes up this body, it would, at least nominally, be seen as slightly more independent10. The performance of the body could be assessed at particular intervals based on clearly predefined criteria, with members subject to fixed term limits. This could, in my opinion, reduce allegations of ‘politicised’ decision making, while also ensuring that perceived falsehoods are swiftly dealt with.

on first glance, appear entirely irrational to us. That, despite education on media literacy and online hygiene, despite the mountain of evidence discrediting the authenticity of a news source, despite scores of people coaxing the unyielding internet user of its invalidity, a person chooses to believe otherwise.

big brother are everywhere, watching one’s every move. In both cases, there is a high degree of social regulation. Though it is quite unlikely that this moribund image of a future world – or a future state even – is likely to be the result of POFMA, we must take heed of the legitimate reservations that people have about it. Yes, there is certainly a need to regulate parts of the Internet, and the state needs to be a part of that process, but regulate it in a way such that the state does not compromise its democratic legitimacy. In this free, inclusive and democratic society, the challenging of conventional wisdom is commonplace, decision making power is decentralised and every citizen truly has an equal voice. Only then can the growth of reason – that social process – and society’s knowledge stock continue.

In a perverse way, this borderline nihilism – coupled by the rejection of ‘establishmentarian truths’ in favour of subjective ones – snugly fits into the interstices of our 21st century world, supercharged by one’s accessibility to more information than has ever been possible at any time in human history. In the scientific age that we live in, where a great number perceive an existential assault on religion and traditional ways of life, we must be aware of these underlying fissures that cannot easily be remedied by internet-literacy campaign and the like. In this brave new world, we can all We do not, after all, speak of using logic rejoice, because instead of SOMA, we have and reason to mend a grieving heart. POFMA. Where traditional media, especially Western media, is viewed as a propagandaspewing automaton, it may be difficult to rly a bar Ali was forme The next suggestion involves strengthening hush that tiny voice in our head that goes Abdul Hakeem Ak for e ntr Ce the t at Research Assistan the capacity of the citizenry to appropriately “don’t trust them”, despite adequate media d Malay Affairs. He arch on Islamic an se Re deal with new information, the so-called literacy; education on media literacy might postgraduate his ing rsu pu y is currentl litical Economy Po al on ‘media literacy’ and ‘media education’ do little if the entire exercise itself (i.e. ati ern studies in Int onomics. Ec of ol ho programmes. The proximity of an media literacy campaigns etc.) is viewed as at the London Sc individual to the World Wide Web means propaganda in the first place. that there is not much that can be done – bar physically restraining the individual – THE POWER OF IDEAS (REVISITED) to stop them from accessing it. The main The battle of ideas is inescapably tied to thrust of these campaigns is to equip one the battle for hearts and minds. with the necessary tools to sift out and discern real information from fake, so In what is, to many, a dramatic painting of that, like the Greek travellers sailing past future events, the long-term consequences the Sirens of Anthemoessa, one is not of POFMA (and the enabling effects that lured by its dangerous tune. This involves are dreaded would follow given path education on how to properly verify dependence), instigated by a culture of sources of information, and guidelines ‘self-censorship’ and servitude, is feared to about identifying potentially fake news, produce something akin to a Huxley-Oras opposed to reflexively ‘sharing’ or wellian dystopia. In Brave New World, ‘liking’ something without giving it much Huxley imagines a future, bleak world. thought. People are ‘programmed’ – via eugenics, social conditioning and SOMA11 – to be At the same time, and on this latter note, happy. It is a world dominated by ‘soft we need a deeper appreciation of why totalitarianism’ and mind control, though it is in many senses a perfectly peaceful certain segments of the population and stable world. In 1984, Orwell imagines continually appear to be more likely infiltrated by fake news. By the same token, quite the opposite – a place of ‘hard totalitarianism’, where thought police and we cannot afford to discount things that, 9 10 11

HTTPS://WWW.NEWMANDALA.ORG/SINGAPORES-ONLINE-FALSEHOODS-BILL-WILL-DEEPEN-A-CULTURE-OF-SELF-CENSORSHIP/ HTTPS://WWW.CHANNELNEWSASIA.COM/NEWS/SINGAPORE/PROPOSED-LAW-ON-FALSEHOODS-HAS-CLEAR-OVERSIGHT-MECHANISM-TO-11438132 IN BRAVE NEW WORLD, SOMA IS A DRUG PROVIDED BY GOVERNMENTS TO ITS PEOPLE WHICH HEIGHTENS SOME FEELINGS (E.G. HAPPINESS, SEXUAL AROUSAL, SELF-SATISFACTION ETC.) AND REPRESSES OTHERS (E.G. SADNESS, ANGER, DISILLUSIONMENT). HUXLEY, A. (1932). BRAVE NEW WORLD. NEW YORK: HARPER BROTHERS.

