Malay Muslim leaders rethink their future in Singapore


SINGAPORE, AFP

Malay members of the Singapore parliament have unveiled the blueprint of a 10-year plan which they say will fit the Muslim community into the city-state’s high-tech drive into the new economy.

But while the aim is to keep pace with the rest of Singapore and the world, it would not be at the expense of “our faith and ethnicity,” Muslim Affairs Minister Abdullah Tarmugi said.

Malay Muslims, who account for about 14 percent of Singapore’s population, have publicly argued in the past year over issues such as how compulsory education will affect Islamic schools, and whether they should have a greater say in the political leadership.

Tarmugi, who released details of the 10-year plan at a gathering of Malays on Friday night, said the community had to reflect on the type of Muslim society they wanted, their contribution to Singapore, and how they wanted to be perceived.

The blueprint focuses on education, talent development, help for low income families and religious education.

“The future of the Muslim Singaporean community rests on its ability to prepare itself to face and adapt to the challenges … of a highly competitive, fast-paced and constantly-changing global environment,” Tarmugi said.

“It also depends on how we fit into the national jigsaw as a piece which contributes to the total picture that is Singapore.”

“In doing so, I must emphasize, however, that this need not mean that we lose and shed our identity as defined by our faith and ethnicity.”

Referring to recent disputes over religious schools and leadership, Tarmugi said they had “tested the resilience, maturity and cohesiveness of the community,” but the main areas of contention had been dealt with and it was time to move on.

“By deed and thought we should demonstrate that a good Muslim is also a good Singaporean, an integral part of the larger Singapore society as well as an asset to his country.”