PUBLISHED BY: AMP SINGAPORE • VOLUME 17 ISSUE 2 • APRIL 2022 • MCI (P) NO: 010/07/2021 • ISSN NO: 0218-7434
SG BUDGET 2022: A FAIRER AND MORE RESILIENT SOCIETY
CONTENTS APRIL 2022
FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK COVER STORY SG Budget 2022: A Fairer and More Resilient Society by Centre for Research on Islamic and Malay Affairs
$100K by 30?: Perspective of a Singaporean Malay/Muslim by Khairul Ruzaini Jasmani
Countering Violent Extremism: The Singapore Experience by Dr Mohamed Ali
Caring for Dementia Patients with Azraini Azri Alfred by Nur Diyana Jalil
Key Developments and the Rise of NFTs in Singapore by Dr Hazik Mohamed
Book Review: The Primordial Modernity of Malay Nationality by Humairah Zainal and Kamaludeen Mohamed Nasir by Muhammad Hydar
The Realities of Starting A Tech Company by Shamir Rahim
Challenging the Arabisation Narrative: A Preliminary Study of Singaporean Niqabis by Fadhil Yunus Alsagoff
The Power of Social Media for Dakwah by Muhammad Zulkarnain Azman
SUPERVISING EDITOR Dr Md Badrun Nafis Saion EDITOR Mohksin Mohd Rashid EDITORIAL TEAM Nur Diyana Jalil Ruzaidah Md Rasid Sheikh Mohamad Farouq Abdul Fareez Winda Guntor We welcome letters, comments and suggestions on the issues that appear in the magazine. Please address your correspondence to: Editor, The Karyawan AMP Singapore 1 Pasir Ris Drive 4 #05-11 Singapore 519457 T +65 6416 3966 | F +65 6583 8028 E firstname.lastname@example.org
The Karyawan is a publication of AMP Singapore. It is published in association with our research subsidiary, the Centre for Research on Islamic and Malay Affairs (RIMA).
Different in Jurisprudence but not Values: A Snapshot of Sunni-Shia Marriages in Singapore by Syed Imad Alatas
The views expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect those of AMP and its subsidiaries nor its directors and The Karyawan editorial board. © AMP Singapore. 2022. All rights reserved. Permission is required for reproduction.
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FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK
Singapore, along with the rest of the world, is now entering the third year of the pandemic. Slowly, but surely, there is now a semblance of the bustling world we once knew, with the economy picking up and our borders opening to international travel. Budget 2022, unveiled by Minister Lawrence Wong on 18 February with the theme ‘Charting Our New Way Forward’, is poised to support Singaporeans as we confront the opportunities and challenges in a post-pandemic world. Among the announcements made in the Budget statement were the Goods and Services Tax (GST) hike, and wealth and carbon taxes, aimed at building a fairer and more resilient tax system as well as to tackle climate change. In its special commentary on the Budget statement, our research subsidiary, the Centre for Research on Islamic and Malay Affairs (RIMA), have highlighted three areas to consider. These are the need for a public outreach initiative to educate Singaporeans on the need for the GST hike, clarity on how those in the nation’s creative industry will be supported, as well as the need to cultivate a more inclusive society especially for vulnerable groups like persons with disabilities and the Special Education sector. You can read RIMA’s Budget commentary on Page 9. I hope you’ll enjoy reading this issue.
DR MD BADRUN NAFIS SAION SUPERVISING EDITOR
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Last December 2021, Singapore commemorated the 20th anniversary of the arrest of members of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorist group. In late 2001, they were detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for planning to launch terrorist attacks in several locations in the country. These included plans to use truck bombs to attack the US and Israeli Embassies, commercial buildings housing American firms and shuttle buses carrying American military officers and their families in the Sembawang area to Yishun MRT Station. Fortunately, their plans were successfully thwarted when JI’s activities were detected by the Internal Security Department (ISD). ISD arrested 13 JI members in late 2001 while more arrests were made in 2002. Like other countries facing similar threats at that time, Singapore naturally heightened its security, while outlining strategies to deal with JI and the threat of terrorism. Terrorism and violence are not new in Singapore. The country had experienced racial riots, confrontations, and even international terrorism in the past. Unlike previous threats however, violence from JI is religiously motivated, and this posed a new challenge for the government and the Singaporean society. To counter it, the government developed a holistic and comprehensive approach that included the rehabilitation of those arrested.
COUNTERING VIOLENT EXTREMISM: The Singapore Experience DR MOHAMED ALI 02 T H E K A R Y A W A N © AMP SINGAPORE. PERMISSION IS REQUIRED FOR REPRODUCTION.
The government also realised that terrorism would affect Singapore’s multiracial and religious fabric, and hence strives to strengthen the relationship and trust between the different religious communities in Singapore. This was critical, as terrorism and violent extremism have the potential to disrupt social order through exploiting racial and religious fault lines. Thus, ever since the plot of the JI network was discovered, the government and community have continuously maintained social stability amongst its people from different religions and races through various initiatives. An important element in the overall counter-terrorism strategy was the government’s endorsement of communitybased initiatives to co-exist alongside more traditional counter-terrorism measures. This came from the realisation that the affected community would be in the best position to locate the local sources of
misunderstanding or grievances, thus facilitating targeted solutions. This gave rise to local community-based initiatives such as rehabilitation conducted by the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) and social services extended by the InterAgency Aftercare Group (ACG) during the early days of the JI threat. RRG comprises a group of local Muslim scholars who provide religious counselling to JI and other ISA detainees, while the ACG, represented by several community organisations, was formed to assist the family members. The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS), a governmental body responsible for Muslim affairs, along with local mosques, also initiated programmes which aimed to counter radical ideologies and prevent radicalisation in the community. Since 2001, the threat of extremism from violent Islamist groups in Singapore has evolved to the phenomenon of selfradicalisation of individuals who have come under the influence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) narratives and propaganda. This has spurred the Singapore government and the community to continue developing new strategies to deal with the enduring threat of extremism and radicalisation. SINGAPORE’S UNIQUE COUNTER-IDEOLOGICAL PROGRAMME Terrorism occurs when ideological motivation meets operational capability. The way a terrorist group shapes its radical worldview, and its publicly disseminated messages play an important role in the public interface between the group and its target audience. A group can successfully indoctrinate the public to become sympathisers, mobilise supporters and recruit members through its methods of propaganda. A multi-pronged approach is needed to counter terrorism effectively. The ideological battle in the ‘war on terrorism’ should include not only a ‘shooting war’ or law enforcement operations but a ‘war of ideas’ as well. The response needs to disrupt and degrade a terrorist group’s military and economic infrastructure and target the organisation’s political apparatus. If left unchecked, this apparatus 1
will continue to mobilise political support detainees were also guided on how to and logistical assistance, eventually live as good Muslims and be progressive generating new recruits. in the context of a secular and multireligious society. Unlike the use of hard counter-terrorism approaches, Singaporean leaders realised Counselling of the detainees is a daunting that it was essential to partner with the task and a long-term process that requires Muslim community to reach out to perseverance. While counselling efforts vulnerable individuals. While only a are ongoing, RRG has also engaged the very small number of Singaporean wider community in various engagements Muslims were detained for terroristand programmes online and offline. These related activities, they could not be held programmes aim at proactively educating indefinitely, so the government ought to the wider public on the dangers of develop strategies to meet the contemporary extremist ideologies and preventing challenges of ideological extremism. Muslim youths from being lured by deviant teachings. Prominent Islamic scholars were invited to an initial dialogue with the JI members. Today, the concept of religious These scholars assessed and concluded rehabilitation, particularly for Islamist that the religious-ideological component militants, has gained wide acceptance of the JI movement must be dealt with in locally and internationally. Many order to deal with the threat effectively. governments have recognised that According to them, the grave danger of JI’s religious rehabilitation is key to formulate religious-ideological inclination needed to an effective counter-terrorism strategy. be treated as a concern to Singapore’s This can be seen in countries such as Saudi security, and thus addressed. This urgency Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan, Egypt, Bangladesh, led to the formation of the RRG. Malaysia, and Indonesia where similar programmes have also been in place. RRG was officially inaugurated in April Singapore’s approach to religious 2003. It originally had 11 members and is rehabilitation has also accrued interest now over 46 members strong. They consist and recognition from many governments of mainly asatizah (religious teachers) and scholars regionally and globally. drawn from diverse age groups, careers, and educational backgrounds. RRG also Bruce Hoffman of Georgetown University includes a secretariat made up of members (Washington, DC) states: from the asatizah and individuals from “The path-breaking work of Singapore’s non-religious backgrounds. It functions as Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) provides administrative support. RRG’s main and a model and inspiration for counterinitial task is to provide religious radicalisation efforts everywhere. The RRG’s counselling to the JI detainees and their outreach efforts not only to radicals but to their family members. families are a seminal example of the most innovative and novel approaches to addressing Today, counselling efforts by the RRG have this phenomenon. Most importantly, it proves been extended to include self-radicalised that there is no war on Islam, as the radicals individuals, those influenced by ISIS often claim, and that communities can indeed narratives, and anyone deemed to possess co-exist peacefully and harmoniously”.1 radical and extremist views. The group’s ROLE OF SCHOLARS AND COMMUNITY other objective is to serve as an expert resource panel in assisting the government The ideology of violent Islamist groups such as Al-Qaeda, JI and ISIS, frames their and the community’s understanding of organisational structure, leadership and Islam. Counselling sessions discuss membership motivation, recruitment, and concepts pertaining to jihad (struggle), support. It also shapes their strategies, shariah (path, or understood as Islamic tactics and worldview. The threat posed by laws), or daulah Islamiyah (Islamic state) these groups will persist unless their and refute the detainees’ distorted extreme and perverted understanding of understanding of the concept of al-wala’ religion is countered. Violent Islamists wal bara’ (loyalty and disavowal). Apart attempt to identify themselves as from addressing these doctrines, the
Mohamed, A. Winning Hearts and Minds, Embracing Peace, Commemorating the 5th Anniversary of Singapore's Religious Rehabilitation Group. Khadijah Mosque. 2008
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representatives of the authentic and original Islam as practised by the early Muslims. They advocate strict adherence to their understanding of Islamic practices as enjoined by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and subsequently practised by the early Muslims. These groups managed to radicalise individuals and convince them to take action in their name. An example can be seen in the ISIS’ Dabiq magazine. The articles are written by ISIS followers whose chain of knowledge is unknown, and their religious contents can be characterised as having Sunni-versusShiite orientation, circular discourses on religious concepts, and the extensive use of eschatological or ‘end of times’ narratives. Extremist ideologies and propaganda will continue even if the groups cease to exist. To confront the threat, though, robust tools and religious scholars are needed to steer misguided views and critically invalidate their ideologies, especially its questionable religious legitimacy. Responding to the threat posed by violent radical Islamist groups requires a holistic approach that targets both the terrorists’ organisational and ideological infrastructure – a great challenge for many secular governments due to the lack of capabilities and experience. Governments must thus work with religious communities. To counter the perverted understanding of Islam propagated by extremists, religious scholars need to come forth and assume responsibility for framing the religion correctly. Ultimately, they are needed to rehabilitate detainees and to inform the larger Muslim community about the dangers of extremist narratives. Religious scholars must openly and proactively reject violence and intolerance through debates and open dialogues on the dangers of religious extremism. Their role is critical to bring about peace and harmony. The essential reality is that extremists believe their immoral acts of violence are moral and that they are on the right path to God. This is drawn from a long tradition of extreme intolerance that does not distinguish between politics and religion, but instead distorting them both. This must be deconstructed and the scholars are in the best position to perform this task. 04 T H E K A R Y A W A N © AMP SINGAPORE. PERMISSION IS REQUIRED FOR REPRODUCTION.
The story of RRG stands out in this regard. A group of local scholars working closely with the local government is a fine example of the importance of a government-community partnership to deal with the threat of terrorism and extremism. The Singaporean government has been amenable to the idea of working with the community for a number of reasons. These include: (1) the threat of terrorism is not the problem of the Muslim community alone but of the nation and hence requires the attention of all; and (2) participation of religious scholars is needed, because they are the right people to confront extremist ideologies and rehabilitate the detainees. As the Singapore experience has demonstrated, Muslim and non-Muslim organisations such as the RRG, ACG, MUIS, the Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle (IRCC) and Malay/Muslim organisations (MMOs) have managed to help the government effectively to reduce the threat of terrorism and extremism in the country. They have valuable expertise and experience in addressing conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism. CONCLUSION The discovery of the JI network in Singapore and the arrest of individuals radicalised by ISIS narratives have produced invaluable lessons. Importantly, it has demonstrated that the government and the Muslim community can work together to produce the ideological counter required to defeat terrorists and extremist groups. This is not a war against Islam but a war against any misrepresentations and misunderstandings of Islam. This is not a clash of civilisations but a clash of ideas that has divided the world into peace and war. The efforts made by the Singapore government and the community to fight terrorism and mitigate the threat of ideological extremism have been robust. While the threat has been degraded, it is likely that the country will continue to be targeted. Efforts and necessary resources must continue to be directed to support an efficient and effective strategy. This includes the allocation of sustained resources to train manpower, improved infrastructure to ensure greater security, and the support and intervention of the
community and religious organisations. Strong leadership is, in this respect, key and has thus far been demonstrated. Singapore’s counter-terrorism success has been a direct result.
Dr Mohamed Bin Ali is an Assistant Professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. He is also the Vice-Chairman of the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) and Vice-Chairman of Geylang Serai Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle (IRCC). He holds several appointments in the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) as member of the Syariah Appeal Board, associate member of the Fatwa Committee, member of the Wakaf Dispute Resolution Committee and member of the Committee for Future Asatizah. Dr Mohamed completed his Bachelor of Arts from Al-Azhar University, Master of Science from RSIS and obtained his PhD from University of Exeter, United Kingdom.
Key Developments and the Rise of NFTs in Singapore
BY DR HAZIK MOHAMED
The wider view of the rise of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, is the decentralisation of financial services. With the application of the blockchain and its integration with artificial intelligence (AI) and IoT devices1 (e.g. NFCs and RFIDs), finance has become more efficient and accessible. There are several key drivers that are making decentralised finance work – tokenisation of real-world assets, maturity of stablecoins and the improved implementation or acceptance of some regulations and standardisation. We are also witnessing two fast-growing trends merge and complement each other. The first is 1
tokenisation, where all illiquid assets in the world, from securities to luxury goods and collectibles, become liquid and all liquid assets can be traded more efficiently. The second is the rise of a new tokenised economy where intermediaries have a reduced role in transactions and counterparties transact directly with each other. Inevitably, new transactional rules will be established within this next phase of digital transformation of the economy that must guide economic behaviours to be productive, sustainable, fair and just.