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BY IMAD ALATAS

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This year will mark 200 years since modern Singapore was founded by Sir Stamford Raffles, an English colonial administrator. A small city-state, Singapore is sure to celebrate this feat with pomp and fanfare. A few arrangements are already on the horizon. First, 2 million more pieces of commemorative S$20 notes will be issued by October to meet the growing demand. The pioneering dollar bills are meant to symbolise Singapore’s tribute to nationhood and pay homage to those who helped in the founding of modern Singapore. Next up is the special set of stamps that Singapore Post launched to depict important milestones in the country’s history, even preceding the year 1819. The story begins with the establishment of the Kingdom of Singapura by Sang Nila Utama and stretches all the way to Singapore’s independence in 1965, the year its first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew fearlessly said that Singapore “will survive!”. The big highlight is the multisensory exhibition at Fort Canning Centre, which ends at the end of the year. It will showcase Singapore through the lenses of the last 700 years, much like the stamps seek to do. All of this is happening this year.

A healthy attitude towards a colonial past celebrates the good and critiques the bad. It shouldn’t be simply glorified. While Raffles wasn’t a humanitarian figure his British admirers purported him to be, he was by no means a rogue as caricatured by Dutch writers and historians. Nevertheless, it would be erroneous to celebrate his positive attributes or contributions at the expense of his questionable beliefs.

to discard the colonial figure of Raffles. He embodied the idea of free trade and allayed the fears of the Western world wary that the East might fall to communism1. Raffles was also a man with intellectual curiosity. He held a passion for learning. It is this love for learning that should be seen as a respectable virtue. In the realm of education, he conceptualised the idea of establishing an educational institution in Singapore for the children of the Malay nobility and the Chinese entrepreneurs. In the last 200 years, Raffles has Raffles also wanted the institution to had an impeccable mark on the provide the Europeans in the region with Singaporean landscape. Schools, instruction in the native languages. shopping malls, a hospital, a hotel and a train station proudly carry his Ideally, the institution would become a name. His statue is perhaps the most centre for research and scientific enquiry. Initially named the Singapore Institution, visible symbol of the man himself. it is known today as Raffles Institution. Located on the north bank of the Singapore River, it depicts a man Raffles was a much more enlightened almost proudly overlooking his accomplishments. One could get thinker as compared to his comrades in the British administration. However, into a debate about whether Raffles is principally known by the general colonialism has brought about public in Singapore as an English benefits for the colonial statesman, and that’s it. He is not rememsubject(s), as former Guardian bered for his political philosophy or his education editor Jeevan Vasagar views on the natives he encountered in attempted to do. This isn’t the place for it. However, an objective assessment what is today Singapore. There are always of the man that the bicentennial celebrations two sides to any figure of history. Nearly five decades ago, Malaysian sociologist are being attributed to would be fair Syed Hussein Alatas published an and warranted. Raffles is credited with founding modern Singapore where he set authoritative study on the man himself. Titled Thomas Stamford Raffles: Schemer up an East India Company factory here. According to the authors of the book titled or Reformer?, it vividly illustrates the statesman’s philosophy on governance, Seven Hundred Year: A History of Modern Singapore, PAP leaders post-1965 chose not particularly in relation to British colonial 1 2 3

subjects. It was strictly not meant to assassinate the character of the man himself. In history textbooks in Singapore, a linear story is told of Raffles and the country. Little, if anything, is said on the people he encountered when founding modern Singapore. One of the groups would be the Malays. In an 1814 memoir to Hugh Inglis, an East Indian politician, he likened the Malays to people not accustomed to the desires of more civilised nations2. They were also predisposed to laziness due to an abundant physical climate. Such views would have appalled even 19th century Enlightenment thinkers. Being fond of the Malay language might have been where his affection for the Malays ended. It should be noted that Raffles sought to carve a relationship with Malays that was one of mutual benefit. He would be sympathetic to them as long as they served the interests of the British administration. The same could be said of the Chinese. In fact, he viewed the Chinese as a peculiarly incurable threat to the British colonial project if they did not follow orders. In Singapore, as elsewhere, Raffles had a vision. Namely, European nations were at the top of the modernity hierarchy and as a result, the onus was on them to civilise other parts of the world according to the standards of colonial capitalism. The empire-builder wore humanitarian garb when embarking on this mission. For Raffles, British piety, morals and integrity were immaculate3. Intent on remodelling Singapore into a

