Singapore

Malay grassroots groups to build stronger bonds within community: Masagos

Malays here have their own special version of Malay culture, which melds with Singapore's multiracial setting, and the community must put in greater effort to grow and preserve this culture, said Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli.

He made this call yesterday as he announced plans for Malay grassroots groups under the People's Association to focus on building stronger bonds within the community, and between the community and other races.

Speaking at a dinner celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Malay Activity Executive Committees (MAECs), Mr Masagos said the local Malay identity provides a bulwark against the threat of incoming doctrines that are detrimental to our multiracial society.

Mr Masagos noted in a speech that external influences have threatened to erode this culture, adding that some local traditions have come under attack by extremists.

TARGET

He pointed to how they labelled the Malay wedding practice of "persandingan", where newlyweds sit together on a dais, as having Hindu influences.

"Extremists know they must first supplant our confidence in our identity, both in our religious practice and culture, before they can replace it with one of their own," Mr Masagos said.

He urged people to guard against such insidious influences, saying that failing to do so could result in the erosion of Malay culture and the rejection of local teachings of Islam that embrace harmony.

The 97 MAECs and its coordinating body, the Malay Activity Executive Committees Council - known as Mesra - can also help guard against this threat of radicalism and exclusivism, said Mr Masagos, who is an adviser to Mesra.

Mesra will also be running programmes in the upcoming Wisma Geylang Serai, a five-storey civic centre in Paya Lebar slated to open next year, that will be a hub for Malay heritage.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who delivered a speech in Malay at the dinner, welcomed the plan by the Malay-Muslim community to "work more closely with all communities to build a more secure, cohesive multiracial and multi-religious Singapore".

He said all communities here can see the significant steps the Malay-Muslim community has taken to counter exclusivism, extremism and radical teachings.

"I am glad other communities in Singapore have expressed their support and solidarity with our Malay-Muslim community...

"All communities have to reach out, strengthen understanding and build trust," he said.

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IslamTeo Chee HeanEXTREMISM