TOKENISATION OF THE ECONOMY Tokenisation has become one of the most important and influential trends in the digital space. Essentially, tokens are a representation for ‘something’ on the blockchain that does not necessarily have to be a currency (like Bitcoin) but could also be a wide range of other types of tangible or intangible assets, or even a hybrid of both. By tokenising assets, we can digitally map out and transform illiquid assets to highly liquid assets with higher costeffectiveness. Given that the asset
IoT is short for Internet of Things, and these devices include near-field communication (NFC) devices and radio-frequency identification devices (RFIDs) whose applications include QR codes/readers and contactless payment terminals like PayWave
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categories within the private securities market are in the trillions of dollars (where the illiquidity discount can be as high as 20 to 30%)2.
contract-based tokenisation platforms will create solutions for tokenisation of all kinds of real-world assets from intellectual rights to commodities to collectibles to real estate with the The basic idea of tokenisation is the use of purpose of increasing liquidity, cutting smart contracts on a blockchain to create costs, enabling fractional ownership of a virtual representation of a certain asset assets and opening up the estimated in the form of a token. Depending on the US$280 trillion market of real-world type of asset to be tokenised, different assets for investment. This makes it tokens and token standards have been possible for anyone, anywhere in the developed for the tokenisation process, world to invest and create a future global and the different challenges and investment market far more democratised opportunities come with it. Tokenising than the market of today3. tangible real-world commodities differs
content. The funds raised from the sale of the content belong to the creator, who can also claim royalties. Owning a digital asset is valuable because the marketplace makes it so through verifiable ownership. NFT creators can sell their work, which corresponds to a unique identity worldwide within the NFT network. They can claim the copyright on the token and when it is resold. Depending on the industry and application, NFTs have several demonstrable and revolutionary benefits. Within art, there are many existing digital works whose
ETHEREUM REQUEST FOR COMMENT (ERC) - 1155 CRYPTO ITEM STANDARD
Fungible (ERC - 20)
Non-fungible (ERC - 721)
⋅ Cryptocurrencies ⋅ Shares, Bonds, etc
⋅ Certificates ⋅ Copyrights ⋅ Licenses, etc.
⋅ Hard commodities (gold, silver, etc.)
⋅ ⋅ ⋅ ⋅
⋅ Soft commodities (corn, wheat, etc.)
Artwork Collectibles Diamonds Real Estate, etc.
⋅ Energy (Electricity, etc.) Figure 1: Tokenising Different Types of Assets
from the tokenisation of intangible assets like a software license. Tokenising fungible assets like identical types of shares differs from the tokenisation of non-fungible assets like a unique work of fine art (see Figure 1). Regardless of the type of asset to be tokenised, the basic purposes and benefits are the same: by tokenising assets and thus equipping them with a virtual representation in the form of a token on a blockchain, it is possible to cut away costly and inefficient middlemen – decentralised trade and exchange, which is faster and easier. Developing blockchain and smart 3
NFTS CLASSIFICATION WITHIN THE DEFI ECOSYSTEM A digital asset can be any digital document, sound content, image, utility, and so on, that is a self-contained collection of binary data, which is uniquely identifiable and has value. Platforms often earn more than creators when they display a digital content (or asset) because of the possibility of exposure, and so on. In the case of NFTs, however, creators do not transfer ownership of the digital content to the platform. Instead, ownership is intrinsic to the token itself, embedded in the
provenance could not be protected prior to this technology. By introducing rarity and uniqueness, NFTs have redistributed power within a world monopolised by galleries, auction houses, and investors. WHY NFTS ARE THE RAGE Today, tokenised art is visible to anyone, and everyone can access such a marketplace. Virtually anyone can enter a contemporary art gallery and choose to become the owner of a unique and valuable piece. Thus, digital asset creators or owners can also showcase themselves according to their own preferences.
2 Voshmgir, S. Token Economy: How the Web3 Reinvents the Internet. Creative Commons, 2020. Accessed on 2022, February 2 from: https://token.kitchen/#book Mohamed, H. Decentralizing Finance via Cryptocurrencies, Tokenization of Assets and Peer-to-Peer Platforms. IJIE: International Journal of Islamic Economics, [S.l.], v. 3, n. 1, July 2021. pp. 1-16. Available at: https://e-journal.metrouniv.ac.id/index.php/IJIE/article/view/3128
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What many people continue to wonder is why they should pay for something that is easily downloadable and stored on any device. The problem is that the downloaded image on your computer has no real value; it does not have the same value as the original image. It is exactly like downloading an image of a Picasso, Monet or van Gogh: you may possess the best resolution of the artwork image, which is unquestionably valuable, but it will never have the same value as the original. The value of cryptographic assets (e.g. crypto art, etc.) is based on the rarity and non-reproducibility. What is difficult to understand is that the true public value of the purchase made is not only the work and what it represents but resides in the token itself. For other applications, however, the value is based on the ability of NFTs to be transferable. This allows, for example, game enthusiasts to be able to buy several NFTs and collect them within another platform. This ability, due to the creation of peer-to-peer standards, makes NFTs even more desirable. Within the gaming world, spending money to have a certain skin for in-game characters was customary even before the appearance of NFTs. Minting an NFT means always making that skin authentic and traceable back to its original owner. Thus, it is the blockchain technology that makes it possible for NFTs to take on value, and it is the same technology that makes possible their applications in business, industry, gaming, art, music, tourism, real estate, and much more in the future. ISSUES AND CRITICISMS OF NFTS A critical deliberation has arisen around the ecological issue of NFTs, which involves the environmental impact of the crypto world. The infrastructure is powered by electricity, mainly produced by fossil fuels (accounting for 64% of the world’s electricity; coal accounts for 38%, while oil and gas is 26%). Currently, a single Ethereum transaction consumes as much electricity as an average U.S. household usage in a workweek – and has a carbon footprint equivalent to 140,893 Visa credit card transactions or 10,595 hours of watching YouTube4. In addition, NFTs involve more complex transactions 4 5
In Singapore, NFTs are growing too. Notably, Singapore-based NFT marketplace Mintable raised US$13 million in Series A funding from several astute investors like Mark Cuban, Ripple Labs, and MetaPurse. Mintable has since launched NFTs in conjunction with companies such as BAPE and CNBC. Other notable developments are Brytehall, a Singaporean NFT platform, launched in 2021. It was created to bring luxury art and fashion into the metaverse. Created by the founders of Media Publishares, Brytehall was also responsible for launching Vogue and Esquire’s NFT collections in Singapore. The latest edition to Singapore’s NFT scene is ARC, an exclusive digital community founded by Kiat Lin, the son of Singaporean billionaire Peter Lim. ARC has ambitions to launch its own iteration of the metaverse soon. and multiple chain reactions, such as bids, valuable the NFTs, the harder they will sells, and property exchanges. be to defend, and new technologies are usually most vulnerable in their most Also, as digital assets become readily nascent stages5. available and accessible via multi-channel platforms, there is hyperactivity between Lastly, digital sceptics often view cryptos supply and demand, meaning continuous and NFTs as tools for money laundering movement that results in hyper production or black-market transactional currency and hyper consumption, which may because despite their traceability, the impact some artists from getting noticed. counterparties can still maintain some anonymity behind hash codes. However, it is most important to recognise that while the blockchain itself is RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN immutable, the storage of tokens may be SINGAPORE AND TRENDS OF the weakest link since they are highly NFTS WORLDWIDE susceptible to hacks and theft. The more In Singapore, NFTs are growing too.
Bluestein, A. Ethereum risks it all on going green. Fortune Media IP Limited. 2021, July 29. Retrieved from: https://fortune.com/2021/07/29/ethereum-going-green-ether-crypto-carbon-footprint/ Mohamed H. Chapter 5: Managing Islamic Financial Risks and New Technological Risks. in Sarea, A. M., Elsayed, A. H., and Bin-Nashwan, S. A. Artificial Intelligence and Islamic Finance: Practical Applications for Financial Risk Management (1st ed.). Routledge. 2021, December 31. pp. 57-73
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Notably, Singapore-based NFT marketplace Mintable raised US$13 million in Series A funding from several astute investors like Mark Cuban, Ripple Labs, and MetaPurse. Mintable has since launched NFTs in conjunction with companies such as BAPE and CNBC. Other notable developments are Brytehall, a Singaporean NFT platform, launched in 2021. It was created to bring luxury art and fashion into the metaverse. Created by the founders of Media Publishares, Brytehall was also responsible for launching Vogue and Esquire’s NFT collections in Singapore. The latest edition to Singapore’s NFT scene is ARC, an exclusive digital community founded by Kiat Lin, the son of Singaporean billionaire Peter Lim. ARC has ambitions to launch its own iteration of the metaverse soon6.
Tarantino became one of the first well-known directors to auction seven uncut scenes from Pulp Fiction as NFTs. The NFTs will include the uncut first handwritten scripts for the movie, as well as Tarantino’s exclusive commentary. Naturally, the content will only be viewable by the owner of the NFT. And this is just the beginning for NFTs entering the world of entertainment. Others include: •
NFTs bring peak programmability to the table, which is one of their most attractive • attributes, allowing them to offer a wide range of utility to their users. Hence, they can create new subscription models and • online social perks7. For metaverse-based social clubs, NFTs function similarly to a digital identity, offering holders access to exclusive perks, content, and events. Employing NFTs as the identity layer of metaverse projects will likely become more popular, due to the uniqueness and restriction or suppression resistance of each token. Profile picture (PFP) and avatar NFT projects are among the most successful in the history of NFTs. The stage for these projects was set in 2017 with the release of the now infamous CryptoPunks.
As time goes on, NFTs may develop further and look entirely unrecognisable from what it is today. Evaluating solutions that include greater transparency from major marketplaces, focusing on renewable energy resources, or minimising on-chain transactions Fox Entertainment has invested $100 could be far more useful for the future million behind several NFT projects, of the digital world. The goal is to open new possibilities and implement including a new animated series on solutions to overcome present the blockchain. bottlenecks, and all of this should be Warner Bros released collectible NFTs, done without harming the stability of along with the debut of the film, Dune. the financial system while keeping public trust intact. Vuele released an Anthony Hopkins film as an NFT. Steve Aoki has secured funding for a new NFT show. Disney released digital collectible NFTs paired with subscriptions to Disney+. Jambb is letting comedians sell jokes and comedy specials as NFTs.
The music industry may be in tow as Loud Market, a music NFT marketplace, is aiming to disintermediate the music industry. Loud Market enables musicians to mint their songs as NFTs and sell them directly to their fans. Loud Market is a great example of how NFTs can remove profit-seeking middlemen and facilitate trustless8, peer-to-peer transactions. Decentralised music streaming platform Audius is also aiming to democratise the Ten thousand CryptoPunk NFTs were music industry, by offering artists 90% algorithmically generated and given away of the sales revenue, with the other 10% for free in 2017 to any interested party going to decentralised node operators with an Ethereum wallet. Fast-forward to securing the network. 2021, and the cheapest of the ten thousand NFTs is worth over US$400,000 and over The publishing industry also stands to US$4 billion has been traded over the NFT benefit from the rise of NFTs as one of series. Today, you can spot CryptoPunks Hong Kong’s oldest newspapers, the on Jay-Z, Visa, Snoop Dogg, and Odell South China Morning Post (SCMP), Beckham Jr.’s Twitter pages, and even on has announced the launch of ARTIFACT, the red carpet at the Met Gala. a standardised metadata structure for recording historical assets as NFTs. The film industry stands to be disrupted By tokenising accounts of important by the potential of NFTs, as Quentin historical events, SCMP hopes to 6
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create more transparency in the legacy publishing industry, since every tokenised news story is publicly traceable and censorship resistant.
Dr Hazik Mohamed is a multi-skilled professional, whose focu s is on business growth strategies for star t-ups, tech-related research, and various con sulting projects. His past corporate clie nts include the ASEAN Secretariat, nat ional finance offices, and the United Nations Capital Development Fund. He is also the aut hor of three internationally publish ed books: Belief and Rule-compliance (Aca demic Press, 2018), Blockchain , Fintech and Islamic Fin ance (De Gruyter, 2019) and Beyond Fintech (World Scientific, 2021).
Worldrepublicnews. A Look at Key Developments and the Rise of NFTs in Singapore. n.d. Retrieved from: https://worldrepublicnews.com/a-look-at-key-developments-and-the-rise-of-nfts-in-singapore/ 7 Vardai, Z. Top 5 NFT Trends to Watch in 2022. Forkast. 2022, January 4. Retrieved from: https://forkast.news/nft-2022-five-trends-to-watch/ 8 This means that one does not need to trust a counterparty. The mechanism for their transacting is the trust machine due to blockchain’s ability to verify and authenticate information/transaction
SG BUDGET 2022: A FAIRER AND MORE RESILIENT SOCIETY
BY CENTRE FOR RESEARCH ON ISLAMIC AND MALAY AFFAIRS APRIL 2022
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The national Budget speech is an annual address crammed with numbers and financial jargon that can be confusing, making it difficult to be excited about; of course, with the exception of the announcement on cash payouts. However, regardless of its appeal, the Budget affects us and our finances. Thus, we need to make sense of it as it is our right and duty as taxpayers, voters, and citizens to know how our money is being spent. Moreover, a well-planned Budget is essential for any government to maintain good governance and stability by finding the right balance between resource allocation and economic growth. Over the past two years, the Budgets have allowed Singapore to increase employment for its population further and reduce the loss of potential economic outcomes to cushion the impact of COVID-19. As Singapore is shifting to an endemic COVID-19, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong recently announced the $109 billion Budget that offers a way forward towards collective recovery and strengthening the confidence of Singaporeans to help mitigate challenges and embrace changes amid an uncertain future. This article will provide an overview of some of the introduced policies and highlight other areas that the Budget could have provided more depth if we returned to a new normal.
2022 and 2025. The Minister assured that the revenue from the GST hike would be directed towards supporting Singapore's burgeoning healthcare system amid the rapid ageing of the population. Additionally, the impact caused by the pandemic indicates that Singapore needs to find more fiscally sustainable ways to fund its social, environmental and healthcare necessities. Interestingly even with the increase, Singapore’s GST rate remains amongst the lowest both in the region and globally. Undoubtedly, the lower-income would be the hardest hit because of this increase, but $640 million of the government's payouts will be added to help cushion the impact for the next few years. However, even before the hike, consumers are already burdened by the high cost of living and whether the increase is parallel to the increase in wages, making it difficult to catch up with inflation1. It also remains to be seen the extent to which the payouts will help low-income families. Although it undeniably lightens the financial burden of these families, no offset package would last forever. A household budgets study conducted in 2021 reveals that the impact of GST vouchers for a basic standard of living appears to be limited2.
