Monday, 3 August 2015

Malays can be proud of progress: Yaacob Ibrahim

Minister credits community's pioneers for their efforts, and says unity is key to moving forward
Istana Kampong Gelam to be a national monument
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 1 Aug 2015

When Singapore was expelled from Malaysia on Aug 9, 1965, the Malays went overnight from being part of a majority in the federation to a minority community. Apprehensions about the future loomed large.

But 50 years on, the Malay/Muslim community has progressed in ways it never imagined, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim said last night.

Its people have contributed significantly to a vibrant, harmonious nation, and have done well for themselves, he added. "We are what we are today - with higher household incomes, high home ownership, talents in many fields, movers and leaders in our own right - not because of subsidies, but because we persevered and gave our best."

Dr Yaacob was speaking at an annual Hari Raya gathering attended by, among others, community and religious leaders as well as Cabinet ministers, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The journey, however, was not all smooth sailing, he noted.

"We have had low points, such as under-achievement in education, the drug problem, families caught in the vicious circle of poverty and debt, and even distortion of the teachings of Islam," said Dr Yaacob.

Still, the community has not done too badly in these tests to its resolve and spirit, said Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister of Communications and Information.

He credited the community's pioneers. Led by the late President Yusof Ishak, they backed the Government and rallied people to come together as one. "Their commitment helped shape an entirely new outlook for the community and defined who we are today."

Dr Yaacob cited examples to show the community has always been progressive in finding ways to move forward. These include creating wakaf or religious endowments of property, to benefit the community and setting up the Harmony Centre at An-Nahdhah Mosque to promote inter-faith understanding.

"We can definitely take pride in the strides that we have made," he said, while announcing that Istana Kampong Gelam, the historic residence of Malay royals that is now home to the Malay Heritage Centre, will be gazetted a national monument on Aug 6. But he warned against being complacent, saying: "New and more complex problems will emerge as we move forward."

Growing affluence could place the community at risk of becoming stratified, and social media and globalisation bring diverse views, including varying interpretations of Islam, he noted.

Despite the challenges, Dr Yaacobis optimistic that his community will keep progressing. The key to this, he said, is to "stay united as a community, and to stay true to our faith and culture".

"Imagine what we can achieve in the next 50 years, given that today we have a more educated and competent community."

His confidence stems not just from statistics, but stories of Malays who exemplify the community's values. These include the courage of teacher Mohammad Ghazi Mohamed who died in the Sabah earthquake and the perseverance of former madrasah student Amalina Ridzuan, 22, who went on to junior college, polytechnic and is now a medical student at the National University of Singapore.

They reflect the values and spirit that have brought the community to where it is today, said Dr Yaacob. "It is this spirit, faith and confidence that will see us through... to an even brighter future."

It was a memorable night renewing old ties and forging new ones. I am grateful to everyone who worked hard to make it...
Posted by Yaacob Ibrahim on Friday, July 31, 2015

Istana Kampong Gelam to be a national monument
Move is recognition of Malay community's contribution to Singapore, says Yaacob
By Zakir Hussain, Deputy Political Editor, The Straits Times, 1 Aug 2015

Istana Kampong Gelam, a former Malay royal palace and a reminder of Singapore's historic links to the Malay world, will become a national monument just days before Singapore's Golden Jubilee.

The honour for the 172-year-old building, now home to the Malay Heritage Centre, was announced by Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim at a Hari Raya dinner for community leaders last night. It will be the 70th national monument when it is gazetted next Thursday.

Minister Yaacob Ibrahim has just announced that Istana Kampong Gelam (which houses the Malay Heritage Centre) will be...
Posted by National Heritage Board on Friday, July 31, 2015

The move reflects the enduring heritage of the Malay community.

Said Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs: "Even as a minority community in a multiracial country, our heritage has never been at risk. We are proud of our history, customs and traditions, because these speak to us of treasured values like piety and dedication."

He added: "Many of you would have seen these values and traditions captured in the beautiful collections at our Malay Heritage Centre. That the building will be gazetted just before Singapore's 50th birthday is, to me, a firm recognition of the Malay community's continued contribution to the diverse and vibrant social tapestry of Singapore."

Before Sir Stamford Raffles arrived in Singapore in 1819, it was part of the Johor-Lingga-Riau sultanate. He, however, got Sultan Hussein Shah and Temenggong Abdul Rahman to agree to set up a British trading port here.

