Book on Singapore's bicentennial and the role of Malay/Muslim community launched

Beyond Bicentennial: Perspectives on Malays is a collection of 45 essays published by thought-leaders and academics.
Beyond Bicentennial: Perspectives on Malays is a collection of 45 essays published by thought-leaders and academics.PHOTO: WORLD SCIENTIFIC PUBLISHING CO.

SINGAPORE - A new book of essays chronicling Singapore's bicentennial journey and the role of the Malay/Muslim community in its history was launched on Monday (Dec 14).

Beyond Bicentennial: Perspectives On Malays is a collection of 45 essays published by thought leaders and academics on topics dating back to more than 700 years ago, when Sang Nila Utama first set foot on Singapore.

It was edited by former senior minister of state for foreign affairs Zainul Abidin Rasheed, former MP Wan Hussin Zoohri and fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute Norshahril Saat.

In a media release about the book, publisher World Scientific Publishing said that while the book's objective is to document the different views on Malays, it calls on readers to reflect on the contributions of Malays to Singapore's development as it is not a book just for the Malay/Muslim Community.

"Beyond Bicentennial is for all Singaporeans. It provides an opportunity to explore how the past of one community has also shaped all of us, and how each of us and our multi-racial and multi-religious communities are connected and intertwined with one another," said the release.

"It highlights some of the key values that have held well for our forefathers, values that will continue to be important to current and future generations of Singapore."

Speaking at the book launch held at the Malay Heritage Centre on Monday, guest of honour Lawrence Wong, who is the Minister for Education, said that Singapore's history is closely intertwined with Malay culture, and noted that before the British arrived in 1819, the country was part of the Malay world, comprising the Riau Islands and Johor

The book plays an important role in telling the unique stories of the Malay community here, said Mr Wong, pointing out that its values have helped shaped the fabric of Singapore's multicultural society.

"The gotong-royong spirit has helped us to strengthen care and trust in our society. Families relied on this community spirit to weather through hardships during the colonial period and through the Japanese occupation," he said.

This spirit of fostering a sense of togetherness and community remains relevant today during the Covid-19 pandemic, added Mr Wong, who co-chairs the ministerial taskforce leading the Government's response to the coronavirus.

There have been many examples of how the Malay community has responded well to Covid-19, including how during the circuit breaker period, it supported difficult decisions like the closing of mosques, as well as working together to raise funds and deliver food to the needy during the fasting month of Ramadan.

The book retails at $37 (paperback) and $96 (hard cover) at major bookstores, distributors and online. Contributors to the book include Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh, former self-help group Mendaki chief executive Rahayu Buang and Singapore Management University's Associate Professor Eugene Tan.

Mr Zainul told The Straits Times that the three editors had spent about two years working on Beyond Bicentennial. He hopes that readers will pick up the book so that they can take in different viewpoints about the role Malay people played in Singapore's journey.

"What makes this book different is it captures perspective on Malays - rather than providing a Malay perspective. Readers can get opinions from non-Malay contributors as well. It was a conscious decision by the editors to include their perspectives," said Mr Zainul.

"It gives the book multiple, but balanced, perspectives on the Malays held by both Malay and non-Malay contributors."