NARROWING THE WEALTH DISPARITY An interesting change that the Minister announced is the increase of personal IS THE GST INCREASE FAIR? income tax rates for high-net-worth At present, we are paying a 7 percent individuals. Those with chargeable annual Goods and Services Tax (GST) on almost everything that we purchase in Singapore. income exceeding $500,000 (up to $1 However, the Budget revealed that this tax million) will be taxed at a rate of 23 percent, while individuals with chargeable would be gradually raised in two steps. annual income in excess of $1 million will The first increase to 8 percent will be in January 2023, and the second increase to 9 be taxed at a rate of 24 percent. It is reported that these changes will affect percent at the start of 2024. This move only the top 1.2 percent of taxpayers and comes as Singapore faces rising inflation will help to generate an estimated $170 and to cover growing recurring expenditure due to the pandemic and state million of additional tax revenue annually3. These changes are anticipated of the economy. Although the timing of to help narrow the widening wealth the tax hike is concerning, Singapore’s inequality and boost a sense of solidarity. GDP is predicted to grow from 3 to 5 Nonetheless, one of the problems with percent in 2022. Furthermore, the timing of the hike is anticipated considering that taxing the top earners is implementation as the super-rich, like many, can be frugal it was first announced during the 2018 Budget and was bound to happen between when it comes to taxes and would find
ways to decrease the amount of taxes they have to pay. However, unlike many, they are globally mobile and have access to instruments and resources, making it difficult for a single jurisdiction to tax them. Moreover, a high tax rate can be counterintuitive as Singapore is widely regarded as a tax haven for the super-rich. As mentioned by the Minister, a punitive tax rate would “inevitably cause money to flow away from Singapore”.4 To overcome this concern, perhaps we can take heart in the fact that it is not entirely about the low tax that appeals to the super-rich. Singapore is one of the safest countries globally, with excellent facilities and environment that would make them willing to pay a higher amount of taxes at a comparatively reasonable rate. The big question, though, is how effectively the rise in personal income tax could help to narrow the wealth gap. Ultimately, collections from this increase should also be channelled towards redistributive measures5. Taxing the rich should not be the only means to narrow the disparity. There needs to be the collective will by the privileged to uplift those on the margins of society without the need for state interventions. Unfortunately, morality is outsourced to the market to define what is good in a neoliberal economy, and it has atomised the ‘we’ into the ‘I’. This ‘I’ has developed into a truism and is responsible for the decline of community and the rise of self-centeredness. As the late psychotherapist Victor Frankl aptly pointed out, ‘being human is always directed, and pointing, to something or someone other than oneself: to a meaning to fulfil or another human being to encounter, a cause to serve or a person to love.’ 6 SHIFTING TOWARDS A SUSTAINABLE SINGAPORE The Budget also revealed the government’s plans to match Singapore's climate aspirations to international standards by building a green economy. In order to achieve the net-zero emissions target, Singapore’s carbon tax will be gradually increased to reach $50 to $80 per tonne of
1 Lim, J., and Meah, N. The Big Read: Singapore households, businesses not spared from global inflation storm as GST increase looms. Channel NewsAsia. 2022, January 10. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/singapore/gst-increase-price-hike-households-businesses-inflation-living-costs-2422671 Ng, K. H., et. al. What people need in Singapore: A household budgets study. 2021. p. 65. Available at: https://whatsenoughsg.files.wordpress.com/2021/10/2021-what-people-need-in-singapore-final-report.pdf 3 Tang, S. K. Budget 2022: Higher taxes for top-tier earners, high-end properties and luxury cars. Channel NewsAsia. 2022, February 18. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/singapore/budget-2022-higher-personal-income-tax-property-tax-luxury-cars-2506711 4 Tan, W. Singapore wants to impose net wealth taxes, but it’s ‘very easy’ for money to move away, says its finance minister. CNBC. 2022, February 21. Retrieved from: https://www.cnbc.com/2022/02/21/singapore-finance-minister-lawrence-wong-on-wealth-taxes.html 5 Ng, J. S.The Big Read: As global clamour grows again to tax the rich more, Singapore weighs up the pros and cons. Channel NewsAsia. 2021, November 29. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/singapore/big-read-wealth-tax-economy-covid-19-pandemic-2342236 6 Frankl, V. Man’s Search for Meaning. Beacon Press: Boston. 2000. p. 116
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emissions by 2030. Mr Wong added that this increase would push businesses and individuals to internalise carbon costs and take actions to moderate their emissions. A large portion of the national revenue will support decarbonisation efforts through investments into new low-carbon and more energy-efficient solutions. Additionally, the increase in carbon tax would result in an average four-room HDB household paying an additional $4 a month for their utility bill. Mr Wong assured that the government would provide support in the form of additional U-Save rebates to cushion the impact. Other than the decarbonisation efforts, the green economy will create new jobs in the sector, and the demand for talent with green skills will increase. In a recent Budget forum, Mr Wong maintained that the government will help everyone pick up new green skills to excel in the green economy and help individuals pivot from carbon-intensive sectors to green jobs through programmes under SkillsFuture. At present, more than 450 roles across 17 sectors require green skills, such as managing sustainability efforts and frameworks for environmental management. The sectors include manufacturing, trade and connectivity, financial services, hospitality and the built environment 7. That being said, any alternative ecologically-minded solutions and methods must challenge the deadly confluence of capitalism and consumerism that has made sustainable development a reality for the rich but remains an unfulfilled dream for the poor and marginalised. Thus, public education on sustainability must portray the interconnectedness between humans and the natural world that requires one to see the world as a tapestry of cause and effect. For a multi-religious country like Singapore, religion and its concomitants can play an essential role in creating a countervailing voice against greenwashing and ensuring that sustainable efforts ultimately promote the common good of humankind and the environment.
AREAS OF CONCERN Public Outreach Campaigns While the Budget has introduced new measures to strengthen the social compact and outlined a vision of a post-pandemic Singapore, only two-fifths of Singaporeans have a favourable view of the proposed GST increase, particularly among the middle-income households compared to members of other social strata. Additionally, more than half of Singaporeans believed that the GST offset package would not be sufficient to cushion the impact of the increased GST 8. In view of this, the government should not lose sight of the fact that outreach is crucial in making people understand the reasons behind the increase. Perhaps a certain amount of the Budget should be allocated for developing outreach programmes involving a network of collaboration between government agencies, unions, voluntary welfare organisations and the startup community. The outreach initiative should first explain the drivers that necessitate a higher GST through a language accessible to all. In other words, it has to present complex information effectively and transparently to the public to make them understand that it is not about pinching their pockets. It can highlight that Singapore is one of the few countries that complements GST with a scheme that offsets tax and how it compares with other countries globally. Reclaiming the Creative Industry The creative industry is among the most disrupted by the pandemic. Artists often rely on project-based or fixed-term contracts, and the COVID-19 restrictions have left many with little or no income. While the Minister has announced that Budget 2022 will provide more support for the arts sector, it was not clear how the support would uplift the plight of workers in the industry. The disproportionate attention to the arts sector could be due to the underlying assumption that the STEM industries play a vital role in the economy's sustained growth. While it may seem like a good idea to heavily invest in science and technology for a sustainable post-COVID reality, it would be deeply misguided to do so at the expense of the
Part of the blueprint for a more inclusive Singapore is to prepare persons with disabilities (PWD) for the future economy. In light of this, the Minister announced measures to support PWDs in areas like employment, lifelong learning, and respite care. These measures are part of the Enabling Masterplan 2030 that will be launched by the end of this year. The Masterplan essentially aims to better integrate PWDs into society. While much progress has been made in creating greater awareness of PWDs, more can be done to cultivate a genuinely inclusive society.
Choo, D. Skills in digital, green and care sectors expected to be in demand: SkillsFuture report. TODAY. 2021, December 8. Retrieved from: https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/skills-digital-green-and-care-sectors-expected-be-demand-skillsfuture-report-1765451 Blackbox Research Team. First Reactions to Budget 2022: Singaporeans unfavourable towards GST hike but supportive of tax rises for the wealthy. Blackbox Corp. 2022, February 2. Retrieved from: https://blackbox.com.sg/everyone/first-reactions-to-budget-2022-singaporeans-unfavourable-towards-gst-hike-but-supportive-of-tax-rises-for-the-wealthy
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arts. Apart from crippling the global economy, the pandemic has taught us all the value of human interaction. Science has given us the vaccine, but the connection with other people makes our lives worth living. Art is an emotional and creative medium that is often driven by the need for close interpersonal interactions and, in many instances, to effect positive social change 9. A recent report published by researchers from the University College London revealed that participation and engagement with the arts and other creative pursuits have a powerful impact on both mental and physical health 10. Ironically, the pandemic has taken a significant psychological toll on professionals within the industry mainly because of the continual fluctuation of safety measures that have prevented them from performing. Realising this predicament, Member of Parliament (MP) Ms Nadia Samdin has appealed for the government to provide clarity and introduce balanced measures that would enable creative spaces to operate and artists to earn a living by doing what they love best 11.
done by addressing the high teacher-child ratio and lack of additional human resources to support teachers in managing the class 13. A high ratio raises the concerns of whether children with special needs are truly receiving a quality education. Moreover, according to a survey which was commissioned by Lien Foundation in 2018, at least 51 percent of professionals who are working in the sector identified burnout as one of the critical problems they faced. Second, the salaries of SPED teachers should be on par and competitive with other professional sectors and commensurate with their workload. Teachers need to be remunerated well to see SPED as a meaningful career, which would help resolve the high attrition rate in the sector 14 15. It is essential for the voices of SPED teachers to be heard and invigorated to promote their well-being. Third, more focus should be placed on supporting ground-up movements and spaces not just to raise awareness but to rally struggling caregivers who were severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic during periods when they were cut off from school and support services. The unfortunate deaths of two 11-year-old boys in January this year shows that Contesting Inclusion caring for children with special needs is Part of the blueprint for a more inclusive highly stressful, and it is crucial for Singapore is to prepare persons with disabilities (PWD) for the future economy. caregivers to look after their well-being. One good example is the formation of In light of this, the Minister announced CaringSG, a caregiver-led initiative for measures to support PWDs in areas like employment, lifelong learning, and respite special needs caregivers. The group aims to strengthen the support for caregivers by care. These measures are part of the connecting them to other caregivers, Enabling Masterplan 2030 that will be professionals and public stakeholders launched by the end of this year 12. The Masterplan essentially aims to better who will provide support 16. When the integrate PWDs into society. While much government, schools and civil society are progress has been made in creating greater aligned in their vision of inclusion, more effective changes and support can be awareness of PWDs, more can be done to provided to ensure that we live in a society cultivate a genuinely inclusive society. that does not outsource inclusion to be First, resources from the government defined by the market. Instead, our ideals should aim to reduce the physical and of inclusion should be anchored in human emotional distress among Special dignity and flourishing. Education (SPED) teachers. This can be
“We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks, and dead ideas, our dead rivers, and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it”.17
The Centre for Research on Islamic and Malay Affairs (RIMA), a research subsidiary of AMP Singapore, has developed a range of programmes in research and established several platforms for the meeting of minds. RIMA conducts research in a number of key areas, which includes economics, education, religion, family, social integration, leadership and civil society.
Raja, A. Call to Heal: Mental Health in the Arts – The Psychological Toll of the Pandemic. The Esplanade Co Ltd. 2021, July 30. Retrieved from: https://www.esplanade.com/offstage/arts/call-to-heal 10 Fancourt, D., & and Finn, S. What is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being? A scoping review. World Health Organization. 2019. Retrieved from: https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/329834/9789289054553-eng.pdf Samdin, N [@samdingoingon] Budget 2022 Speech Highlights: On Bringing Live Music Back to F&B Venues. Instagram. 2022, March 2. Retrieved from: https://www.instagram.com/p/Cal5ylavK8F Ministry of Finance. Budget 2022: Charting Our New Way Forward Together. 2022, February 18. Retrieved from: https://www.mof.gov.sg/news-publications/press-releases/budget-2022-charting-our-new-way-forward-together 13 Goh, S. C. F., and Tan, S. Y. Moving Towards Greater Inclusion in Singapore’s Preschools: The Enablers, Possibilities and Barriers. Polish Journal of Educational Studies, 73(1), 2021. pp. 83-98. Available at: https://doi.org/10.2478/poljes-2021-0006 14 Ram, G. S. Opinion – Special education teachers must be given enough support. The Straits Times. 2018, May 11. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/forum/letters-on-the-web/special-education-teachers-must-be-given-enough-support 15 Lien Foundation. Turning Challenges to Opportunities: A Study on Early Intervention Professionals and their Attitudes on Inclusion. 2018, April 24. Retrieved from: https://www.lienfoundation.org/uploads/Early%20Childhood%20Development/Early%20Intervention%20Survey%202018/Early%20Intervention%20Survey%202018.pdf 16 CaringSG. CaringSG – For special needs caregivers and the community. Accessed on 2022, March 11 at: https://caring.sg/ 17 Roy, A. ‘The pandemic is a portal.’ The Financial Times. 2020, April 4. Retrieved from: https://www.ft.com/content/10d8f5e8-74eb-11ea-95fe-fcd274e920ca 9
CONCLUSION As we are adjusting to living in a postCOVID reality, perhaps we should reflect on the clarion call of the brilliant Indian author Arundhati Roy to see the pandemic as a portal between two worlds as we chart our new way forward together:
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The Realities of Starting A Tech Company
BY SHAMIR RAHIM
Startups employ more than 300,000 people in Singapore across 42,000 companies in 2013, up from 24,000 companies in 20051. These numbers have probably increased substantially since. As a nation, we have produced 15 of the 35 unicorns2 in the region, including Razer and Sea3. Additionally, around 80 of the world’s top 100 tech companies have a significant presence in Singapore4. But what does it take to actually start one of these? In a sense, starting a tech company is just like starting any new business. With today’s #startup and #entrepreneur hype, what’s often glossed over is that 90% of startups fail outright and with each, 1 2 3
years of effort and potential are simply wiped out. Having founded and running my tech company, VersaFleet, for our 10th year since 2012, my circle of founder friends includes a handful of home-grown unicorns (PatSnap, Carousell), dozens still fighting valiantly in our startup trenches, and countless more who have quietly shut down. Easily a 1:10:100 ratio. Is it all doom and gloom? Well, it’s not a bed of roses for sure, and most definitely not for the faint-hearted. Let’s dive into the realities of starting and running a tech company.
NOT ALL BUSINESSES ARE CREATED EQUAL In defining what a “tech company” is, it is helpful to start by distinguishing a ‘product business’ from a ‘service business’, not least because “tech washing”5 is increasingly prevalent. An analogy I’m fond of is that starting a ‘product business’ is like being Willy Wonka running a Chocolate Factory. Picture the eccentric inventor whose precarious ingenuity gives birth to products like the “Wonka Bar”, cherished by millions worldwide, but also experimental products like the “Wonka Vision” teleportation device, that may never launch beyond some beta version.
Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation. Intelligent Island: The Untold Story of Singapore’s Tech Journey. 2017. p. 245 A ‘unicorn’ is a privately held startup company valued at over USD $1 billion, a term popularised in 2013 by venture capitalist Aileen Lee Choo, Y. T. More Asean start-ups become unicorns thanks to robust funding, rising middle class: Report. The Straits Times. 2021, October 21. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/business/economy/more-start-ups-in-asean-reach-unicorn-status-with-lift-from-robust-private-equity Ng, J. S. The Big Read in short: Why the world’s top tech firms are converging in S’pore. TODAY. 2021, February 6. Retrieved from: https://www.todayonline.com/big-read/big-read-short-why-worlds-top-tech-firms-are-converging-spore Forbes defined “tech washing” as “the practice of slapping a trendy, new label on legacy solutions”, ranging from AI to software-defined networking; see: Alikhani, K. Remember 'Cloud Washing'? It's Happening In RegTech. Forbes. 2019, October 14. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2019/10/14/remember-cloud-washing-its-happening-in-regtech
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A ‘service business’ on the other hand, is like being Gordon Ramsay running a Michelin star restaurant, which is essentially a boutique manpower operation of elite sous chefs providing a masterful service – serving high cuisine.
but once developed, more copies can be produced at negligible cost. This is why software product businesses are highly investable, because production can quite literally scale infinitely.