HTTPS://WWW.SCMP.COM/LIFESTYLE/ARTS-CULTURE/ARTICLE/3017222/HISTORY-SINGAPORE-OVER-700-YEARS-SHOWS-CITY-STATES-UPS-AND RAFFLES, THOMAS STAMFORD (1814). MEMOIR…VOL. I, PP. 258-259, LETTER TO HUGH INGLIS. ALATAS, SYED HUSSEIN (1971). THOMAS STAMFORD RAFFLES: SCHEMER OR REFORMER? ANGUS & ROBERTSON.

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modern city, he conceived a town plan of separate clusters to house the different ethnic groups. A by-product of this vision, nearly two centuries later, is the social organisation of race in Singapore colloquially known as CMIO. Every Singaporean is ascribed one of the four races: Chinese, Malay, Indian and others. Other issues could be debated about Sir Stamford Raffles, such as whether he was the main actor in the founding of Singapore if one takes into consideration the role of his underrated subordinate, Major-General William Farquhar (who was also the first British Resident in Singapore). This role was acknowledged by Ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh, who co-edited 200 Years of Singapore and the United Kingdom with British High Commissioner to Singapore Scott Wightman. Furthermore, four new statues of Sang Nila Utama, Tan Tock Seng, Munshi Abdullah and Naraina Pillai were revealed this year to tell a story of how it wasn’t just one character that shaped Singapore in and before 1819. Nevertheless, it is true that Raffles did lay down a vision for the new port in Singapore, although Singapore was already a port in 14th century Temasek. A healthy attitude towards a colonial past celebrates the good and critiques the bad. It shouldn’t be simply glorified. While Raffles wasn’t a humanitarian figure his British admirers purported him to be, he was by no means a rogue as caricatured by Dutch writers and historians. Nevertheless, it would be erroneous to celebrate his positive attributes or contributions at the expense of his questionable beliefs. As Singaporeans celebrate 200 years of modern Singapore, the country should not forget that modernity is never plated merely with gold. Singapore’s Prime Minister Mr Lee Hsien Loong noted that the bicentennial is a cause for reflection rather than celebration. Such a reflection should entail an honest appraisal of a man whose name and face we see all over Singapore.

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r’s uing a Maste rrently purs ity rs cu ve is ni as U l at Imad Al e Nationa ciology at th topics of degree in So e enjoys writing on the e. H tlets such of Singapor Malaysian ou y. He religion for da d To an a si er ay nd al ge M WWE ini and Free in watching as Malaysiak es lg du in d an ll ba ot fo plays ee time. during his fr


Different Uses of the

Terrorist Label

BY DR MOHAMMED ILYAS

OCTOBER 2019

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Ever since 9/11, countering terrorism has become a central policy concern for many countries. After every terrorist attack, governments, the media and the public always ask the same questions about the causes of the attack, motivations of the attackers, and how to prevent future attacks.

their profile pictures with the French Tricolour; a service which was not offered for the Lebanese flag”5. The Facebook example, which received much criticism, illustrates three important points. One, the suffering and mourning are racialised. Two, who is mourned is racialised. Three, if the attack takes place in the West, then the accompanying suffering and mourning are globalised through the media coverage and political responses – where the entire world is expected to mourn. Meanwhile, attacks in the non-Western world remain local and receive very little coverage in the international media, and only the country affected mourns.

