Book marks Malay/Muslim milestones

(From left) Berita Harian editor Mohd Saat Abdul Rahman, Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob and AMP chairman Azmoon Ahmad at the launch of the book, 50 Defining Moments For The Malay/Muslim Community, at the Malay Heritage Centre yesterday.
(From left) Berita Harian editor Mohd Saat Abdul Rahman, Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob and AMP chairman Azmoon Ahmad at the launch of the book, 50 Defining Moments For The Malay/Muslim Community, at the Malay Heritage Centre yesterday.ST PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN

New title captures achievements, events that the community here can be proud of

Singapore's first president Yusof Ishak, first attorney-general Ahmad Ibrahim, first female Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob and first football player to play in a top European league Fandi Ahmad earned national recognition for breaking new ground.

Their accomplishments, and other significant milestones for Malay/Muslim Singaporeans since 1965, are captured in a new book launched yesterday.

Titled 50 Defining Moments For The Malay/Muslim Community, the 122-page book is jointly published by the Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) and Malay-language newspaper Berita Harian.

Also documented are the formation of major community organisations like the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, community self- help group Mendaki and the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG). The RRG was set up by a group of religious scholars in 2003 and counsels terror detainees as well as counters their distortions of Islam.

  • 10 highlights from 50 Defining Moments For The Malay/Muslim Communityackground Story

  • 1965: Singapore's first president

    When Singapore separated from Malaysia, Mr Yusof Ishak's loyalty to the new country convinced many Malays to stay put instead of migrating across the Causeway as some of the Malay elite had.

    1966: Singapore's first attorney-general appointed

    Professor Ahmad Ibrahim drafted the Administration of Muslim Law Act (Amla) that safeguarded the religious rights of Muslims in personal matters such as marriage and inheritance.

    1968: Establishment of Muis

    Formed as a statutory board under Amla, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) today handles a range of matters such as pilgrimage needs, overseeing religious education and the preaching of a moderate and inclusive Islam.

    1982: Formation of Mendaki

    The first major collaboration between Malay/Muslim MPs, community leaders and the Government, self-help group Mendaki was established to improve the educational performance of Malay/Muslim students.

    1983: First Singaporean to play in a top European football league

    Mr Fandi Ahmad signed on with Dutch club FC Groningen, scoring 10 goals in 29 games during his debut season.

    1990: First convention of Singapore Malay/Muslim professionals

    Some 500 professionals turned up at this conference to discuss ideas for the community and the formation of another self-help group to help uplift the community. AMP was launched a year later.

    2001: Establishment of Mercy Relief

    Set up as a humanitarian relief agency by the Adult Islamic Religious Students' Association of Singapore, and led then by future minister Masagos Zulkifli, Mercy Relief was relaunched as an independent group in 2003. It has provided relief during disasters, including the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

    2008: Inclusion of Muslims in Human Organ Transplant Act

    A ruling by Muis' fatwa committee in 2007 declared organ donation a life-saving act in line with Islamic teachings, paving the way for Muslims, previously exempt from the law on religious grounds, to be included under it a year later.

    2013: First female Speaker

    Elected an MP in 2001, Madam Halimah Yacob became a champion of workers' issues before being named as Singapore's first female Speaker of Parliament in 2013.

    2015: First madrasah students accepted by NUS medicine school

    Amalina Ridzuan and Ahmad Abdurrahman spent 10 years in madrasahs studying both secular and Islamic subjects before being accepted into the National University of Singapore's Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine.

    Chong Zi Liang

Speaking at the book launch at the Malay Heritage Centre, Madam Halimah said Malay/Muslims should continue to highlight and record events that the community can be proud of. "We should continue striving for and achieving better results year after year," she added.

She noted that, for example, the academic performance of students in full-time Islamic religious schools, or madrasahs, has been improving, with almost all pupils doing well enough in this year's Primary School Leaving Examination to go on to secondary school.

The book also features two individuals who this year became the first madrasah students to secure places at the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine.

"We've come a long way from those days when people think going to the madrasahs means you will have a very difficult future (or) career," said Madam Halimah.

AMP chairman Azmoon Ahmad said that as part of the committee to select the content of the book, he considered not just the impact of the milestone when it happened, but also whether it continues to make a difference today. "More importantly, does that event that happened in the past which has made an impact today - will it continue to have an impact tomorrow? If that is a 'yes', this will have an even bigger weighting."

The significant moments cover a wide range of achievements in academia, the Government, uniformed services and sports.

They include the appointment of Singapore's first Malay/Muslim army general Ishak Ismail in 2009 and golfer Mardan Mamat becoming the first Singaporean to win a European tour event in 2006.

Ms Dinah Aziz, who is featured in the book as the first madrasah student to score seven A1s in the O levels in 2008, hopes her story will inspire others. Now 23, she does research in drug discovery at NUS.

She said: "We can be religious and live our lives as Muslims... and we can also excel academically."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 08, 2015, with the headline 'Book marks Malay/Muslim milestones'. Print Edition | Subscribe