For brevity, at least in the context of this article, I shall define a tech company as a ‘product business’ centred around technologically developed products and/or processes. I also use the word ‘founder’ as the startup lingo for ‘business owner’. It is worth noting that corporateand venture- built startups regularly put up job posts for ‘founder’ or ‘co-founder’. While technically not incorrect, because there is usually an equity component The ‘product versus service’ distinction is in the package, these C-suite executives not only critical, but increasingly difficult might more correctly be described as ‘intrapreneurs’. to ascertain, even to business owners ourselves. In software, where we used to WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO START A literally ‘ship code’ as perpetual licences TECH COMPANY? in CD-ROMs packed in shrink-wrapped Unlike Willy Wonka who invents candies, boxes, most of us today only market via Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) subscriptions. our company invents enterprise software, SaaS overcomes the problems of physical specifically what supply chain professionals call a Transport Management System distribution, software piracy, and promises predictable recurring revenue – (TMS). Essentially, a VersaFleet TMS SaaS subscription helps brands like Watsons customers simply subscribe online, like optimise the truck movements that to Slack, Canva, Office 365, or Dropbox. restock their hundreds of stores across First coined by Marc Benioff in 1999 as Malaysia; NTUC Fairprice Online the Salesforce CRM6 product, the SaaS business model has evolved significantly, optimise their thousands of homedeliveries across Singapore; and likewise but is arguably the model of choice for for many other consumer and retail practically all software products today. SaaS is also the model I adopted ten years brands across ASEAN7. ago to go-to-market for VersaFleet. In computer science parlance, we call Similarly, many service businesses offer this constraints-based programming, productised services, for example weekly specifically the vehicle routing problem food subscriptions, starter packs of (VRP). If this was a technical article, accounting services, out-of-the-box legal this would be the part where I’ll briefly templates, and so on. While innovating explain that VRP is an intractable the business model is crucial and distinct NP-hard 8 problem, which is why VRP from product innovation, the cost solvers typically incorporate metainfrastructure of a service business is heuristic techniques like genetic fundamentally different from a product algorithms or simulated annealing to business. Service businesses typically find solutions that satisfice, rather have variable costs that pair closely with than aiming to solve completely by revenue, like the cost of manpower to generalising into mixed-integer linear prepare a steak dish. However, for product programming formulations. businesses, costs can trend independently of revenue, for example, software So, how did our invention come about? development costs are heavy upfront, Quite simply, by chance and then years Are both viable business models? Absolutely. Can both be regarded as tech companies? That depends. The typical Silicon Valley venture capitalist would almost never invest in a restaurant, run by Gordon Ramsay or otherwise, but would fall over themselves in trying to fund a Willy Wonka. The key difference? Product businesses can scale exponentially.
It took two to three years to encode the algorithms into a Ruby on Rails web application stack in a scalable, true SaaS multi-tenant infrastructure – this was enabled in no small way by National Research Foundation (NRF), which co-matched Get2Volume, our seed investor, via the Technology Incubation Scheme9. Prior to that, we had an early leg up from the ACE Startup Grant10, although my first application there was rejected. That seed round in 2014 allowed us to start growing a team of software engineers to ramp up product development. It also provided us the cash runway to run lean startup experiments, or what I call the ‘death race’ to find product-market fit, which is as Reid Hoffman11 more elegantly describes, “…like jumping off a cliff and building a plane on the way down.” Blitz scaling is when this plane design requires jet engines. Looking back, I wished we had conducted even more experiments, and more quickly. Partly inspired by Vinod Khosla12, to almost maniacally ensure that our TMS SaaS product would exactly fit our first customer’s expectations, we worked on-site in their office – every day for weeks, iterating on the spot, launching feature after feature. To this day, whenever we launch a major feature or new minimum viable product (MVP), we conduct user-tests obsessively – if it’s a driver mobile app, we will shadow drivers all day to observe user interactions. This race to find product-market fit simply cannot be over-emphasised. It is crucial because only from this point is a product company actually in business.
Benioff, M., and Adler, C. Behind the Cloud: The Untold Story of How Salesforce.com Went from Idea to Billion-Dollar Company – and Revolutionized an Industry. Wiley-Blackwell. October 2009. pp. 1-304 7 Galer, S. AI-Fueled Startup Turns Disrupted Supply Chains Into Last Mile Opportunity. Forbes. 2020, June 25. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/sap/2020/06/25/ai-fueled-startup-turns-disrupted-supply-chains-into-last-mile-opportunity 8 In computational complexity theory, NP-hardness (non-deterministic polynomial-time hardness) is the defining property of a class of problems that are at least as hard as the hardest problems in NP 9 Tay, D. Sypher Labs gets $471,000 to move logistic operations into the cloud. Tech in Asia. 2014, August 18. Retrieved from: https://www.techinasia.com/sypher-labs-471000-move-logistic-operations-cloud 10 The Asian Entrepreneur Editorial Team. Singapore-NUS Incubated Startup Raises S$589,000 In Seed Funding. Empirics Asia. 2014, August 18. Retrieved from: https://empirics.asia/singapore-nus-incubated-startup-raises-s589000-in-seed-funding/ Hoffman, R [@reidhoffman]. I’ve often said that starting a company is like jumping off a cliff and assembling a plane on the way down. Twitter, 2018, October 20. Retrieved from: https://twitter.com/reidhoffman/status/1053318682242252800 12 Khosla, V. Vinod Khosla on How to Build the Future. Y Combinator. 2019. Available at: https://www.ycombinator.com/library/6N-vinod-khosla-on-how-to-build-the-future 6
of hard work. In two sentences: I incorporated Sypher Labs in 2012 to invent a bilirubin blanket, for the treatment of neonatal jaundice using fibre-optic cables. In between my failed biomedical experiments, I wrote scripts to help operations managers (I was working from my parent’s logistics offices) plan faster and more optimally – the VersaFleet TMS was thus born.
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NOC alumni, including the writer (extreme right), at a campus talk at NUS13
Books and courses have been written about this, but I have a simple working definition: Product-market fit is the point where the business can repeatedly find paying customers. From there, it’s all about scaling for growth.
from hundreds of actual founders’ experience coast to coast, from Silicon Valley to New York. NOC is now a part of NUS College along with the University Scholars Programme, which I am an alumnus of as well.
Since then, VersaFleet has raised more than S$5 million in funding, including from SMRT Ventures, Seeds Capital, Prestellar Ventures14, National University of Singapore, and almost a dozen angel investors, but this starting point was the most crucial and challenging.
NOC alumni have started many tech companies, including Jeffrey Tiong (Patsnap), Henry Chan (Shopback), Kelly Choo (Brandtology, Neeuro, ReferReach), Anthony Chua (StratifiCare), Yiping Goh (All Deals Asia, Quest Ventures), and Wayne Chia (TechSailor) — we all met in NOC Philadelphia. In NOC, we learned the startup ropes by directly apprenticing with tech founders, often experiencing the extreme highs and lows of high-tech entrepreneurship, as the founders were going through these very journeys themselves.
HOW TO ACTUALLY RUN A TECH START-UP In 2006, six years before I founded VersaFleet, I had the opportunity to participate in National University of Singapore (NUS) Overseas College (NOC) with a small group of fellow undergraduates. This was then an experimental programme where each of us interned in overseas startups for one year while continuing our curriculum part-time at partner universities like the University of Pennsylvania. I landed an internship position at First Round Capital, an early-stage venture capital firm in Philadelphia. As a ‘deal flow analyst’, I organised the pitch decks and business plans founders would submit for potential funding – basically a dream position from which to read and learn
15 16 17
The NOC experience not only imparted deep lessons and practical life skills, but also gave us the confidence that Singaporeans can do this startup thing too – and we did. It would not be a stretch to say that it was a life-changing experience for many of us. Founders must at the very least be technologically inclined, if not highly skilled practitioners in the art. For good or bad, the startup hype has attracted many business types. While the broader
view is that it enriches the startup ecosystem, it may sometimes under-represent the importance of sheer technological prowess. In tech, the rate of change is relentless and unforgiving, and even tech companies are not spared from malicious black hat hackers. There is a good reason why Y-Combinator, a highly regarded startup accelerator, absolutely requires a technical co-founder, even rejecting Dropbox15 initially, and essentially bans all management consultants. Simply put, trying to start a tech company without a technologist is like trying to start a restaurant without a cook – not strictly impossible, but absurdly difficult. The ‘Lean Startup’ movement broke into mainstream startup consciousness around 2010, with Eric Ries’ book16 by the same title. Combined with the ‘Agile Manifesto’17, where Scrum quickly became the de facto framework for software engineering, the standard guides for tech founders have thereby been established. There are too many key ideas and critically important themes from both ‘Lean Startup’ and ‘Scrum’ to cover in any one article, but suffice to say that since then, no tech founder should be found guilty of not knowing how to execute. Practically all aspects of the ‘how’ have been prescribed in these materials, often step by step – running a tech startup today should mostly be a matter of execution, timing and luck. That said, I should add that lifelong continuing education is hugely important – we are not off the hook just because we are business owners. In fact, a company’s growth can often be restricted by the founders’ inability to learn and grow. As a case in point, to seriously implement ‘Scrum’ for my team, I obtained a PMI Agile Certified Practitioner certificate. Years later, I pursued a part-time master’s degree in supply chain management at NUS to learn ‘operations research’ and the theory behind problems we had been solving.
Lai, L. Entrepreneurship: Nature or Nurture? (image). The AlumNUS. 2019. Retrieved from: https://nus.edu.sg/alumnet/thealumnus/issue-119/perspectives/forum/entrepreneurship-nature-or-nurture Cheok, J. Singapore transport management startup VersaFleet gets S$2.8M, pre-Series A funding. The Business Times. 2018, May 14. Retrieved from: https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/technology/singapore-transport-management-startup-versafleet-gets-s28m-pre-series-a-funding Houston, D. On Starting and Scaling Dropbox (YC W07). Y Combinator. 2017. Available at: https://www.ycombinator.com/library/6S-on-starting-and-scaling-dropbox-yc-w07 Ries, E. The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses. Curreny. 2011, September 13. pp. 1-336 Beck, K., et. al. Manifesto for Agile Software Development. 2001. Available at: https://agilemanifesto.org/
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VersaFleet, SMRT, and ST Engineering creating business synergies
VENTURE CAPITAL: BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR For some reason, not helped by headlines screaming, “Startup A raised X million”, there is this infatuation, especially among aspiring entrepreneurs, about investors and venture capital. Nailing that multi-million-dollar round is seen as the ultimate validation, the highlight of the surely glitzy life of a high-roller entrepreneur, the proverbial ticket to riches. Unfortunately, this is clearly a lopsided view and at best portrays as overnight successes the startup journeys that were many years in the making. On the contrary, when old school business veterans talk about investors, they use words like sleeping partners, financiers, chettiars (pioneer bankers), or vulture capital, will sometimes relate the story of Judas and pounds of flesh, and may even throw in cautionary advice about riba’ (usury) for good measure. The reality of modern venture capital is probably somewhere between these two perspectives. Starting with first principles, the business of a venture capital firm (VC) is in providing financial services. Each VC firm is typically made up of a group of Limited Partners (LPs) who each commit capital to a fund managed by a General Partner (GP). This fund typically has a 10-year fund life, within which the GP is
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expected to make investments in startups to produce high returns to their LPs, within a prescribed investment mandate. Without delving into the mathematics, this translates to every startup in the portfolio expected to produce a 3 to 10 times exit multiple on average. Therefore, in a very real sense, when a startup accepts an investment, especially from a VC, it inherits the VC’s business model – the company’s share price is now the product, not the product itself. Accepting this simple truth can often help shed light on strange startup things, especially around valuation. Truth be told, I was initially just as confused and fell for every one of these mental traps, even as much as I had literally worked in a VC firm myself. However, there are important distinctions between ‘venture capitalists’, ‘strategic investors’ and ‘angel investors’. Angel investors are all about supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs, hence the name. They are usually high net worth individuals or family offices who invest with a social agenda. Their investment, which can range from $20k to $500k+ is their way of giving back while potentially earning some upside. ‘Strategic investors’ mainly include corporate venture capitalists (CVCs) who invest to uncover synergy, the
partnerships that are “1+1=3”. Usually operating as an investment office within a large corporation, they are the organisation’s astute strategic eye to prevent Kodak moments of disruptive redundancy, to anticipate and ride new technological waves, to capture new opportunities with existing organisational assets and capabilities. SMRT Ventures would be a prime example of a strategic CVC. As owner-operator of a vast network of public and private transportation assets, from taxis, limousines, vans, buses and trains, combining this hardware with VersaFleet’s TMS software makes perfect sense. And indeed, since our formal partnership in 2018, our combined synergies have been producing significant new value and opportunities together. With hindsight of experience, I would advise founders to take a cautiously balanced approach, probably with larger doses of caution. Ideally, fund the business entirely from sales revenue – this should be our main preference. But if we must, forecast the exact amount of investments to fund growth plans – planning for a 12- to 24-month cash runway is fairly standard. Be selective of whose money we accept and regard investors as fellow shareholders (they will be!) – genuinely ask if we would start business anew with them.
SHOULD I START MY TECH COMPANY IN SINGAPORE? This might be a strange question to ask, but it is worth asking because a tech company’s journey simply cannot start and end in Singapore. With our modest population of 5 to 6 million people, the total addressable market in Singapore is simply too small to sustain the growth expected of a venture-backed tech company. Be global from day one. For that matter, the hard truth is that no product company, especially a tech company, should restrict its market size to segments of a limited Singapore market. Again, this is perfectly feasible for a trader, drop-shipper, a ‘service business’, or if one has largely social objectives, but it is usually not acceptable for a venture-backed business – we must grow globally. The good news is, Singapore is an excellent place to start – our legal and governance frameworks are so strong that many tech founders in the region choose to incorporate in Singapore. Our frameworks around intellectual property give assurance that our technologies can be protected, especially important for a ‘product business’. The bad news though, is that having found that elusive product-market fit in Singapore, it does not mean that it will hold true outside of our borders. The hard truth is that even the infrastructure we take for granted as Singaporeans, like data connectivity and electricity, might be fundamentally different in another city. As a case in point, when we first launched the VersaFleet TMS in Indonesia and Malaysia, although by then we had hundreds of driver-users on our mobile app across Singapore, we had to re-engineer our tech stack substantially to support offline mode. The simple reason being that our driver-users outside of Singapore would frequently have no cell signal as they drove across say, Johor to Seremban, or from Jakarta to Bandung. We could not have anticipated the massive re-engineering
required to support that, and we were fortunate to have the technological bench-depth and backing to improve our SaaS products quickly. Another hard truth is that Singapore’s funding ecosystem has persistent gaps, for example between ‘Seed’ and ‘Series B’, there are only a few ‘Series A’ investors. As for tech talent, local startups unfortunately have to compete with practically all the FAANG18 companies and even government agencies, but tech talent shortage is a global issue. Is Singapore the perfect place to start? No, but comparably, we are world-class precisely because there is so much tech innovation happening here – tech talents spill over and re-circulate quickly. YOLO, I’M GONNA GO SOLO As tech founders, we must of course assess all advice as dispassionate ‘data points’, but I’ll share some practical “advice” anyway. If you are young, perhaps get some (ideally relevant) working experience first – best is to work for your ‘competitor’, that giant you are looking to slay. Learn the ropes, build a network. I was in big pharma, medtech and diagnostics for 5 years before I started my own.
Ultimately, starting a tech company, or any business venture for that matter, means different things for different people. Depending on our circumstances in life at that point, it could be about scratching an itch, it could be forced upon us, or it could be about self-actualisation. Regardless of the trigger, own it! Your founding vision, your product idea, this dent in the universe you wish to make, must be real. It must be strong enough to give you hope, to give you comfort, and to drive you through the ups and downs that is the unpredictably intense roller-coaster journey that is tech entrepreneurship. May the Force be with you!
Shamir Rahim is a tech nopreneur with a passion for AI and biom edical technologies, and serves on several national committees in Singapore. Founder and Group CEO of VersaFleet, he believes in automating the world’s logistics operati ons.
If you are career-switching, perhaps start the idea as a side-hustle while working full-time, find like-minded friends who might prove to be potential founders, then iterate from there. Be open, to ideas and industry sectors you never knew – luck might find you, as it found me. If you wish to start-up as a ‘third wave’, probably secure the nest-egg first and ideally a steady income stream as well, perhaps as a locum doctor, freelance consultant, or the like. Lastly but perhaps the most important: develop a social support system. I count myself really fortunate to have a loving wife, supportive parents and siblings, and adorable children to get me through the darkest days of my tech company’s journey, which come often and intensely.