race of the attacker is not attached to the act”8,9. The media starts the process of humanising the attacker by reporting on his or her troubled past, which often includes testimonials from family members, friends, and school teachers – as seen in the case Brenton Tarrant, who was responsible for the terrorist attack in Christchurch on 15th of March 2019. The After terrorist attacks, politicians give Daily Mirror, a popular British tabloid statements condemning the attacks and newspaper, described Brenton as “an promising to do more to fight extremism angelic boy”10. The paper also reported and terrorism, which is ironic because, in that his former associates said he was a some cases, the very same politicians are likeable and dedicated personal trainer responsible for stoking up the flames of running free athletic programmes for kids. mistrust and hate between communities. The newspaper completed the humanising A few examples will illustrate this point. process by stating that his journey to In 2018, Boris Johnson, current British If the perpetrator of an attack is identified becoming a terrorist could have started Prime Minister compared Muslim women as a Muslim, the attack is instantly labelled when his father died from asbestos wearing burqas to “letterboxes”1; former as terrorism, he or she is dehumanised, related-illness. The Christchurch attack Australian PM, Tony Abbott said in 2017, Islam is blamed, all Muslims are held has not resulted in all white people being “Islamophobia hasn’t killed anyone”2; and accountable, and the threat is deemed blamed or held accountable for Brenton’s the current Australian PM Scott Morrison, global. Muslims in the UK are considered actions. The threat posed by white in 2010 “had encouraged his Liberal to be at risk of radicalisation for even supremacists is deemed as local, and colleagues in a shadow cabinet meeting to boycotting supermarkets because of their attacks by them are seen as an act of an make the most of community concerns political inclinations. Muslims are asked individual suffering from trauma or some about Muslim migration”3. Anti-Muslim to do more to prevent terrorism by the other psychological or emotional racism has fostered a climate of othering, media and politicians to make Muslims problem; an isolated act and not which continues to feed into the extremist less ‘risky, manageable and controllable’ something that can be either traced back groups’ worldviews4. and, if need be, easily ‘disciplined’. It also to culture or civilisation. Neither have means ‘performing assimilation’ which the media and politicians called for state Following terrorist attacks and depending erases anger against the system by intervention to eradicate extremism on where they take place, the global depoliticising Muslims, leading them to from among the white people, nor have response is very different. If the attack accept a subordinate and marginalised they called on the state to civilise white takes place in a Western city like Paris, the status. The tropes centre on representing people by equipping them with the following tends to occur: there is global Muslims as barbaric, backwards and skills and values to live in a civilised and moral outrage; there are candlelit vigils in ‘needing state intervention’ to root out, modern world. all the major capital cities; inter-religious what Boris Johnson has called the events are organised in many countries to “Islamist virus”6. Ultimately, even if Of course, the response to terrorist attacks foster greater understanding between Muslims adopt a moderate or even liberal by the public, the media and the politicians, communities; and social media are approach to Islam, it does not mean they neither explains the motivations nor the flooded with hashtags and messages in will be accepted and deemed as peaceful. cause of the attacks. In some instances, support of the victims. Social media According to Douglas Murray, a British they exasperate the situation. Motives are platforms also seem to privilege the right-wing commentator, “peace is only often complex and interwoven with sufferings of victims from the Western possible if there is less Islam”7. narratives of ethnic struggle, identity world over those from other parts of the politics and political grievances. world. After the Paris and Lebanon The situation is very different if the perpetrator is identified as white. Then terrorist attacks in 2015, Facebook “offered users a one-click option to overlay the labelling takes “much longer, and the 1 HUGHES, L., 2018. BORIS JOHNSON REFUSES TO APOLOGISE FOR BURKA ‘LETTER BOX’ REMARK. FINANCIAL TIMES, 8 AUGUST. AVAILABLE FROM: HTTPS://WWW.FT.COM/CONTENT/251091A6-9A4F-11E8-AB77-F854C65A4465 KOZIOL, M., 2019. TONY ABBOTT BACKS AWAY FROM INFAMOUS 'ISLAMOPHOBIA HASN'T KILLED ANYONE' REMARK. THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 18 MARCH. AVAILABLE FROM: HTTPS://WWW.SMH.COM.AU/POLITICS/FEDERAL/TONY-ABBOTT-BACKS-AWAY-FROM-INFAMOUS-ISLAMOPHOBIA-HASN-T-KILLED-ANYONE-REMARK-20190318-P5156U.HTML 3 TAYLOR, L., 2011. MORRISON SEES VOTES IN ANTI-MUSLIM STRATEGY. THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 17 FEBRUARY. AVAILABLE FROM: HTTPS://WWW.SMH.COM.AU/NATIONAL/MORRISON-SEES-VOTES-IN-ANTI-MUSLIM-STRATEGY-20110216-1AWMO.HTML 4 BBC, 2019. ISLAMOPHOBIA BEHIND FAR-RIGHT RISE IN UK, REPORT SAYS. BBC NEWS, 18 FEBRUARY. AVAILABLE FROM: HTTPS://WWW.BBC.COM/NEWS/UK-47280082 5 BARNARD, A., 2015. BEIRUT, ALSO THE SITE OF DEADLY ATTACKS, FEELS FORGOTTEN. NEW YORK TIMES, 15 NOVEMBER. AVAILABLE FROM: HTTPS://WWW.NYTIMES.COM/2015/11/16/WORLD/MIDDLEEAST/BEIRUT-LEBANON-ATTACKS-PARIS.HTML 6 JOHNSON, B., 2013. BY STANDING UNITED, WE CAN ISOLATE THE VIRUS OF ISLAMISM. THE TELEGRAPH, 26 MAY. AVAILABLE FROM: HTTPS://WWW.TELEGRAPH.CO.UK/POLITICS/0/STANDING-UNITED-CAN-ISOLATE-VIRUS-ISLAMISM/ 7 MURRAY, D., 2017. DOUGLAS MURRAY NEVER MIND SINGING JOHN LENNON SONGS… IF WE WANT PEACE THEN WE NEED ONE THING – LESS ISLAM. THE SUN, 4 JUNE. AVAILABLE FROM: HTTPS://WWW.THESUN.CO.UK/NEWS/3722649/NEVER-MIND-SINGING-JOHN-LENNON-SONGS-IF-WE-WANT-PEACE-THEN-WE-NEED-ONE-THING-LESS-ISLAM/ 8 LAZREG, H, B., 2019. THE HYPOCRITICAL MEDIA COVERAGE OF THE NEW ZEALAND TERROR ATTACKS. THE CONVERSATION, 25 MARCH. AVAILABLE FROM: HTTPS://THECONVERSATION.COM/THE-HYPOCRITICAL-MEDIA-COVERAGE-OF-THE-NEW-ZEALAND-TERROR-ATTACKS-113713 9 WATERSON, J., 2019. MEDIA ARE RELUCTANT TO LABEL FAR-RIGHT ATTACKERS AS TERRORISTS, STUDY SAYS. THE GUARDIAN, 10 APRIL. AVAILABLE FROM: HTTPS://WWW.THEGUARDIAN.COM/MEDIA/2019/APR/10/MEDIA-ARE-RELUCTANT-LABEL-FAR-RIGHT-ATTACKERS-TERRORISTS-STUDY-SAYS 10 YOUNG, M., 2019. BOY WHO GREW INTO EVIL FAR-RIGHT MASS KILLER AS 49 MURDERED AT PRAYERS. THE MIRROR, 15 MARCH. AVAILABLE FROM: HTTPS://WWW.MIRROR.CO.UK/NEWS/WORLD-NEWS/NEW-ZEALAND-SHOOTING-BRENTON-TARRANT-14142703 2

