Dialogues on issues concerning Malay/Muslim Singaporeans to be held next year

Insights gathered from these dialogues will inform policy decisions to continue the good progress the community has been making. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - A series of dialogues will be held next year in which Malay/Muslim Singaporeans will have the chance to discuss with politicians the issues of concern to them, said Senior Minister of State for Manpower and Defence Zaqy Mohamad.

These dialogues fall under the Ciptasama@M³ programme, and the insights gathered from them will inform policy decisions to continue the good progress the community has been making, said Mr Zaqy on Dec 18 at a group media interview with other Malay/Muslim leaders.

"There are specific issues, concerns and aspirations of the Malay community that I think many in the community wish to express. This is one platform we find useful to engage the community better, to bring and rally them together," he added.

Introduced in 2019, Ciptasama@M³ or Co-creation@M³ is a Malay/Muslim focused programme that aims to encourage the community's participation in policymaking.

It is an initiative under the M³ collaboration by three key Malay/Muslim organisations: Mendaki, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) and the People's Association Malay Activity Executive Committees Council (Mesra).

Mr Zaqy said two dialogues are planned so far for next year.

The first one will be on "Seizing Opportunities in the Age of Digital Transformation". It will take place on Jan 7, with Mr Zaqy and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Maliki Osman participating.

The second dialogue will focus on "Strengthening Malay/Muslim Families". It will be chaired by Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim as well as Parliamentary Secretary for Health Rahayu Mahzam on Jan 12.

The dialogues will be held in conjunction with the Singapore Together Emerging Stronger Conversations, in which Singaporeans share their hopes and plans for a more caring, cohesive, and resilient post-Covid-19 society by co-creating policy solutions.

Responding to how the Malay/Muslim community should approach the topic of race and religion, a topic which has surfaced frequently this past year, Mr Zaqy said that the community can express their views on the matter during the Ciptasama@M³ sessions.

"We hope to tease out some of these aspirations through the Ciptasama@M³ engagement and see what comes out of it," he said.

During the interview last Friday, Associate Professor Faishal also said that a new framework will be set up for Muslim wedding solemnisers here to help them better develop their careers and to empower them to help strengthen marriages in the community.

This is a follow-up to the announcement M³ made last year about the Bersamamu (Malay for With You) programme, which makes it compulsory for all Muslim couples applying to register their marriages to first meet a naib kadi, or wedding solemniser, before their solemnisation ceremony.

The naib kadi will continue engaging the couple over the next two years, offering support and advice to help them lay the foundations of a strong and stable marriage.

Besides sharing advice and useful information on marriage and parenthood, they may also refer couples to programmes and services aimed at enhancing their marital relationships, or when they need professional help.

Dr Faishal said that more than 6,000 couples have participated in the programme which has received positive feedback from many couples and solemnisers, and that the government will build on its success with this new training framework.

The framework will spell out ways for these solemnisers to be either "generalists" or "specialists", said Dr Faishal, adding that more details will be provided when it is launched next month.

Statistics released by the Department of Statistics show that the number of Muslim divorces is on the rise. There were 1,697 divorces among Muslim couples last year, up from 2018's figure of 1,682 and 2017's figure of 1,637.

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