‘FAANG’ refers to five of the most prominent companies in the tech sector: Facebook (Meta), Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google (Alphabet). The term was coined in 2013 by Jim Cramer, television host of CNBC’s Mad Money, as these companies make up a sizable portion of the S&P 500 index
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Challenging the Arabisation Narrative: A Preliminary Study of Singaporean Niqabis BY FADHIL YUNUS ALSAGOFF
Malaysian celebrity Neelofa sent the Malay online sphere in a flurry on 15 October 2020 with the announcement that she had adopted the niqab (face veil). Following her announcement was an Instagram post in which she modelled for luxury jewellery brand Swarovski in her new garb. One would have good reason to wonder how the more alarmist, securitycentric proponents of the Arabisation narrative would react to this. After all, according to their accounts, ‘Arabised’ Muslims – which includes women who don the niqab – tend towards Salafism/ Wahhabism, ultra-conservatism,
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exclusivism, and at worst, violent extremism. How does this portrayal square up to the image of a publicly visible business mogul and fashionista who presumably poses no threat to social cohesion? The purpose of this essay is to criticise certain fundamental assumptions embedded in the more security-centric accounts of the Arabisation narrative using the case-study of the adoption of the niqab among local Muslim women. It begins with a brief description of this conception of ‘Arabisation’. This will then
be put in conversation with some findings from a brief study conducted in 2020 on Singaporean niqabis, which included three interviews (with Siti, Hawa and Hamidah) and a survey of 51 respondents. ARABISATION ‘Arabisation’, as it has been used in the Malay Archipelago, generally refers to the phenomenon of local Muslims adopting Arab cultural forms, primarily in terms of language and dress. For the former, this includes Muslims adopting Arabic phrases such as solat (prayer) in place of sembahyang, and hijab (headscarf) instead
of tudung. For the latter, it includes Muslim men wearing shoulder-to-ankle robes and keeping long beards, and Muslim women adopting the niqab. Alarmist and security-centric accounts that began appearing after the 9/11 attacks, however, go many steps further. These cultural shifts began to be seen as merely the outward forms of something much more insidious and dangerous to social cohesion: the shifts in attitudes of local Muslims towards increasing religious conservatism, exclusivism, and even extremism. These inner and outer aspects have frequently been touted as inextricable aspects of one ‘Arabisation’ phenomenon that is primarily the cause of foreign Salafi/Wahhabi ‘Middle Eastern’ influences – mainly from the Gulf and particularly Saudi Arabia. Besides the troubling implication that ‘Arabised’ Muslims can fall into exclusivism, and later on, radicalisation and violence, it also implies that they ape Arab culture because they lack cultural confidence – implying that they are naïve recipients of these foreign ‘Arab influences’ and therefore lack agency in their religious and cultural decision making. DONNING THE NIQAB: A SYMPTOM OF ‘ARABISATION’? Among a slew of others, Baladas Ghoshal purported that the adoption of the niqab among non-Arab Muslim women is a good – probably the clearest – example of their ‘Arabisation’. However, a quick look at the first, or at least the most infamous, instance of the niqab being widely adopted in this region, found in the Malaysian-grown al-Arqam movement of the 1970s and 80s, reveals the flimsy foundations of this claim. Hawa, who adopted the niqab in 2001, mentioned that she was influenced in part by the teachings of this movement. This throws a spanner in the workings of the Arabisation narrative in two ways. First, it was a movement of local Muslims that drew inspiration from local Sufis and mystics and their own interpretations of Islamic tradition – not from Middle Eastern influences. Second, their interpretation of Islam would have undoubtedly been denounced as blasphemous by Salafis/Wahhabis;
even large segments of mainstream Muslims held ambivalent views towards the movement’s mystical and messianic teachings. This case presents a historical precedence to show that the adoption of the niqab by local Muslim women may stem not from influences in the Middle East, but rather from their home-grown engagement with Islamic tradition. One may contend that this movement was an anomaly and that the current trend of donning the niqab has nothing to do with the movement. Admittedly, most other research respondents began wearing the niqab around less than ten years ago on average and have little or nothing to do with the movement, which reflects a new trend among local Muslim women. Even so, our research findings reveal that the narrative misses the mark with some of its assumptions. For example, Sufi-inclined respondents far outnumber Salafi-inclined ones. As with the al-Arqam case, this reveals the spuriousness of the assumption that Salafi/Wahhabi influences, based in Saudi Arabia, are central to ‘Arabisation’.
niqab bear striking resemblance to those for adopting the hijab during the Islamic revival of the 70s and 80s. The latter has been studied extensively. These studies included far-reaching analyses of the forces of modernisation, secularisation, globalisation and even Westernisation, which they found to be inextricable and indeed pivotal in explaining these religious-cultural shifts. Such studies provide a much richer account of what has contributed to shifts in Muslim praxis than what one finds in the Arabisation discourse that seem to place sole significance on influences stemming in Saudi Arabia or the Middle East more broadly.
However, what is distinct in this recent trend is the perception that the hijab has lost the utility it used to provide earlier generations. Siti mentioned that the niqab “forces you into a pious-comportment in a way the hijab used to but doesn’t anymore”. Hamidah recalled being cat-called despite wearing the hijab and loose clothing – this became a pivotal factor for her move to the niqab. This is not to say that the hijab has lost all utility in The narrative also glosses over the providing a means for Muslim women deliberation niqabis took to learn about to exercise their piety; indeed, it still the niqab before adopting it, instead continues to have this function for many painting them as unthinking receivers Muslim women. What is being suggested of foreign influences. Many took several instead is that for this small minority of years of research, discussion and Muslim women, the hijab was no longer testing before eventually adopting it enough. Indeed, more recent studies committedly. This may have involved on the hijab suggest that apart from weighing between different schools of pious motivations that took primary thought; Hamidah, who later on precedence during the revival, identity gravitated towards Salafism, revealed and social pressure find increasing that the initial influence of Sufi-inclined prominence. This is missing from the niqabis was crucial to her adoption of the accounts of the niqabis, most of whom, niqab. Moreover, local niqabis have shown at the beginning of their adoption of that they considered their local context in the niqab, did not know of anyone their deliberations. This can be observed among their friends and family who in their pragmatism with wearing the had done so and even did so against niqab in Singapore: Siti mentioned being their preferences – much like Muslim willing to remove it for identification women’s adoption of the hijab during purposes; Hamidah mentioned that she the Islamic revival. takes it off at her workplace in the pharmacy; and Hawa mentioned being NIQAB AND CULTURE willing to drop the niqab in the case The Arabisation narrative also misses the the government bans it, because “it is cultural creativity local Muslims employ not obligatory”. in how they wear their niqab. Siti stated, HIJAB VERSUS NIQAB Respondents’ motivations for wearing the
“Islam tells you what your awrah (private parts according to Islam) is .
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How you cover it is up to you. Take the Japanese. Their kimonos cover their awrah. Then just wear tudung, that’s it!” The Shariah lays out requirements to be met by the believer, but how she fulfils them is up to her own creativity. This cultural creativity in adhering to Shariah requirements, Siti continues, can be seen among local Muslim women: “The slip-on tudung local Muslims wear is very specifically Asian. The same with their jubahs, flowers, and sequins. I can tell when I look at a group of women, who is Arab and who is Asian.” The same applies to the niqab: “The Arab niqab is very different from mine. Especially the half niqab; it is very Asian. You’ll not find it in other parts of the Islamic world.” Moreover, it misses the point that dressing is only one aspect of culture. Hawa mentioned that, despite wearing the niqab and the disapproval it attracts, “I still go to Malay weddings, like the kompang, and let my children join silat because I still behave like a Malay – I’m not imitating Arabs.” Cultural nuances such as these are often glossed over in the Arabisation discourse. THE NIQAB AND EXCLUSIVISM The troubling insinuation of the Arabisation narrative is that these cultural changes are linked to increasing exclusivism and even the rise of violent extremism. One would expect, then, that ‘Arabised’ Muslim women would have objectionable, or at least ambivalent, attitudes towards interactions with non-Muslims. Findings of the study seem to suggest otherwise. When asked to rate the extent to which wearing the niqab has affected their interactions with non-Muslims, 52% of survey respondents stated that wearing the niqab made no difference. 13% said it has made it easier because, for example, it provides a good conversation starter. 30% said it has made
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it slightly difficult because they have been subjected to rude stares and verbal abuses. Only 4% said it makes it very difficult. Some stated that, due to their introversion, wearing the niqab had not changed the nature of those interactions significantly.
prevent them from interacting amicably with wider society. Rather, not only tolerance, but the understanding of differences – and interacting well with others despite those differences – are, at least for the research participants, integral for durable social cohesion.
Of crucial significance to this topic is the numerous informant responses about the importance of tolerance and good manners as necessary ingredients for effective social cohesion. Hawa, for example, said, “You do you, and we do us. What Islam teaches us, basically. We respect each other.”
COUNTERING SIMPLISTIC NARRATIVES It was not the purpose of this essay to argue that the term ‘Arabisation’ has no function in the studies of shifts in local Muslim praxis. Instead, its aim was to challenge the alarmist security-centric assumptions found in the Arabisation discourse. It sought to do this by showing that Muslim niqabis were not necessarily influenced by Middle Eastern influences; rather, as the case of al-Arqam and the data from the study showed, niqabis were capable of mining their religious tradition to arrive at their own contextinformed decisions that suit their purposes. It has also shown that many of these niqabis do not incline to Salafi/ Wahhabi interpretations; many, if not most, are Sufi-inclined. Lastly, it suggested that there is no clear correlation between the adoption of the niqab, supposedly due to being ‘Arabised’, and exclusivism. Moving forward, studies of local Muslim religiosity should try harder and move away from simplistic narratives that could well be more damaging than productive.
Similarly, Siti said, “Social cohesion is a matter of character and personality. You can dress normally or in a way that bares your skin but if you’re not friendly, then isn’t that worse?” Survey respondents gave similar statements; a self-declared Salafi respondent wrote, “The way we speak to others speaks louder than the face veil.” These accounts imply that the way they have chosen to dress says little about their attitudes towards their interactions with non-Muslim others. Siti and Hawa mentioned from their personal experiences that they never had a problem interacting with non-Muslims. They often find themselves in amicable conversations with taxi drivers about the niqab. Siti, in her capacity as a religious teacher, went a step further in promoting interreligious understanding: “Right now, I teach a class on Islam for converts and others who are interested in Islam. They saw me in niqab during our first meeting and until now they still want to continue the classes.” She also mentioned that she was invited as a speaker to a round-table discussion on the hijab organised by the National Library – which she attended in the niqab. Wearing the niqab, therefore, does not
Fadhil Yunus Alsagoff gra duated from the National University of Singapore with a degree in Global Studies specialising in Religion and Ethnicity. He worked as a research assistant at the Middle East Institute (NUS) for two years and is currently in Cairo pursuing further studies.
The Power of Social Media for Dakwah BY MUHAMMAD ZULKARNAIN AZMAN
We are currently living in the information age where the use of the internet and social media are at the forefront. Social media greatly contributes to the digital life and influences digital communication, due to its capabilities to remove human barriers in socialising and expand beyond the limits of time and space. Essentially, it is ingrained in our lives and has changed the way we live; from the way we work and learn to the way we interact and play. A report published by We Are Social and Hootsuite in 2021 revealed that connected tech became an even more essential part of people’s lives over the past year. It mentioned that there was a total of 4.2 billion active social media users in 2021, accounting for 53.6 percent of the global population. This was amplified by the increase in the number of global social media users at 490 million 1. We could infer then that social media would continue to play a major role in everyone’s lives. Social media is a powerful tool of communication and a crucial medium of sharing and disseminating information. Due to these factors, we have seen individuals and businesses optimising it for a variety of reasons: to showcase their brand, to increase digital exposure and to expand sales and audience. In recent times, religious teachers globally and locally have also jumped on the bandwagon and utilised social media to preach and teach religious knowledge; fundamentally to spread dakwah (an invite or call to embrace Islam). Some notable examples in the global arena include Nouman Ali Khan of Bayyinah Institute and Omar Suleiman of Yaqeen Institute. Closer to our shores, we have Ustaz Zahid Zin and Ustaz Mizi Wahid, among others. Which then begets the question, is social media an appropriate platform to spread dakwah? Does it have a role in disseminating dakwah? Before we delve into these questions, let us try to understand the roles of asatizah in Singapore. Asatizah, the plural form of ustaz or ustazah in Arabic, by definition, are Islamic religious preachers. Correspondingly, they are Islamic communicators whose role is to spread the message of Islam, educate the
Kemp, S. Digital 2021: The Latest Insights into The ‘State Of Digital’. We Are Social. 2021, January 27. Retrieved from: https://wearesocial.com/uk/blog/2021/01/digital-2021-the-latest-insights-into-the-state-of-digital/
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community and call them to the religion. These are all aligned with the term dakwah, which generally means to call and invite. Subsequently, in choosing the mode of communication, one has to depend on the particular medium during that particular time. If we look in the past, prominent asatizah such as Ustaz Syed Abdillah al-Jufri and Ustaz Ahmad Sonhadji used to contribute to the spreading of the religion by propagating in traditional and mass media, authoring books and literature. With the progress of technology and the emergence of new media, present-day asatizah would need to be more creative and flexible in engaging the community by integrating dakwah with social media and making use of these tools and platforms. Consequently, questions arose on whether faith and tech could really complement each other.
media. As a result, they were able to overcome the limitations in providing essential services and religious classes.
Secondly, social media helps with establishing connections and relationships. Asatizah who could empathise and whose content resonates with the masses would be able to build trust and support. This would all contribute to the development and upliftment of the community. Besides that, people are appreciative if they have someone they could immediately refer to for concerns or problems without facing any judgments, which enhances the importance of having asatizah in the digital sphere. As a case in point, Ustazah Liyana Musfirah is considered to be one of the pioneer asatizah to be active in the digital space. Due to her refreshingly personal takes on Islamic teachings, she Certainly, that is possible, and with many strikes a chord with many of her followers advantages as well. Firstly, social media on social media who often feel like they helps with greater outreach and effective can relate with her. Thereafter, she started communication. It is considered the the Liyana Musfirah Network in 2017 to fastest medium to spread the messages connect physically and virtually with due to its power to reach the mass people and help them go through audience. Asatizah could have the best challenging moments. content, eloquence and proficiency in the languages, but if the messages do Lastly, social media can help in not reach out to the masses, then their safeguarding the community from efforts and talents would all be for radical ideologies. In this day and time, naught. If social media and networking people, especially the young, are are employed, not only could they build susceptible and exposed to online up their name, they could also tap on the extremist and exclusivist beliefs and different segments of the community as ideologies. To deter them from searching well as the different age groups. They the internet for religious matters in a could build an understanding of the haphazard and unguided way, asatizah characteristics of media users and their would need to be up to speed in digital interests, which would ultimately benefit media and have a strong presence them and the community at large. online. One good example is the Asatizah Youth Network (AYN), a group of Furthermore, the usage of social media is Singapore millennial asatizah that aims not limited to individuals, but extends to to engage and connect with the Muslim religious organisations as well. This is community. They are trained to tackle especially important if organisations a wide range of topics, from inculcating such as mosques and Islamic education information literacy online and showing providers want to reach out and garner kindness to others, to celebrating diversity the support of the wider community and advocating for peaceful co-existence. beyond the frequent-goers. This proved All in all, they provide a trusted and even more critical during the COVID-19 dependable first line to guide those pandemic, particularly during the seeking answers. Hence, we can see the Circuit Breaker period, where, due to significance of having asatizah in the the lockdown, mosques and other digital world and populating social media religious organisations had to go beyond with socio-religious content that is the traditional approaches of physical appropriate to Singapore, to negate the assemblies, services, and classes by opting dangerous content which could mislead for digital means and utilising social the community.
