SINGAPORE - Malay-Muslim groups in Singapore can play a key role to improve the lives of families in their community, said Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam on Saturday (April 1).
With the community facing challenges such as radicalisation, more professionals losing their jobs and an over-representation of Malays in crime and drug statistics as well as the prison population, organisations such as self-help group Mendaki, Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) and Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) become more important, he added.
The roles that such groups can play include supporting ex-offenders and their families, and helping those susceptible to crime and drug abuse, said Mr Shanmugam, who is also Law Minister.
He was addressing about 140 community leaders and volunteers at an annual seminar organised by the AMP.
In his speech, he noted that the Malay-Muslim community has made significant social and economic progress over the years. Malay-Muslim Singaporeans are better off than those in neighbouring countries, he added.
The proportion of Malay primary one pupils who go on to post-secondary education has doubled from 45 per cent in 1995 to 93 per cent in 2015. Those who eventually obtain degrees and diplomas jumped from 15 per cent in 2010 to 21 per cent in 2015.
The proportion of Malays working as professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) also increased four-fold from 7 per cent in 1980 to 28 per cent in 2010.
Nearly 90 per cent of Malay households own their own homes, Mr Shanmugam said, noting that such progress was made through the collective efforts of the community, Malay-Muslim organisations and the government.
But while the progress made is encouraging, the minister singled out three challenges facing the community: those who may be seduced by the wrong understanding of Islam, Malay PMETs losing their jobs and the over-representation of Malays being caught for crimes and drug abuse.
More than half, or about 53 per cent, of drug abusers arrested last year were Malays, a jump from 32 per cent in 2006.
"Reducing offending and reoffending is challenging," Mr Shanmugam said, adding that the Malay-Muslim community organisations and the government have to work together to deal with the problem.
To help Malay-Muslim PMETs hit by job losses, a new committee headed by Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin and Parliamentary Secretary for Health Dr Faishal Ibrahim will be set up.
Mr Shanmugam is optimistic that the Malay-Muslim community can overcome the challenges.
Malay-Muslim groups can work with the government to make the Malay-Muslim community in Singapore a "beacon for the rest of the world" - one that is confident, modern, vibrant and integrated, he said.