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Terrorism is not caused by religion, Terrorism is not culture, ethnicity or civilisation. Instead, the cause lies in unresolved conflicts, caused by religion, identitarian politics and invasions such as 2004 invasion of Iraq. Since 9/11, it has culture, ethnicity or the become common for political parties and civilisation. Instead, the media in Europe, Australia and the US to use orientalist tropes to foster fear on issues like terrorism, conflicts, food, the cause lies in environmental and economic insecurities, unresolved conflicts, and the fragility of national identity. Each party tries to convince the electorate that identitarian politics the country is in imminent danger from the enemy within and foreign undesirables. and invasions such The parties try to outdo each other by the electorate that they are as the 2004 invasion promising the party that will defeat the enemy and keep out all the ‘undesirables’ of Iraq. Since 9/11, it within to ensure that the country is safe and for the in-group. All the while, has become common secure scaremongering and fostering a climate of hate, mistrust and othering, which can for political parties lead to acts of terrorism. Such a climate not only engender push and pull factors and the media in for cumulative extremism but also validates and justifies white supremacist Europe, Australia and other extremist ideologies. and the US to use If we are to eradicate terrorism, then we orientalist tropes to need to have an honest debate about the causes of extremism and radicalisation, foster fear on issues real including the role played by politicians, government policies and the media. By like terrorism, media, I do not only mean social media but also news media, which, according conflicts, food, to Britain’s counter-terrorism chief is causing far-right radicalisation . We need environmental and to have an honest debate about issues as immigration, integration, identity, economic insecurities, such job insecurity, foreign policy and security, which are a concern for many people and the fragility of across the world. We also need to hold politicians and the media to account for national identity.