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With that being said, there are several caveats that should be highlighted. With the high standing and stature of asatizah in the community, especially in the virtual space, they should never use social media to spread immorality, misinformation, and confusion. They would also need to be accountable and ensure that the knowledge and information they share are reliable and credible. Finally, as much as possible, they would need to maintain their image and piety, and abide by the Islamic ethics and values. In conclusion, communications in present times are not only limited to face-to-face interactions, but also established in the virtual space of engagements through social media platforms. Hence, for religious individuals and organisations to communicate efficiently and effectively to the community, it is best to avail themselves of social media for their dakwah missions.
passionate Muhammad Zulkarnain Azman is es to about giving back to society. He aspir unity and empower the Malay-Muslim comm subjects of play a role in nation-building. His ious -relig socio and cs politi interest are on ees the developments. Currently, he overs education programme for adults in mosques.
Different in Jurisprudence but not Values: A Snapshot of Sunni-Shia Marriages in Singapore
Most Muslims today belong to the Sunni sect, with a significant minority of Muslims comprising Shias. Intra-faith relations within Islam is a topic that has sparked polemical debates within Muslim communities. In some Muslim-majority countries, anti-Shia sentiment is prevalent and propagated by hardline politicians and religious Sunni conservatives. Raids against gathering Shias during Ashura, a day when Shia Muslims mourn the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), are not unheard of. Fortunately, such overt hostility against Shias in Singapore has not been reported or do not happen, at least to my knowledge. Yet, this does not mean that anti-Shia sentiments in Singapore do not exist. Marriage, an intimate domain of social life, allows us to see how Sunnis and Shias think about their faith amidst these sentiments. In this piece, I elucidate on three factors, based on interviews with Sunni-Shia couples, that help explain why and how Sunni-Shia marriages take place in Singapore. I also provide some personal reflections based on a discussion I was invited to by the Centre for Research on Islamic and Malay Affairs (RIMA) in January 2022 to speak on the same topic. SUNNI-SHIA MARRIAGE: SINGAPOREAN CASE STUDIES Finding Sunni-Shia couples was not easy to do for two reasons. Most Muslims in Singapore are Sunni. This demographic fact alone makes Sunni-Shia marriages small in number. Secondly, the presence of anti-Shia sentiment in Singapore, as attested to by Johari 1, suggests that declaring oneself as Shia may be precarious. Moreover, informing a Sunni majority community that you are in an intra-faith marriage would be anathema to an exclusivist Sunni paradigm that Sunnis should only marry each other. However, I was eventually able to reach out to a few couples; a member of the Muslim community involved in intrafaith work suggested some couples to me through his own contacts. In the end, I spoke with four couples.
BY SYED IMAD ALATAS
Johari, N. F. Fearing the Enemy Within: A Study of Intra-Muslim Prejudice Among Singaporean Muslims. National University of Singapore, Master’s Thesis. 2016
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SUNNI AND SHIA: DIFFERENT WORLDVIEWS WITH SHARED VALUES Shias in Singapore grew up with or currently live in a Sunni-majority Muslim society in Singapore. They are used to interacting with Sunnis. Shia Islam, on the other hand, is not as familiar to some Sunnis. The prime difference between Sunnis and Shias is their belief in who should have succeeded the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as leader of the Muslim community. Yet, differences such as these can only be given meaning by Muslims themselves, in this case the intra-faith couples. One of the couples I interviewed were Hussein (Shia) and Fatimah (Sunni). They felt strongly about individuals being honest before they committed themselves to a Sunni-Shia marital union. Hussein opined that:
RAISING CHILDREN IN A ‘SUSHI’ FAMILY A child of a Sunni-Shia couple may humorously be referred to as a ‘Sushi’, a combination of ‘Sunni’ and ‘Shia’. A Sunni-Shia marriage inevitably brings to the fore the question of how they would inculcate religious practice in their children. In other words, would their child be raised according to the Sunni tradition, Shia tradition, or both? In discussions with my interlocutors, the topic of children was not such a divisive issue as I initially thought. Khairul (Sunni) and Maryam (Shia) initially broke off their engagement because Khairul’s mother did not agree with Maryam’s beliefs. Although Khairul eventually convinced his mother that Maryam was no different from other Muslims in terms of the five pillars of Islam, his mother is still pleased today when she sees her granddaughters “You must first be very frank with each other. praying the Sunni way. Maryam and Where do you want to bring the family Khairul’s two girls, aged 12 and 15, are to? Definitely, there will be opposition. inquisitive children who display a Either from family or friends. But I would curiosity over the differences in Sunni say that through these marriages, you build and Shia beliefs. Maryam shared with me trust. I think now, I’m closer to her parents. an example of their inquisitiveness: Very open. Even [for] my friends who are going through an intra-faith marriage. “My elder one is just questioning certain Maybe at the start, their family opposed it things now. I’m just providing her with but now, they’re close to their in-laws. information and when the time comes, she I don’t think intra-faith marriage is can choose. I think she’s more upset with the impossible. It’s just a stereotype you have matam 2. It’s the same thing as how I feel. They (Shias) cry [about] things weren’t before marriage. Even now, between me provided for at Karbala but at the end of the and the uncles and all, they don’t talk about majlis (ceremony) we’re served with all it anymore. So, the stereotype is there but kinds of food. There are certain things where when they actually [get to] know the people my girls were questioning and saying that and understand each other, they just say, the Shias in Singapore are being so-called “Eh, these people are nothing. They’re just pretentious. She says we can cry but at the our fellow Muslims.” So my advice is end of the majlis we shouldn’t celebrate. always get to know the person first.” There shouldn’t be a feast.” Fatimah and Hussein knew that Maryam and Khairul taught their jurisprudential differences between Sunnis and Shias could become a thorny daughters how to pray in both the Sunni and Shia ways. The girls could decide for issue if they marry since they had different interpretations of their religion. themselves which sect to follow once they reached a certain age, although both Moreover, their prospective in-laws may parents admitted that they hoped their not have been comfortable with being daughters would eventually follow their close to a family that interprets Islam differently. Hussein’s simple yet powerful own traditions. Maryam and Khairul did not impose their individual belief statement assuaged this concern: systems on their children. They were “Islam is for all the Mazhabs (schools of more concerned about making sure their jurisprudence).” children are aware of both the Sunni and Shia traditions.
LACK OF EDUCATION ON SUNNI AND SHIA TRADITIONS From the respondents’ point of view, the negative, or at best, wary reaction to a Sunni-Shia pairing reflected a lack of education on the diversity of the Islamic tradition. Marriage could constitute a form of informal education for Sunni members of a family not familiar with Shi’ism. At the formal level, more needed to be taught at religious classes when teaching about Shi’ism. Fatimah recounted how the portrayal of Shi’ism at religious classes was superficial. In some classes, the teachers would just portray Shias doing the matam. Education is needed to move beyond the popular imagery of Shias. Muslims have to be familiar with their beliefs, their jurisprudence, and their practices. Another couple I interviewed were Azman (Sunni) and Zainab (Shia). They were not too concerned about the fact that they were each dating an adherent of a different sect. Azman was aware of the misinformation about the Shia community. He also knew there was a lot of diversity within that same community. He was keen on understanding how Zainab practised Shi’ism. Based on what she explained to him about Shi’ism, he felt confident about his relationship with her. Zainab grew up around Sunnis her whole life in Singapore. Before she met Azman, she dated Sunnis since majority of Muslim men in Singapore are Sunnis. She knew early on that dating a Sunni, in an environment where there was a lack of awareness of Shi’ism, was going to be difficult. She went through a phase in her life where she “just wanted to meet Shia men”. However, while she did realise Sunnis and Shias were different, what was more important to her was one’s religious views, ethics, philosophy and orientation towards Islam. Azman and Zainab had a shared ethical and philosophical orientation towards Islam. One of Zainab’s formative impressions of Sunnis in Singapore was that they did not know much about Shias or Shi’ism: “I went to a Sunni madrasah in primary school, [and] in secondary school – obviously my Malay/Muslim friends are Sunnis, right? For me, my impression of Sunni in
Matam is an Arabic term referring to the act of mourning. In Shia Islam, the term denotes acts of mourning and grieving for the martyrs of Karbala, a city in Iraq where the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) grandson was brutally murdered by the Umayyad ruler Yazid I.
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my early 20s [was] I found that Sunnis were generally quite ignorant about – I mean, in Singapore – sectarianism. They don’t know that there are Shias, or that within the Sunni schools, there are different mazhabs.”
All in all, I wanted to emphasise that being Sunni or Shia only mattered as much as the couple attached meaning to these identities.
I also discussed the topic of children and how Sunni-Shia couples approach parenting. There wasn’t a particular Zainab felt that there was an arbitrary model for how the couples raised their link between being a Malay and being a children. For the couples that do have Sunni Shafi’i in the Malay world. Never children, I mentioned that they taught mind the ignorance about Shias; some the children the basic tenets of Islam, the Sunnis did not realise that there were Sunni tradition, and the Shia tradition. non-Shafi’i schools of jurisprudence They didn’t raise them to be either a within Sunni Islam. She also lamented the perception Sunnis had that to convert Sunni or Shia, even if the parents privately to Shi’ism was wrong. This misperception hoped that they would adhere to the same tradition as theirs. I also shared was rooted in a lack of awareness of the that parents were concerned about the history of Islam in Southeast Asia. For world their children would grow up in, example, Shias were said to be present among the Malay community in modern especially with the propagation of online Southeast Asia. An example would be the anti-Shia discourses. Cham people, an ethnic Malay minority in what is now Cambodia and Vietnam 3. Next, there was a discussion on how the government could play a role in managing Sunni-Shia relations. While DIALOGUE WITH RIMA I am not aware of current regulations or While I elaborated on the above points regulations that the Muslim community during my talk with RIMA, the broader in Singapore thinks should be put in theme of the talk was to emphasise the place, I explained that what was more importance of talking about the lived experiences of Sunni-Shia couples as their important was rhetoric rather than narratives have not been paid much heed regulations. It is more important that intrafaith groups such as the Muslim to. Hence, I positioned my study within Collective Singapore continue doing the the scholarship on Sunni-Shia relations work they do so as to foster mutual that tends to focus more on the history understanding between Sunnis and Shias. and geopolitics of Sunni-Shia relations. An audience member wondered how such an understanding could be created when The discussion began with some challenges that the couples faced during the Shia population in Singapore is so small to begin with. I responded that the courtship. I said that the acceptance of number of Shias was not a factor, but the Sunni’s parents towards the Shia partner and Shi’ism in general was more rather how we approached and interacted with Shias. Treating them as we would of an obstacle than the jurisprudential difference between the Sunni-Shia couple. other Muslims is more important. The The latter issue was mitigated by the fact state of relations between the two groups that the couples shared certain traits and will and should always be a concern regardless of both populations. beliefs that made their marriage work. In response to a question about whether I also brought up how couples shared the couples faced institutional barriers, broader concerns about the state of such as from the Registry of Muslim Islamic education in Singapore. For Marriages, I shared an anecdote of a couple whose parents insisted on having example, I mentioned that two of the couples in my study felt that more could their own qadi (solemniser) preside be done in the madrasahs to educate over the nikah (marriage). In the end, students on the Shia tradition. This both qadis were present at the nikah. I highlighted that this wasn’t so much an included not just imparting knowledge institutional barrier as an issue of which about Shia rituals but about their beliefs, their socio-political life, and their Islamic authority should be consulted.
history in Singapore. As a way forward, I suggested that the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) look into the syllabi of the madrasahs and introduce reading materials that focus on these aspects of Shi’ism. At the end of the discussion, I suggested that future studies on Sunni-Shia relations be conducted. One was a study on ‘Sushi’ children and how they feel about their religious identity as compared to their parents and grandparents. Another suggestion was a content analysis of the curricula in the madrasahs to understand what is being taught about Shias and Shi’ism in Singapore.
ing his Syed Imad Alatas is currently pursu of North PhD in Sociology at the University rch Carolina, Chapel Hill. His main resea topics interests are in gender and religion, n and on which he has written for Singaporea ns. catio publi ysian Mala
Marcinkowski, C. Historical Dimensions of the Shi`a in Southeast Asia. Middle East Institute. 2013, July 17. Available at: https://education.mei.edu/content/historical-dimensions-shia-southeast-asia
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$100K by 30?:
Perspective of a Singaporean Malay/Muslim BY KHAIRUL RUZAINI JASMANI
Anas reported the Messenger of Allah But when it comes to settling down, statistics have shown that there is a higher (peace and blessings be upon him) as saying, “When a man marries, he has fulfilled half percentage of Malay/Muslim couples of the religion; so let him fear Allah marrying before the age of 30. regarding the remaining half.” (Mishkat al-Masabih 3096) 55% of Muslim men in Singapore married Why is there a need to discuss this, you below the age of 30 in 20181, while the may ask? figure was 68% for Muslim women2. These And with marriages and weddings, they come with a cost. are higher than the national average of First of all, as a born and bred Malay/ 41% and 58% respectively3. Having children Muslim in Singapore, I can relate to how There is a hadith that mentions the certain choices we make in our lives will This set of beliefs impacts our financial impact our financial goals differently goals, whether we realise it or not. Having rewards of having children. from what others aim to achieve. an awareness of this is important as it Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger enables us to be realistic about the Secondly, there is a lack of sharing of financial goals that we have set to achieve. of Allah (pbuh) said, “When a person dies, all action is cut off information amongst the community for him with the exception of three things: about our financial journey. What are the key life choices we’re sadaqa (charity) which continues, talking about here? knowledge which benefits, or a righteous So, let me start the ball rolling. child who makes supplication for him.” They are: (Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 38) WHAT DO WE VALUE THE MOST? • Getting married This is my hypothesis: Our Malay/ • Having children Naturally, as Muslims, we desire having Muslim community values family and • Owning a home children. kinship more than anything else. Getting married Ideally, we would want to have them We desire to marry and start a family early. As Muslims, our religion teaches us that getting married is as good as completing while we’re still young to ensure we have the best chance to conceive and nurture Don’t get me wrong, other races do value half of our deen. our children during our most active years. family and kinship too. The topic of achieving $100K by the age of 30 seems to be often discussed within the local personal finance community of late, so I thought I could offer my perspective as a Singaporean Malay/Muslim.
Department of Statistics Singapore. Marital Status, Marriages and Divorces – Marriages under the Administration of Muslim Law Act (Grooms). 2021, July 7. Retrieved from: https://www.tablebuilder.singstat.gov.sg/publicfacing/createDataTable.action?refId=14156 Department of Statistics Singapore. Marital Status, Marriages and Divorces – Marriages under the Administration of Muslim Law Act (Brides). 2021, July 7. Retrieved from: https://www.tablebuilder.singstat.gov.sg/publicfacing/createDataTable.action?refId=10040 Department of Statistics Singapore. Marital Status, Marriages and Divorces – Total Marriages. 2021, July 7. Retrieved from: https://www.tablebuilder.singstat.gov.sg/publicfacing/createDataTable.action?refId=14141 1
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Despite the declining birth rate in Singapore, it has been statistically shown that the Malay/Muslim population has the highest fertility rate among the different ethnic groups.
For simplicity’s sake, we will make the following assumptions:
In 2019, the Malays’ total fertility rate stands at 1.804, whereas the rate for the Chinese is at 0.99 and for the Indians, 0.98. Overall (including the ethnic group ‘Others’), the total fertility rate stands at 1.14.
