SINGAPORE - More than 50 Muslim-owned or halal certified restaurants and food businesses, with more than 200 stalls among them, have joined a push to spread the anti-drug message to their young patrons.
They include Spize, Alwadi, Al-Ameen Eating Corner, and Mr Teh Tarik Eating House, which together serve some 10,000 patrons on a typical weekend night.
On Friday (Sept 8), more than 70 volunteers joined Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Amrin Amin, in distributing anti-drug materials, such as stickers and posters, during a "supper hop" to some of the eateries.
This marked the launch of a Super Supper partnership, as part of the Dadah Itu Haram (Drugs are forbidden) campaign that started in April.
Among those spearheading the initiative are the Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Association, Muhammadiyah Welfare Home, Safinah Institute, SimplyIslam, and Riders Group.
"We need to start by focusing on our upstream intervention, to make sure that people don't start with the habit to begin with," said Mr Amrin on dealing with youth drug abuse.
Malays account for more than half of the drug abusers arrested last year (2016), up from 32 per cent in 2006.
Last year, 1,700 Malays were arrested for drug-related offences, compared to 1,380 in 2010.
The number of new drug offenders also rose from about 590 in 2010, to nearly 730 last year, and 20 per cent of them were below the age of 20.
"This is not a race issue, but we do see a higher proportion of minorities being affected... and it's something that we have to be realistic about," Mr Amrin told reporters on Friday, noting that those spreading the anti-drug message have to also "be where the people are".
"We have to make sure that the message gets sent across in a manner that people can relate to," he said.
Among the volunteers, Mr Hairul Marvin, 19, a student at the Institute of Technical Education, said he felt strongly about the issue as he has seen the ill effects of drug use on peers his age.
Owners of some participating eateries told The Straits Times that they supported the campaign to do their part for the community.
Mr Shahid Javaid, 43, who runs Usman's Place in Simpang Bedok, said that the trend of new, young drug offenders is worrying.
"We should try to help the youth, and encourage them not to go for drugs. I want to be part of this effort," he said.
"I have children as well, and I want them to have positive influences within the community," added the father of four, whose children are aged four to 18.
Mr Mohamed Jalal, 53, owner of Al-Ameen Eating Corner in Woodlands, said that about 80 per cent of his patrons are Muslim youth aged between 18 and 35.
"As we are doing business near Republic Polytechnic, many youngsters come here for supper," he said. While eateries like his can play a part, he said it would still be an uphill battle.
"We can only advise them," he said of changing youth attitudes towards drugs. "They are young adults, and at the end of the day, they have to make their own decisions."