Being a Malay in Singapore and what it means for me

By September 5, 2017Current, Perspectives

Me at my Abang’s wedding

Growing up and living my whole life here in Singapore sometimes makes me take what we have for granted, despite being constantly reminded daily that we are enjoying some of the best things in the world. You know those articles about how we are such a clean city, how we have one of the best passports around, and of course, an airport that we are so proud of. Besides some of these accolades, I also often get reminded how lucky we are every time I turn on the TV or look at my Facebook feed and see what’s going on around the around.

Almost every day, we get a glimpse of the world from news articles that makes me question my faith in humanity. We have police officers abusing their authority because of race, women in certain countries being abused with no justice served, or even as simple as how women in so many countries today are still not given the same opportunities as men. Why are all these things happening around us when the year is 2017? It has been almost half a century since the first man landed on moon but some things never change. It’s sad, isn’t it?

This issue seems more prominent these days. I’m not sure if it’s happening more often or is it just because we are paying more attention now but I guess it’s not all bad if it’s the latter. Because when there is awareness, it could mean that there’s now understanding and hopefully change in the near future. Not fast enough but I guess “slowly but surely” is always better than never.

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It’s such news that reminds me that we are very fortunate in Singapore. A bit of a cliche but do allow me to quote our national pledge,

Regardless of race, language or religion

We are all given the same opportunities since birth. We might be born into families of different race, language or religion but every Singaporean will always be given the same opportunities. I remember one of my closest friends in primary school being Chinese. An Indian classmate of mine was given the same opportunity to be the class chairman like everyone else. We are all “colourblind” at a young age, so what changed while growing up? What made us think that a certain race or gender ain’t good enough to be something or anything should be exclusive to some but not others?

Things weren’t always easy in this country. You remember the infamous Hock Lee bus riot that we were taught during our school days? The kind of damage that our people and country can suffer from racial issues if not handled properly by the government…. It’s lessons like these that teach us the importance of maintaining peace across all religions and races.

I might not have a lot but I count my blessings every day for what we have and what I’ve got. I’ve friends from different races, we know our differences, we embrace it and sometimes we laugh about it as well. I call my Chinese friend Abang (which means brother in Malay) all the time for the fun of it. We invite each other over to our homes to celebrate occasions such as Chinese New Year or Hari Raya together. I picked up a word or two of Mandarin from him and he too has picked up some Malay words from me from. Although most of the words he asked are usually to hit on girls or just the names of food.

Abang and I “celebrating” Ramadan together.

Talking about food, as a Muslim, I am very happy that I can find halal food in Singapore easily. We even have food from other cuisines made halal for us. We can now enjoy ramen, dim sum, and even international fare as such Italian and Thai food because they are such restaurants that have been certified halal. It’s not always this easy around the world. If you travel enough you would know how difficult it is in certain countries. I’ve friends who actually bring their own cup noodles on every trip just for this reason.

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In politics, we have Madam Halimah, who has been a Member of Parliament and Minister since 2001. As much as her contribution to this country and its people counts starting from the days when she was with NTUC as the Deputy Secretary-General, I think the fact that she is being given such opportunities as a woman and as Muslim is amazing. Now she is even running for President. How cool is it that we might be having our first female president and first elected Malay president? How many other countries out there actually get to enjoy such harmony across race and gender?

I was reading a recent interview and she mentioned this,

“At some point, I do hope that in future we may not need a reserved election… but this is still a work-in-progress,”

If Madam Halimah is my friend, I would probably reply her saying I KNOW RIGHT?! I do hope that eventually race will become an non-issue at every level just like how it was right from the beginning when we were kids. It should never been an issue in the first place.

I feel blessed being a Muslim woman in Singapore. It might sound oxymoronic that the reason I feel blessed is because most of the time I don’t feel like the differences are there. It’s work-in-progress, but I do hope that one day, we will eventually all be the same.

We are all humans, we are all the same.

Because Geylang Serai is where Hari Raya comes to life

This article was submitted by guest writer Noor Fadilah, friend of our editor Smith Leong and if you must know, the article was inspired over a cup of bandung (for him) and teh c (for her) and awesome prata. 


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The Editor

Author The Editor

Either busy trying to save the world, or poking my nose into other people's affairs.

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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • MLFerrao says:

    But HY’s father was INDIAN, so following the rule of paternity race descendancy, HY’s race is INDIAN.

    How did her race magically change to MALAY?

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