Owning a home Getting married and having children will naturally make us want to have our own abode to grow our family. As Muslims, particularly for the husbands, we have the responsibility to provide shelter for our families. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “All of you are guardians and are responsible for your wards. The ruler is a guardian and the man is a guardian of his family...” (Sahih al-Bukhari 5200) Hence, having a house that we can call home is something we tend to look for as soon as we settle down. The big question here is: Is it still possible to achieve $100K despite these life goals? If getting married, having children and owning a home are life goals you desire by the age of 30, is achieving $100K at the same time still attainable? To explore this, I will lay out six different scenarios, for six different fresh graduates. They are: • • • • • •
4 5 6 7 8
Singaporean Malay/Muslim man (degree holder) Singaporean Malay/Muslim woman (degree holder) Singaporean Malay/Muslim man (diploma holder) Singaporean Malay/Muslim woman (diploma holder) Singaporean Malay/Muslim man (ITE graduate) Singaporean Malay/Muslim woman (ITE graduate)
Has started his or her own savings from scratch (i.e. $0) upon starting work The men have gone through the mandatory two-year National Service (NS) Has placed savings in a default savings account collecting interest, instead of a Shariah-compliant savings account with a good hibah rate Has not started any investments Receives an annual wage supplement (i.e. 13th month bonus) Saves 50% of his or her take-home salary each month Has started work upon graduation (i.e. no sabbatical year after graduation ) Receives an annual salary increment of 3% annually, taking into account 1% inflation5 Sets aside a maximum budget for marriage at about $40,0006 Buys a matrimonial build-to-order flat, with home renovation and furnishing expenses of about $25,000 (i.e. assuming total cost of $50,000 is shared with spouse) Has a child, for whom expenses of $22,500 are incurred in the first two infant years7 (i.e. assuming total cost of $45,000 is shared with spouse)
1 2 3
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
Next, I will deduct the lump sum of expenses to start a family at the end of the 30-year age mark. Obviously, this is a simplistic way of calculating as starting a family at 25 and starting at 30 differs due to inflation and opportunity costs. But here is a good start. Singaporean Malay/Muslim man (degree holder) Assuming he went through the Junior College route and a typical four-year local university degree programme, he should graduate by the age of 25. Based on the 2019 median salary reported by Channel NewsAsia8, a fresh university graduate can earn a starting salary of $3,600. As an example, here is a possible six-year financial journey till he turns 30. SINGAPOREAN MALAY/MUSLIM MAN (DEGREE HOLDER) Age
Savings Per Month
Savings Per Year
Total Savings For The Year
Monthly Take Home Salary (After CPF) $2,880
However, in considering the total costs of starting a family, he will be left with almost $43,000: Not too shabby, but achieving $100K here is pretty far off.
Department of Statistics Singapore. Total Live-Births and Resident Total Fertility Rate (1990-2021). Available at: https://www.singstat.gov.sg/find-data/search-by-theme/population/births-and-fertility/visualising-data/fertility-dashboard Lim, K. Singaporean workers’ salaries to rise at a slightly slower pace in 2020: Report. TODAY. 2019, November 11. Retrieved from: https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/singaporean-workers-salaries-rise-slightly-slower-pace-2020-report Ruzaini, K. [Ultimate Singapore Malay Wedding Guide 2020] – How much do I need to save? Smart Mamat. 2019, December 31. Retrieved from: https://www.smartmamat.com/malay-wedding-guide/ Feng, M. Saving $100K by 30 Years Old... Is It Even Possible? Seedly. 2021, September 22. Retrieved from: https://blog.seedly.sg/how-saving-100k-by-30-years-old Cheng, I. Higher median starting pay for 2019 graduates: Survey. CNA. 2020, February 28. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/singapore/university-graduates-2019-higher-median-starting-pay-survey-781346
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Singaporean Malay/Muslim woman (degree holder) As she does not have to serve NS, she will start earning two years earlier than her male counterparts. Assuming she earns the same $3,600 monthly salary at the age of 23, she will save around $179,000 by 30. SINGAPOREAN MALAY/MUSLIM WOMAN (DEGREE HOLDER) Age
Savings Per Month
Savings Per Year
Total Savings For The Year
Monthly Take Home Salary (After CPF) $2,880
With the total costs of starting a family, she will eventually be able to set aside about $92,000: Pretty close.
Renovation & Furnishing Costs
As per the Graduate Employment Survey, she will earn around $1,800 on average, and accumulate about $112,000 by the age of 30. With the total costs of starting a family, she will eventually have $24,000 by the age of 30. In summary, it is not as easy as it seems when you start adding up all the costs you are likely to incur in that stage of your life. As you can probably see, the profile that gets the closest to the ‘$100K by 30’ mark is the female degree-holder. Unless you’re running a successful business or earning a substantial side income, it will be an uphill task to achieve the financial goal. And here’s my final thought... Despite all these, I would like to end off by saying that financial goals are not everything.
With the total costs of starting a family, she will be left with $77,000.
There are family goals, relationship goals and spiritual goals that we would like to seek too, which are not easily quantifiable.
Once again, this is a sizeable shortfall of $23,000 to that elusive $100K.
If your goal is similar to mine, and you would like to start a family young, do so.
Assuming he is given a starting monthly salary of $2,500 as per the 2020 Graduate Employment Survey9, he should be able to save $142,000 within nine years.
Singaporean Malay/Muslim man (ITE graduate) Assuming this individual goes through the two-year NITEC route, he should graduate and finish his NS by the age of 20.
You must adjust your financial goals accordingly and not be pressured by the arbitrary goal of achieving ‘$100K by 30’.
However, in considering the total costs of starting a family, he will be left with $55,000.
So let’s say he starts at 21, earning around $2,200 as per the Graduate Employment Survey, he will save around $129,000.
You’re the only one who knows best how to lead your life in the best possible way.
An improvement from a degree holder, but still not there yet.
With the total costs of starting a family, he will eventually have $41,000 left.
Singaporean Malay/Muslim woman (diploma holder) For a typical three-year polytechnic course, she will graduate by 19.
That’s a pretty comparable savings to a degree holder I’ve calculated earlier, but far off from $100K.
Singaporean Malay/Muslim man (diploma holder) Upon completing NS, a typical diploma holder will join the workforce at around 22 years of age – a three-year head start on a degree holder.
Assuming she starts working at 20 and earns around $2,300 per month without serving NS, as per the 2020 Graduate Employment Survey, she will save around $164,000. 9
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Singaporean Malay/Muslim woman (ITE graduate) Last but not least, let’s assume this individual goes through the two-year NITEC route, graduates by the age of 18 and starts working at 19.
Smart Mamat. 2019 Polytechnic Graduates Continue to be in Good Demand. n.d. Retrieved from: https://www.smartmamat.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/GES2019PR-Final.pdf
Everyone’s journey is different.
Khairul Ruzaini Jasma ni currently serves as Head of Partnerships at ShopBack. He is also the founder of Mu slim-friendly guide to personal finance, www.s martmamat.com. He graduated with Bac helor (Hons) in Accounting and Financ e from the London School of Economics, Uni versity of London.
CARING FOR DEMENTIA PATIENTS WITH
AZRAINI AZRI ALFRED BY NUR DIYANA JALIL
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were over 55 million people worldwide living with dementia in 2020 and the number is expected to rise to 78 million in 20301. In Singapore, one in 10 Singaporeans or about 100,000 people aged 60 and above, suffer from the illness. As caring for a dementia patient can be exhausting and overwhelming for the caregivers, a nursing home is often considered as an option for their loved ones who require more medical attention and care than they are able to fulfill. Azraini Azri Alfred, 31, who is a healthcare assistant in a dementia care home in Broxburn, Scotland, believes that patience is a vital trait when working with dementia patients. She shares the challenges she encounters while working and living in Scotland with The Karyawan team. Q: Could you tell us more about yourself and your family? Azraini: As I was born and raised in Singapore, I am a big foodie and absolutely love my holidays, near or far. I came to the UK in late 2015 when I was 24 to complete my Master of Science degree in Applied Psychology. I have been living in Scotland since then while my parents and two brothers still live in Singapore together with our cat, Simba. Whilst studying, I took up a part-time job and that was when I met my Scottish husband. After dating for a few years, we got married and I decided to permanently move to the UK. He just could not survive the heat in Singapore! My in-laws have never visited Singapore or Malaysia, so over the years, I have slowly introduced our cuisine to them, mostly the non-spicy ones. It's always interesting to hear their feedback on our food, especially given how different it is from theirs. Q: What drew you to a profession in the healthcare industry? What does your job entail? Azraini: I was drawn to a job in the healthcare industry as I like helping others and feel like I am able to make a direct impact in improving other people’s lives. I always have so much respect for anyone 1
World Health Organization. Dementia. 2021, September 2. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dementia
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in the industry as it’s a crucial role that most times go unappreciated unless you’re a doctor. When COVID hit us and I heard about the need for manpower in the healthcare industry, I decided to join despite the risks of being a frontliner. As a healthcare assistant in a dementia care home, I help the residents with their daily routines – from getting them washed, dressed, to assisting them with preparing and consuming meals. I have to identify the different needs of each resident and adapt the approach of care I provide. Q: How has your experience in Singapore helped you in your work in Scotland? Azraini: Having grown up in multicultural Singapore, it has helped me adjust to the culture in Scotland. With English as my first language, it has definitely given me a big advantage compared to the other foreigners who come to the UK. I had less to adjust to as I’ve been exposed to the British culture through social media and the environment in Singapore.
Azraini and her husband at the top of Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye last summer
the place. Especially when they’re not living in the present, it’s challenging to calm them down and reason with them. They lose control of their bodily functions too. A caring nature is also crucial as these Q: What are some of the challenges you patients are mostly helpless and unable to encounter in your line of work? shout for help. It is very important to treat them with dignity and respect despite any Azraini: A challenge I face at times is circumstances they are in. I feel that being underestimated when it comes to emotional intelligence is also necessary my ability to understand the instructions to help understand how they are feeling given as many people would assume that and in identifying signs of distress or because I’m Asian, I would not have a good deteriorating health so that we can provide grasp of the English language, or come them with the treatment they need. At from a conservative and close-minded that age, they are very vulnerable and culture. There have been many occasions considered high risk. where I’ve been told my English is great. Another challenge I face at work is to do Q: Apart from your full-time job, you are with the very nature of being in a care also running a home-based business. home. Unlike a hospital, those who enter What do you sell and why did you a care home don’t expect to get treated, choose to sell these products? recover and leave. Their health just continues to deteriorate until it gets to the Azraini: For my home-based business, point where they pass on. In order to I sell Southeast Asian treats like mooncakes, provide good care, I need to get to know pineapple tarts, curry puffs and a bunch them, and develop a bond with them. This more. I started selling them after making makes it emotionally difficult to deal with mooncakes for a friend who was craving when they’re at the end of their life and them, then I posted a photo of my pass on. mooncakes on a Facebook group called ‘Malaysian Food in UK’. I received so many Q: What kind of qualities do you need to requests for me to start selling them as work with dementia patients? they would really like to order them. I love baking so I thought if people would Azraini: Patience is a trait that is vital appreciate it, I would be happy to sell when working with dementia patients. them some of my bakes. As a Singaporean They are almost always unaware of what who is always missing food from home, they say or do. Their emotions are all over I understand the excitement that comes 30 T H E K A R Y A W A N © AMP SINGAPORE. PERMISSION IS REQUIRED FOR REPRODUCTION.
with being able to get authentic home food to cure homesickness, especially when travelling back home isn’t possible with the current pandemic. I’ve been really blessed as the reception for my treats has been amazing. The majority of my clientele are Southeast Asians. I‘ve had to reduce my hours at work in order to accommodate the orders I’ve been getting and have since expanded my menu to include other local delights from back home that are almost impossible to get from the shops here, especially in Scotland. Q: Do you have plans to expand your home-based business, like opening a shop or a café? Azraini: I do intend to expand my business, but not at the current moment. I don’t have the experience in running a business and would really like to build the knowledge so as to reduce any risks. I would also like to test the market much more before deciding to open a shop. For example, start with selling my bakes at a local cafe. With food that is somewhat different from the food we get locally in Edinburgh, I would like to see how receptive the non-Asians would be.
A challenge I face at times is being underestimated when it comes to my ability to understand the instructions given as many people would assume that because I’m Asian, I would not have a good grasp of the English language, or come from a conservative and close-minded culture. There have been many occasions where I’ve been told my English is great.
Azraini (second, from right) having a potluck session by a beach in Stonehaven with other Singaporeans and Malaysians from around Scotland
Q: What were some of the challenges you faced when you first moved to Scotland, and how did you overcome them?
outdoors while not putting myself at a high risk of catching the virus. I also love the freedom of expression and acceptance that people here embrace.
Azraini: Some of the challenges I faced were the lack of Southeast Asian food, the absence of dining options after 10pm, the weather, and living far away from friends and family, to name a few. The lack of food choices was what drove me to learn how to make them on my own, hunting around the city and online for supplies. As for the weather, I have acclimatised to an extent where I don’t live in my thermals anymore. My cold tolerance has improved but it still has a long way to go compared to the locals. I remember the times I used to be in five layers of clothing going outside and my husband would just be in a T-shirt! Now I go out with three layers, or even two on rare occasions! As for missing my social circle back home, I’ve made attempts to meet new friends here. Although I’ve not met any other Singaporeans or Malaysians my age living near me, I’ve made other international friends and it’s been great learning about their cultures and lifestyles. I also phone home whenever possible, but the eight hour time difference doesn’t make it easy!
Q: Do you have any advice for youths who intend to move overseas for work?
Q: How different is the culture and lifestyle in Broxburn compared to Singapore? Azraini: The lifestyle is more laid-back and slow-paced. Most people I came across have been very friendly. One of my favourites is the practice of saying thank you to the bus driver when getting off the bus. In a big country like the UK, we don’t have the same convenience of getting to places as easily or the wide variety of shops as we do in Singapore. Shops are more spread out with local businesses everywhere, and fewer chain shops in sight outside the city centre. As a big part of the Scottish culture is alcohol, it can be found everywhere at a very cheap price, leading to a big health concern here.
Azraini: My advice is to go for it, but to always remember to keep an open mind. A new culture and lifestyle take time to adjust to but never give up and be open to change. There’s a Singaporean/Malaysian community in most countries that you go to, so seek them out if you’re homesick. The experience of living and working overseas is invaluable. It also helps you to appreciate the aspects that are different. It’s all about perspective. Q: Do you intend to return to Singapore one day? Azraini: I definitely intend to return to Singapore one day. As much as living in the UK is a wonderful experience, and as cliché as this sounds, Singapore is where my heart is. It’s where I belong. Yes, there are a lot of challenges living in such an expensive (and small) country, but there are also a lot of benefits. Teenage me had always wanted to leave Singapore and move overseas. But now that I’ve done it, I think Singapore is still where I’d rather be.
Nur Diyana Jalil is an Executive at the Centre for Research on Islamic and Malay Affairs (RIMA), managing its social media, events and publications.