Dr Mohammed Ily as is a lecturer in Criminology and Security at the Un iversity of Liverpool in Sin gapore. His resea rch focuses on radica lisation, political violence and terror ism. He is also interested in Islam ophobia, hate cri mes and decolonisatio n.

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scaremongering and fostering an othering climate, which lends itself to extremism and in some cases, terrorism. Finally, we need to elect politicians who practise ethical politics that is based on ending global insecurities such as poverty and conflicts, on promoting human rights, and not on advocating or supporting policies that will undermine human rights at the expense of economic and political gain.

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WATERSON, J., 2019. NEWSPAPERS HELP TO RADICALISE FAR RIGHT, SAYS UK ANTI-TERROR CHIEF. THE GUARDIAN, 20 MARCH. AVAILABLE FROM: HTTPS://WWW.THEGUARDIAN.COM/UK-NEWS/2019/MAR/20/NEWSPAPERS-HELP-RADICALISE-FAR-RIGHT-UK-ANTI-TERROR-CHIEF-NEIL-BASU

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Taking That Leap Abroad –

Nurlina Awaludin

Q: Could you tell us about yourself? Nurlina: I am the youngest in a family of four siblings, and I grew up in a humble, typical middle-income family in Singapore. Despite my parents emphasising the importance of studies, academics was not my strong suit. I had to retake the GCE ‘O’ level exams as a private candidate after my first attempt did not yield the results I wanted. With my new exam results, I qualified for the Certificate of Business Studies course in ITE Bishan, where I eventually graduated in the top 5% amongst ITE students nationwide. I then undertook the marketing diploma programme in Temasek Polytechnic and later received my Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Western Australia. Even though my education journey was unconventional, I am glad that I remained persistent and had the full support of my family to overcome the challenges. Q: How did you get a job working for the Qatari government? What does your work entail?

Nurlina: After being seconded to Doha, I worked in a joint-venture organisation established between Qatar and Singapore. One of the core projects that was assigned to me was for the Qatari government, which was producing a biennial exhibition BY NUR DIYANA JALIL and conference similar to an existing event in Singapore. I had the privilege of being More Singaporeans, especially the younger Qatar for a few months. Being young and part of a team that organised the inaugural generation, are choosing to work or live wide-eyed, she looked forward to a change edition of the event in Qatar. abroad. The number who choose to work in scenery and learning how the event or live abroad has increased over the years, industry functioned in a country that was Over the years, I worked on different with a total of 216,400 Singaporeans last completely new to her. Over a decade later, areas of event management and grew year compared to 181,900 in 20081. The Nurlina is now an event director for trade from being a marketing professional to trend is unlikely to abate as the world gets exhibitions where key decision makers in being the project lead for the event. After more and more connected, making global the security and defence industry meet delivering three editions of the event, employment now much more accessible and learn about the latest technologies. I was approached by the Qatari governthan before. Economic potential in In 2009, the first edition of an event she ment to consider working with them to emerging markets, such as the Middle managed secured second place for the ‘Best spearhead the project. Having witnessed East, has also contributed to a significant Trade Exhibition’ award by the Middle East the development of the project, I became increase in companies relocating their Events Awards. very invested in its growth. Thus, I made staff and sourcing talent from all around the decision to extend my stay in Qatar the world. What started off as a plan for a mere and be part of the organising committee change in scenery ended with her for the anchor exhibition and conference, Our featured personality, Nurlina embracing a new working culture and amongst other events. Awaludin, leapt at the opportunity to being more open to new perspectives and work overseas when her previous worldviews 13 years on. Nurlina shares her Apart from managing the event departments employer was looking for someone who experience working and living in the gulf across the board, which includes overseeing might be interested in being stationed in state with the Karyawan team in this issue. activities related to public relations and

