99 Singaporeans and new immigrants take part in cultural heritage race to learn about the Malay-Muslim culture

Participants at this year's Cultural Heritage Race posing for a group photo, on May 20, 2018. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID
Participants in the Cultural Heritage Race posing for pictures with a stall holder during the event, on May 20, 2018. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID
Marine Parade GRC MP Fatimah Lateef flagging off the teams at the Cultural Heritage Race on May 20, 2018. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SINGAPORE - Permanent resident Amy Chen had no time to lose when she raced around Geylang Serai in a kebaya on Sunday (May 20) to learn more about Malay and Muslim culture.

Ms Chen, 31, had plenty to do, from taking a photo with a stallholder selling kueh such as putu piring (steamed flour cakes with coconut filling) at the Hari Raya Bazaar to answering questions about how often Muslims pray daily.

Ms Chen, who was born in China, is a commodities broker who has been here since 2011.

She was one of 99 Singaporeans and new immigrants from countries such as the Philippines, China, Britain and India who formed teams to take part in the cultural heritage race.

She said: "I enjoy learning about different cultures and I understand the importance of social harmony.

"I live near to Geylang Serai and already come to this area regularly. Today is a chance for me to be even more fully immersed in the Malay culture."

The annual event, which started in 2014 as part of the Hari Raya Light Up, was organised by the Geylang Serai Citizens' Consultative Committee and Integration and Naturalisation Champions.

Organisers said it allows participants to "forge newfound friendships" while completing challenges on historical icons, food and clothing around Geylang Serai "to learn about the Malay-Muslim culture and traditions".

Participants formed teams of three.

On Thursday a poster from the organisers about the team make-up drew some flak on online discussion platform Reddit after a photo of it was uploaded.

It said that each team must have at least one "non-Malay local born Singaporean" and at least one "new Singapore citizen or permanent resident or employment pass holder".

Reddit users acknowledged the event's "good intentions" but said the writing sounded tone deaf as it made it appear that the event had "race quotas" for the teams.

Assoc Prof Fatimah Lateef, MP Marine Parade GRC, said the objective of the race is to give non-Malay Singaporeans and new citizens and immigrants the opportunity to be exposed to the Malay culture and also to soak in the atmosphere of the Hari Raya Bazaar, and that such activities build goodwill during peace times.

Ms Lateef, who attended the event on Sunday, said: "The feedback for the last four years has been very positive and very powerful because of the immersive learning environment and experiential learning that we provide them.

"Do not underestimate such platforms because in today's world, we live in uncertain times. You read about terrorism activities and misunderstandings around the world. The root cause can actually be a simple misunderstanding between different groups and different races."

Singaporean participant Tan Xin Ru, 25, a product developer and two-time race participant, said she signed up with a friend from Mauritius who is here on an Employment Pass.

She said: "I teamed up with him to allow him to experience the excitement and to learn more about Ramadan."

Teams also visited heritage sites such as the former Geylang Fire Station, which opened in 1929, and the old Queen's Theatre, a cinema that closed in 1982.

Additional Reporting Timothy David

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