Mr Muhamad Faisal Bin Abdul Manap (Aljunied): (In Malay): Mr Chairman, over the past decade, the Malay/Muslim community has achieved much progress in both secular and religious fields. We should be proud that the Malay community, through its awareness, determination, drive, effort and hard work, have managed to excel. During this period, we see many more young Malay/Muslims excel in higher education.
However, to achieve further success, we have to look at the gaps and challenges before us and try to find solutions for each one. The Malay community is known for its “gotong royong” spirit. They are good at uniting their efforts. Nonetheless, as the world is changing rapidly, we also need to learn from others to gain new knowledge and skills to overcome the current challenges. As the Malay proverb goes, whenever it floods, the shoreline changes shape (when a major change takes place, everything else will change too). So, while many people may be happy to just swim in a small pond, the Malay community now aspires to swim in the ocean. However, there is also another proverb cautioning us that if our fishing line is short, do not test the ocean (if we do not have the capacity, do not attempt something beyond our capabilities).
A rapidly changing world has impacted our stability and traditional sources of income. Careers that used to provide stable employment are now facing challenges and becoming scarce. These careers have been replaced by new forms of jobs that changes quickly and this requires us to be nimble and adaptable to ensure a stable income. Our workforce is challenged by stiff competition from foreign workers flooding into our country, hungry for job opportunities that are increasingly becoming scarce in their own countries.
Mr Chairman, in terms of monthly income, the Malay community is lagging behind. The 2020 Population Census showed that the average monthly household income from work was $6,851 in 2020 and the median level was $5,704 which is the lowest compared to the Chinese, Indian and other communities, and furthermore, 37.1% of Malays are living in 3-room, 2-room and 1-room flats.
Sir, although I would like to touch on a number of things in this speech, due to time constraints, I will focus on one basic and important aspect in achieving progress and development in any society, which is education.
Organization tasked to address this challenge must ensure that it has made appropriate and sufficient preparations. Hence, improvements must take a two-pronged approach. First, by identifying jobs that will provide the most opportunities for our community right now and in the future. Second, by identifying the community’s inclinations and strengths so that any necessary preparations and adaptations can take place now in order to prepare us for a work environment that has changed and will change in the future.
All this will certainly influence the focus of our education in the future. A focus on education that prepares our children in navigating future challenges must be emphasised. Forward thinking education should be the basis of their curriculum and any exposure that they have to undergo should be future-realistic.
We also need to find new ways to help Malay students excel in innovation and creativity, in Islamic finance which is being increasingly accepted in the global market including fintech, pharmaceuticals, robotics with its sophisticated use of nanotechnology and green technology, which is the basis of the new and future economy.
For these new fields, we also need the expertise of religious scholars to enlighten the community on matters that require our involvement. As such, I would like to ask the Minister-in-charge for Muslim Affairs the following questions.
Firstly, what are the Government’s plans to enable more young Malays to enter these new fields by 2025? I hope that the Minister and MENDAKI will share this plan so that the Malay community knows the direction they need to take in this rapidly changing world.
I would also like to ask what are MUIS’ plans to equip our asatizah with the knowledge and expertise in the areas of fintech, pharmaceuticals, robotics and green technology? The community needs to know if there are any asatizah leadership who are knowledgeable in these fields and at the same time, able to delve deeper into Islamic jurisprudence and syariah issues. I would also like to know how the Malay community can learn from the current asatizah who are experts in these issues.
Mr Chairman, our young Malays are increasingly getting excellent results in the O and A-level examinations as well as in their studies at the local universities. These include madrasah students who obtained distinctions despite being burdened with a much higher number of subjects compared to their peers in secular schools. This shows that there are young Malays with huge potential who needs to be given the full attention, assistance and support.
Besides the increase in the number of Malay students in local universities, there is also a growing number of young Malays who are furthering their studies at the Bachelor’s degree or postgraduate level in foreign universities. In future, with the world changing rapidly and new fields of knowledge being created, there will be more Malay students who may want to gain knowledge and experience in institutions of higher learning overseas. I hope MENDAKI can enhance its overseas study loan scheme in terms of the loan quantum and also by including many more new fields. This is to ensure that our Malay students’ ambitions and aspirations are not hindered due to financial matters.
On this regard, I have some questions for the Minister. Over the past 10 years, firstly, how many Malay students have received assistance through the overseas Study Loan Scheme provided by MENDAKI every year? Second, how many of these students who received assistance had their loan scheme converted into scholarships due to their excellent results? Third, what is the average loan amount given out by MENDAKI every year? Fourth, how many postgraduate students did MENDAKI assist over the last 10 years so that they can take their Master’s and PhD in overseas universities? And finally, what is the average loan amount channeled to overseas graduate students every year?
Going forward, the Malay community would like to know clearly whether there is a masterplan by MENDAKI to propel the Malay community forward in line with the demands of IR 4.0.
Sir, at the beginning of my speech, I spoke about achieving progress in both religious and secular fields. I shared my views on how we can further strengthen efforts to continue our progress by expanding educational fields and knowledge to keep up with the changing times. Before I end my speech, I would like to touch on current developments that we must pay attention to, especially by Muslims in Singapore.
Sir, the Muslim community’s progress does not depend solely on the development and improvements in education. It also depends on efforts to do good, and at the same time, endeavor to help Muslims follow Islamic values more closely.
Last January, the Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Association (PERGAS) issued a statement via social media platforms Facebook and Instagram that they will form a task force on the issue of LGBT or Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders in Singapore. Some of the plans made by PERGAS include a dialogue with members of the LGBT community who are Muslims, and efforts to help and guide Muslims in Singapore in facing and addressing the LGBT issue together.
Sir, in this regard, I would like to state that I am fully appreciative of this effort by PERGAS and I will certainly support any effort that takes a positive and enlightened approach in discussing and navigating the LGBT issue.
Thank you, Sir.
Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth
10 March 2022