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POPULATION IN BRIEF 2018, PG 19, TABLE 4: OVERSEAS SINGAPOREAN POPULATION. HTTPS://WWW.STRATEGYGROUP.GOV.SG/MEDIA-CENTRE/PUBLICATIONS/POPULATION-IN-BRIEF


Q: In your opinion, what are the main a Singaporean work environment, but attributes that a person must have I have learnt that this little effort goes a long way and is appreciated, which in turn before considering working abroad? brings the team closer. Nurlina: An open mind and open heart. Positivity plays a vital role in living abroad, Q: As an Event Director, what kind of Q: Do you find living and working in events do you manage? Qatar less stressful than in Singapore? especially if you are relocating alone without any other family members within close distance. Nurlina: I specialise in the defence and Nurlina: To be honest, not everyone will security field, and mainly organise events enjoy being in Qatar. One’s personality and Another attribute that would be helpful that bring together the industry’s key way of life play a key role. I, for one, do when one decides to live and/or work decision makers to meet and learn more find living and working in Qatar less about the latest innovations and solutions. stressful, mainly due to the love for the job abroad is adaptability. We have to be realistic that we will be entering a new As an international event, the exhibition I do and my personality of being a social environment and not everything will is a leading arena for global defence introvert. Hence, I do not feel the need to work the way we are used to, so do expect manufacturers and service providers to have a large group of friends as a support to make some adjustments both personally showcase their latest technologies to system as I am content with having few and professionally. Also, no matter how government entities from across the globe social activities. experienced a person is, there is always and form commercial opportunities. On the other hand, the official working In addition to that, I am also involved in hours in Qatar is typically shorter compared organising conferences where thought to those in Singapore. On normal days, leaders from all over the world – including I work from 7.30am to 2.00pm. During both academia and practitioners – discuss Ramadhan, the working hours are even and share their expertise on the latest shorter. Even though many may be regional and international trends in the envious with this ‘privilege’, we are defence and security domain. expected to achieve the same milestones within a shorter time span so it does get Q: What were your initial struggles overwhelming at times. working in Qatar and how did you overcome them? I always look forward to having time to myself on my off days. Apart from Nurlina: Communication was one of the dedicating my time to my five cats which major challenges I had to deal with. Back I have dubbed as my ‘furkids’, I also when I first started working in Qatar, indulge in binge watching TV series, English wasn’t as commonly used as it is reading as well as having restful sleep. now. Therefore, communicating with local vendors could get very complicated. Q: What are some of the misconceptions Furthermore, many would prefer to have about women in the Middle East? discussions face-to-face than over email, thus there was a need for me to hone my Nurlina: Before I came to Qatar, interpersonal skills. But through time, and many warned me about going with better networking, it did get easier as there alone as they had this we had a better understanding of each perception that women here other’s expectations. At the same time, we are oppressed and do not also managed to establish better rapport have the freedom and thanks to offline communication. rights that other women do in other Q: Is the working culture different nations. In reality, from Singapore? Qatar is a very safe country and women Nurlina: Most definitely. The working are free to do as culture here centres on personal interaction they wish as long we have amongst colleagues and as it does not offend stakeholders. For instance, most of us the sentiments of greet and have a short chat with each the local community. other when we arrive in the office instead of heading directly to our workspace. This may seem as something trivial or even perceived to be a waste of time if we are in marketing, revenue generation, managing vendor relations as well as operations and logistics, I am also tasked to lead the strategic development of the event.

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something new to learn, so a little “Another attribute humility will go a long way. that would be helpful Q: What was something uniquely Singaporean that has proved to be when one decides useful while working in Qatar? to live and/or work Nurlina: From what I gather, my Qatari abroad is adaptability. colleagues perceive Singaporeans to be earnest and hardworking. We are also We have to be known to not overpromise and underdeliver. In other words, Singaporeans are well realistic that we will respected here as we are reputed to have integrity in our work. be entering a new Do you have any advice for those environment and not Q: who want to pursue a career in the everything will work Middle East? Stay resilient. The recruitment the way we are used Nurlina: process is more time consuming due to the mandatory procedures but don’t lose hope. to, so do expect One also has to be realistic and do the necessary research on the opportunities to make some that are available in the Middle East as businesses here are dominantly fueled adjustments both by certain industries. So it will be an personally and advantage if one has relevant experience in the particular field. professionally. Also, Be sincere in the work that you do and it no matter how will be appreciated by many. Prove that little red dot is able to contribute to a experienced a person our nation’s growth beyond borders. is, there is always Q: Do you think Malay/Muslim youths should explore a career overseas? something new to How can they go about doing so? learn, so a little Nurlina: I do not see a reason why not, especially if they have the interest. They humility will go a should at least give it a chance. There are many online recruitment portals available long way.” that have a proven success rate. Another alternative is for them to approach recruitment agencies and headhunters as many established companies and major organisations hire headhunters to seek the most suitable candidates. This will also allow the applicants to have a reference of their rights and package as an expatriate hire and also some guidance when making arrangements when relocating.

