New immigrants have fun exploring Malay-Muslim culture

Permanent resident Amy Chen (right), 31, and her teammate, Ms Zhu Ye, 35, were among the 99 Singaporeans and new immigrants who took part in the cultural heritage race on Sunday. One of the team's tasks was to take a photo of dendeng (grilled beef je
Permanent resident Amy Chen (right), 31, and her teammate, Ms Zhu Ye, 35, were among the 99 Singaporeans and new immigrants who took part in the cultural heritage race on Sunday. One of the team's tasks was to take a photo of dendeng (grilled beef jerky) at the Hari Raya Bazaar.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

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

Ms Chen, 31, had plenty to do, such as taking a photo with a stallholder selling Malay kueh 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 took 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 Geylang Serai and come to this area regularly. Today is a chance for me to be even more fully immersed in the Malay culture."

POSITIVE RESPONSE

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.

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR FATIMAH LATEEF, adviser to the People's Association Integration Council.

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 new-found friendships while completing challenges on historical icons, food and clothing "to learn about the Malay-Muslim culture and traditions".

Participants had to form teams of three. Last Thursday, a poster by 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.

Associate Professor Fatimah Lateef, an MP for Marine Parade GRC, and adviser to the People's Association Integration Council, said the objective of the race is to give non-Malay Singaporeans and new citizens and immigrants the opportunity to be exposed to Malay culture and to also soak in the atmosphere at the Hari Raya Bazaar. She added that such activities build goodwill during peace time.

Prof Lateef, the event's guest of honour, 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 Tan Xin Ru, 25, a product developer and two-time race participant, took part with a friend from Mauritius who is an employment pass holder. 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 and the old Queen's Theatre.

• Additional reporting by Timothy David

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 22, 2018, with the headline 'New immigrants have fun exploring Malay-Muslim culture'. Print Edition | Subscribe