Q: What are some of your memorable experiences working and living in Scotland so far? Azraini: I love that hiking trails or country walks are never too far away here. I’ve grown to appreciate them even more during the pandemic as it allows me to get
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THE PRIMORDIAL MODERNITY OF MALAY NATIONALITY BY HUMAIRAH ZAINAL AND KAMALUDEEN MOHAMED NASIR
BY MUHAMMAD HYDAR
In 1994, Stuart Hall spoke of the “fateful triangle” between race, ethnicity, and the nation. “Identity is not a matter of essence but of positioning, and hence, there is always a politics of identity, a politics of position,” Hall provoked1. In 2010, Charles Mills, a contemporary of Hall, reminded his audience that race is socially constructed, built for particular political projects rather than an intrinsic reality of biology. “So if you ask a person, what is your race,” Mills explained, “what you are really asking is, where are you located with respect to the [political] system.”2 Of course, the system, together with its structures and metaphysics, changes over time. However, this does not mean that race, or for that matter, identity, is unreal or frivolous. Historically, social constructs can be transformative and wear the permanence of nature itself – especially once cultivated across geographies and generations, or given discursive or juridical weight. For example, try crossing the border without your passport. Simply put, identities, or how power is structured
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dominant bloc, then, must portray the pecking order – its hierarchies of identity and labour – as neutral, common-sensical, or even receptive to full democratisation3. This task, however, has increasingly That identities are continuously shaped struggled to persuade, particularly in the and power-laden is a process remarkably developed world. At one corner, post-racial transparent in today’s terrain. As a planetary order of capitalism, nationalism, and colour-blind dreams have been declared, but often at the neglect of and imperialism undergoes its latest underlying injustices and histories. At the implosion, its supposedly natural other, the bogeymen of ‘identity politics’ hierarchies betray their actual and ‘culture wars’ have been summoned manufacture and the cracks where new possibilities may rise. Subaltern groups see to tar attempts at reform and abolition. these shifts clearly, and renew their bid to A politics of representation has also been preached, even though aesthetics cannot resist and adjust their subordinate pose as substance. And should the rest positions. In response, dominant coalitions move to re-validate the situated prove ineffective, the banner of nationalism is waved to foreclose or delay status quos. But as Antonio Gramsci different horizons. Still, the strains grow reflected, maintaining hegemony is hard work. For instance, the gates and slots of a between the identities of the state and the specified polity are policed and negotiated self, and of the core and the margins. between numerous groups. Solidarity, too, Readers affected by these vast and varied cannot be assumed just because actors contests will find rich insight in The share a certain identity or class. But it is the subaltern, Gramsci clarified, that lives Primordial Modernity of Malay Nationality: the inequities of those arrangements. The Contemporary Identity in Malaysia and along them, can determine the distribution of resources, life chances, and liberties within a given society.
1 Hall, S. The Fateful Triangle: Race, Ethnicity, Nation. Harvard University Press, 2017. p. 130 Dr. Charles W. Mills - Does Race Exist? Daily Motion, uploaded by Roby Captain, 2015. Available at: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2vy16r 3 Jones, S. Antonio Gramsci. Routledge, 2006. pp. 45-49
Singapore. Familiar names in the critical scholarship of Singapore, the authors are local sociologists Humairah Zainal and Kamaludeen Mohamed Nasir. Kamaludeen, for instance, is a veteran scholar. But Humairah, a junior, is fast amassing an impressive oeuvre of truthtelling – a fraught career path, yet one that Malay and Muslim women scholars have repeatedly and bravely walked. In The Primordial Modernity of Malay Nationality, Humairah and Kamaludeen explore the construction and competition of Malay national identities at various levels: the government, elite, masses, and transnational. A ‘critical discourse analysis’ (CDA) approach underpins their study, and hence, they attend to the links between identity formation and discourse. Specifically, the authors recover and assess a range of ‘identity categories’ from multiple genres of texts – political speeches, newspapers, textbooks, magazines, and more – produced by the Malay ‘elites’ and ‘masses’. The authors define the two groups on a scale of political power, social capital, and normative influence. In this range, the authors describe the ‘elites’ as groups leading or prominent in government, economy, civil society, and religion. The authors, however, stress that the ‘masses’, or ordinary citizens, are very much active agents themselves. Still, the authors outline the evident power asymmetries between the two groups, and the multiple directions that they can act. The authors situate their study between 2010 and 2015, holding those years as eventful for Singapore and Malaysia. For instance, in Malaysia, Najib Razak’s administration began; the Malay right resurged; and the Bersih rallies responded. Likewise, in Singapore, the general public objected to top-down policymaking; Lee Kuan Yew passed away; and racial minorities challenged the government’s particular multicultural and authoritarian designs. To demonstrate Malayness as a contested affair, Humairah and Kamaludeen consider two theories of identity: primordialism and modernity. To the authors, the former is the attribution of national identity to customs, kin, and
language, while the latter denotes a national identity that developed along and within capitalism, industrialisation, and democracy. The authors combine the two theories to contend that Malay national identities exhibit a primordial modernity: “[P]rimordial identities such as language, race and religion, are especially crucial in grasping the national identities of Malays in Malaysia and Singapore. [T]o a large extent, categories like Malay and Islam, and many times, Malay/Islam, are discussed nationally as crucial elements of national identity. In these countries, these primordial identities are nurtured and nourished in national conversations alongside modern concepts like cosmopolitanism and development, reflecting their respective multicultural populace and the position of both countries as first world countries, while at the same time emphasising the primacy of primordial roots.” 4 The authors begin by introducing the Malays of Singapore and Malaysia. The two groups share a past of British colonialism and its ongoing afterlives of dispossession and orientalism. From that history, the authors list the dynamics that distinguishes and connects Singapore and Malaysia Malays. Their respective subordinate and superordinate positions are also explained. The authors report some well-known realities, like Malay ethno-nationalism in Malaysia, and Malay marginality in Singapore. Others, however, are less obvious, such as the uneven results of Bumiputeraism for the indigenous underclasses, and the anomie encircling Article 152 of the Singapore Constitution. Barring other differences, the Malays of Singapore and Malaysia also live under governments classified as ‘soft authoritarian’. Against this backdrop, the authors chart the routes of hegemonic and everyday forms of Malayness.
absent among the Chinese majority – disrupt official fictions of Malay insularity. They also propose that the Malay community’s organic cosmopolitanism has tested the limits of the government’s ‘Chinese, Malay, Indian and Others’ (CMIO) system and its narrow racial meanings and policy pathways. On Malaysia Malays, however, the authors discern a mass reluctance to racial exogamy, then induced by segregative government policies and normative matrimonial expectations. When it comes to moral conceptions of cosmopolitanism, like that of social justice, the authors find that Malaysia Malays practice a form more proactive and globalised than their Singapore counterparts. Solidarity with the ummah, they observe, is salient and enacted among Malaysia Malays, who also possess wider spaces for political mobilisation than their southern neighbours. Evidence of this moral cosmopolitanism is seen in Malaysia Malays’ advocacy for Palestinian self-determination and relatively high intake of Rohingya refugees. That said, the authors caution that Rohingya refugees in Malaysia fall outside the ideal schema of Malaysianness, and thus, are beset by exploitation and exclusion. Through these examples, the authors deduce Malay cosmopolitanism to be primordially modern, where it intersects across a self-determined Malayness and a nation’s ruling paradigm.
In chapter 4, the authors elaborate the commonalities of Malayness and Muslimness among Singapore and Malaysia Malays. Depending on their countries’ ruling order, these primordial identifications incur different costs and comforts. In post-9/11 Singapore, the authors highlight the government’s controversial efforts to engineer an ideal Muslimness for believers, such as the Singapore Muslim Identity (SMI) project. However, the anti-extremist discourse and Chapter 3, for instance, examines the muscular secularism pervading these cosmopolitanisms of Singapore and Malaysia Malays. In Singapore, the authors official definitions have failed to resonate. The authors are not surprised. To them, illustrate a high rate of transnational and Singapore’s Malay and Muslim masses inter-racial marriages among Malays – have long transcended the authorities’ a sign of cultural openness and severe secular-religious divide. inclusiveness. The authors reason that Additionally, the authors remark that these cosmopolitan unions – almost
Zainal, H., and Mohamed Nasir, K. The Primordial Modernity of Malay Nationality: Contemporary Identity in Malaysia and Singapore. Routledge, 2022. p. 14
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At the book’s end, it is apparent that The Primordial Modernity of Malay Nationality is an engaging and encyclopaedic study. Under the authors’ care, the book is sensitive to history and agency, and diligent to the sociology of marginalised identities. With its page, readers will find abundant threads to follow, as well as arguments composed on extensive textual research – which, as the authors declare, puts forth elements of Malayness previously understudied.
these communities have witnessed secularism be invoked to curtail their civil liberties, like that of the ‘hijab issue’. Moreover, to the authors’ bemusement, exhortations of anti-extremism redundantly presume that local Malays and Muslims are pro-extremist.
order and its Bumiputera privileges as warranted. The authors identify that the institutionalisation of Islam has made the religion a cornerstone of Malay national identity and political partisanship. The authors, for example, broach the “Allah affair” in 2010, where the Islamic authorities and Malay reactionaries In a section pertinent to local audiences, persecuted the Christian minority for the authors address the renascent using the eponymous Arabic word. anti-racism of Singapore’s racial minorities, Likewise, in 2015, the Malay political and Malays included. Evocative of the religious establishment branded the Bersih Association of Muslim Professionals’ own rallies – then held against government efforts in 1990, as well as of prior minority corruption, and attended predominantly generations, the racial minorities of today by Malaysia Chinese – as haram (forbidden have steadily critiqued their country’s in Islamic law) and a threat to the ‘Chinese hegemony’ and the distinct constitution. However, the authors show socio-political privileges and mobilities that other Malays, as revealed in the located in the Chinese category5. In citing journalism of Malaysiakini and Projek local and global scholarship, the authors Dialog, have opposed this chauvinistic and posit that “minority communities are not sectarian turn. Curiously, the authors asked to accommodate themselves to an discover that frictions over Maruah Melayu ethnically neutral hegemony, but to a have barely registered in mass texts. Chinese-dominated one.” The authors then They partly attribute this absence to highlight that certain segments of the anti-intellectual traditions and policies. Chinese majority have tried to “quell” the Yet, the authors also note that the Malay revitalised anti-racist discourse, and masses broadly regard Islam as a moral preserve the status quo. These attempts, compass, thereby placing the elites under which the authors dispute, consist of scrutiny when they weaponise the faith for appeals to motive; narratives of reverse cynical politicking. Within these contexts, discrimination and victimhood; and the the authors estimate that Malay national suggestion that local anti-racist critiques identity in Malaysia and Singapore have thoughtlessly imitated ‘Western’ remains anchored in a primordial base of vocabularies6. While these manoeuvres race and religion, but the lived realities of betray a disconnect from the histories and Malays reveal deep entanglement between realities of Singapore’s racial order, the last their own identities and their governmentclaim of mimicry becomes especially prescribed forms. unsound amidst the circulation of en vogue right-wing American moral panics on the In chapter 5, the authors survey the country’s mainstream media7. To be sure, complexities between development, the minority masses have long tabled the citizenship, and primordial modernity. same rebuttals as the authors’. For example, According to them, Malaysia and in 2020, their online counter- publics Singapore Malays have stayed true to their thoroughly disassembled one academic cultural and nationalist roots despite article of the “quelling” sort8. facing varied inequalities at home. For instance, the authors state that Malaysia’s Like Singapore Malays, the stakes of Malay masses, although the political core, identity are just as high for Malaysia suffer rampant impoverishment under Malays and in particular, non-Malays. In their government’s bourgeois economics. the same chapter, the authors review the Singapore Malays, however, demonstrate debates over Maruah Melayu or the considerable patriotism even though their hegemony of Islam and Malay identity in nation’s status quo places them as the Malaysia. They note that Malay elites and deficient other and a potential fifth masses have generally taken that ruling column. Seeking answers to these
Zainal, H., and Mohamed Nasir, K. The Primordial Modernity of Malay Nationality: Contemporary Identity in Malaysia and Singapore. Routledge, 2022. p. 81. See also: Association of Muslim Professionals. Malays/Muslims in 21st century Singapore: Prospects, challenges & directions: National Convention of Singapore Malay/Muslim Professionals, 6-7 October 1990, NPB Auditorium. Organising Committee, National Convention of Singapore Malay/Muslim Professionals. 1990 6 For astute essays on this discourse, see: Bahrawi, N. What We Must Do, to Begin to Talk About Racism in One United People: Essays from the People Sector on Singapore’s Journey of Racial Harmony, ed. Koh, B. S. Marshall Cavendish International. 2022. pp. 34-40; and Haines, M. B. An (Indian) American Academic Teaching about Race (and Technology) in Singapore (paper presented at 4S-EASST 2020, STS Infrastructures, Prague, Czech Republic). 2020, August 18. pp.1-7 7 For greater context of this trend, see: Chong, J. I. Recognising the roots of racism in Singapore. Academia SG. 2021, June 18. Available at: https://bit.ly/3udGN2b; and Hoadley-Brill, S. Critical race theory’s opponents are sure it’s bad. Whatever it is. The Washington Post. 2021, July 2. Available at: https://wapo.st/3CEDftm 8 The article in question, which the book also interrogates, is addressed in Humairah’s latest publication: Zainal, H. Ethnic minority professionals’ experiences in Singapore’s multicultural workplaces. Social Identities. 2021. pp. 1-14
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questions, the authors deliberate the dissonant myth of the ‘kampung spirit’, as well as the paradigms of the ‘Malay problem’ in Singapore and ‘Malay Dilemma’ in Malaysia. Instructively, amidst the pandemic, the authors’ appraisal of traditional Malay medicine in Singapore dispels the reductive, widespread belief that healthcare is not conditioned by race, class, and gender.
provides fertile ground for further research. Potential offshoots, for example, could study Malay identity on social media, where Malays have nurtured their own socio-political spheres and connected with global and regional ones10. In this regard, the book is a worthy expansion of the scholarship on Malayness, nationalism, and identity formation. There are, of course, limitations. Like any comparative work, the book fluctuates in its precision, In chapter 6, the authors further dive into and thus, analyses on Malaysia can read these equations of power, or specifically, thinner than Singapore. Discerning the relations between the Malay elites and readers will no doubt unpack the book’s masses. For example, they respectively findings, extrapolations, and use of a compare Singapore’s ‘veiled’ political concept like ‘primordial modernity’. The leaders and ‘sanitised’ religious elites with authors themselves wonder if their book is Malaysia’s ‘expressive’ and ‘embattled’ ones. already outdated, given the historic The authors also show that Malaysia’s vicissitudes since its selected period of Malay masses, long depicted as uncritical, study. But they believe, as does this review, are likely to organise against policies they that the book be fruitful for understanding deem unjust. Separately, the authors the continuities and splits of the present ponder if the false consciousness and and perhaps, the future. compliant politics of Singapore’s Malay masses can be tied to their government’s political rhetoric and policing. However, suggestive of what James Scott has called of Nanyang the “weapons of the weak”9, the authors a graduate rests in ad Hydar is te m in am ith w uh , M foreground the intricate, everyday l University chnology ca te gi of lo s ic no lit Tech d socio-po an s resistance of the community and its ie or st the hi e. cultural laureates and ulamas (religious and scienc scholars). Indeed, as the authors announce at the book’s start, “the government is not the ultimate arbiter of identity”, for the primordial modernity of Malays means that their identities that can move along or away from their rulers’ framework. At the book’s end, it is apparent that The Primordial Modernity of Malay Nationality is an engaging and encyclopaedic study. Under the authors’ care, the book is sensitive to history and agency, and diligent to the sociology of marginalised identities. With its page, readers will find abundant threads to follow, as well as arguments composed on extensive textual research – which, as the authors declare, puts forth elements of Malayness previously understudied. Another review of the book, then, could easily report on a different set of covered topics, such as the oppressive patriarchy of contemporary Malay society, or the forerunning environmentalism of Southeast Asia’s Malays and Muslims. Moreover, the book
Zainal, H. Ethnic minority professionals’ experiences in Singapore’s multicultural workplaces. Social Identities. 2021. pp. 128-132; 140-141. See also: Scott, J. C. Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance. Yale University Press, 1985. For an example of this research direction, see: Saleem, S., and Bharat, A. S. Politically apathetic no more? Young Singaporean perspectives on race and civil liberties. Academia SG. 2020, August 5. Available at: https://bit.ly/3KGqLnX
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