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Q: Do you agree that working abroad is an experience that has developed you both personally and professionally? What changes have you seen in yourself? Nurlina: After spending 13 years in a foreign land that I now call my second home, I have become more independent and responsible. Professionally, I think I have become more patient and learned to listen. Working in a multinational and multicultural environment, I have had to be more understanding of the point of view of others. I have become more open with receiving inputs from others and being more creative in using the information to cultivate new ideas and solutions. Q: What are your future plans? Will you return to Singapore if you were offered a job here? Nurlina: Eventually, I would want to return to Singapore to be closer to my family. I feel that I have missed out many milestones so I wish to be more physically present. At the same time, I am very emotionally attached to the projects that I have worked on and want to continue witnessing their growth. Thus, it is hard for me to say what my next course of action will be, but if a suitable opportunity arises in Singapore, I will certainly give it serious consideration.

Nur Diyana Jalil is curren tly an Executive at the Centre for Research on Islamic and Malay Affairs (RIMA) who manages its social media, events and pub lication. She loves to read, travel and recent ly started to write for leisure.


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WRITE TO US We welcome civic debate and engagement, and will gladly publish your opinions in the next issue of The Karyawan. Letters should be no longer than 300 words. However, we will not publish letters that are potentially seditious or libellous, contain personal attacks, as well as those that threaten our racial and religious harmony. Letters which potentially infringe on copyrighted material will not be included. Where possible, do provide links to your sources for our fact-checking purposes.

LETTER TO EDITOR I have just finished reading the July issue of The Karyawan, an issue packed with exciting perspectives on some old issues. Thank you! I am glad Ameera Begum wrote “Could the Christchurch Massacre One Day be the Sultan Massacre?” Although I had thought of it when the news broke about Christchurch, I get to read how a Muslim in Singapore feels and the fears she has. As I belong to the majority race, I don't often think about these fears upon myself or upon Singaporeans in general. Sure, our authorities have highlighted the threats but we still need to be vigilant and trust our uniformed personnel to be alert and do their jobs well. So now I can view from her lens the fears she harboured. Some of these are indeed real because humans are often susceptible to manipulation. A wrong message, a wrong word, a misinterpreted action can ignite the fuse to burn down a city. As private citizens we must do our part to put in a kind word, a gracious word about each other, be it Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, or even atheists. This way, we can dispel fears. When we do not know our neighbours, we tend to imagine the worst. Justin Hee

Please provide us with your real names and contact details (mobile number and email address). Published letters will state the contributor's name. Pseudonyms will not be accepted. Apart from your name, your personal details will remain confidential and will only be released with your permission. The Editor of The Karyawan reserves the right to edit a letter. MAILING ADDRESS EDITOR, THE KARYAWAN AMP Singapore 1 Pasir Ris Drive 4 #05-11 Singapore 519457 Phone: +65 6416 3966 Email: corporate@amp.org.sg

The Karyawan is dedicated to the Lifestyle, Science & Technology, and publication of articles on issues of the Environment. concern to the Malay/Muslim community and Singaporean society at large. To have your article considered for publication, please submit your article Contributions across these areas are and information – full name, email, welcome, with particular attention contact number, academic or research given to the following: Community, background – via email to Ms Winda Politics, Social, Education, Economy, Guntor at winda@amp.org.sg. Finance, Entrepreneurship, Arts & 44 T H E K A R Y A W A N © ASSOCIATION OF MUSLIM PROFESSIONALS. PERMISSION IF REQUIRED FOR REPRODUCTION.


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The Karyawan — Volume 14 Issue 4  

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The Karyawan — Volume 14 Issue 4  

© AMP Singapore. Permission is required for reproduction.

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