Kampong Glam was a key area of settlement for migrants from the Malay Archipelago, drawing communities of merchants and traders who transformed it into a commercial hub. Many of the area's street names attest to the varied cities and islands of origin of early immigrants.

In the late 19th to 20th century, Kampong Glam was known as a hub for printing and publication. The royal palace was originally just a timber hut, and the present two-storey istana was commissioned by Sultan Hussein's son and heir, Tengku Mohammed Ali. It was completed in 1843.

As the residence of royals, it hosted important community events.

Madam Zuraidah Abdullah, chairman of the Malay Heritage Foundation's board of directors, said the gazetting of the building is timely "as it recognises Singapore's historical connection with the wider Malay world as we celebrate our nation's Golden Jubilee".

"Gazetting Istana Kampong Gelam as a national monument also recognises the integral role that our Malay communities and culture have played in shaping Singapore's history and development as a progressive and prosperous nation."

Istana Kampong Gelam was first gazetted as a conserved building in the Kampong Glam Historic District by the Urban Redevelopment Authority in 1989. It was subsequently refurbished and occupied by the Malay Heritage Centre, which Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong opened in June 2005.

The centre was further refurbished between 2011 and 2012 to refresh its exhibition content.

Today, the building is under the care of the Malay Heritage Foundation and managed by the National Heritage Board (NHB).

Being conferred national monument status by the NHB means a building will receive greater protection under the law, and has to abide by preservation guidelines. It will also be inspected regularly to ensure its proper upkeep.

Ms Jean Wee, director of NHB's preservation of sites and monuments division, said the gazetting of Istana Kampong Gelam "is part of our ongoing efforts to identify buildings and structures that are lasting representations of the growth of our country and people amidst a constantly evolving landscape". "Collectively, the Istana Kampong Gelam and our other 69 national monuments reflect the architectural and cultural diversity of our society," she added in a statement.

The Malay/Muslim community can be proud of its progress. Met many who are doing well and doing good at Yaacob Ibrahim...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Friday, July 31, 2015

Government to help madrasahs improve quality of education
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 1 Aug 2015

The Muslim community is keen to improve the quality of education at its full-time religious schools, or madrasahs, and the Government is studying how to help it do so for secular subjects.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in disclosing this yesterday, said: "If we are ready, I should have something to say by the National Day Rally in a few weeks' time."

He was speaking to reporters at a Hari Raya dinner hosted by Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim for community and religious leaders.

Mr Lee noted that, even though madrasahs are not part of the national school system, they play an important role in shaping the Singapore Muslim community.

Earlier, Dr Yaacob said in his speech: "We want to strengthen our madrasahs because... they not only produce good religious leaders and teachers who understand and appreciate our multiracial and multi-religious context - they also provide students with a good grounding in secular subjects."

He noted that they had been continually improving themselves to deliver higher-quality education.

Welcoming government help, Mr Razak Mohamed Lazim, a senior director for madrasahs at the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), said: "This is one of the best Hari Raya gifts the madrasah sector can have for the community."

Mr Lee, who was attending the annual dinner for the first time, said he found the mood very positive. "It's a small gesture for me to be able to say the Government is on the side of the community."

The Government is working with the community to help it progress in fields ranging from education to employment, Mr Lee said.

He added that the Government is also lending a hand when it comes to religious issues, citing Muis and the Mosque Building Fund.

When asked about the People's Action Party's Malay candidates, Mr Lee replied in Malay that it has some candidates for the upcoming polls, and they are on a par with its other candidates.

Dr Yaacob also told reporters: "Our talent base has increased. More importantly, there are talented young men and women who are prepared to come forward and serve. That's a very good sign for us.

"I'm quite happy with the team and, in time, we'll tell you who they are. I hope, with them on our team, we can work together to get better results for our community."

$3.87million raised for Yusof Ishak professorship
This is close to two-thirds of target, Yaacob says of efforts to honour first S'pore president
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Sunday Times, 2 Aug 2015

The fund-raising committee for a professorship to honour Singapore's first president Yusof Ishak has raised close to two-thirds of its $6 million target.

It has raised $3.87 million for the Yusof Ishak Professorship in Social Sciences at the National University of Singapore (NUS), and will continue to drive more fund-raising campaigns till the end of the year.

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim gave this update at a Hari Raya lunch he hosted yesterday for senior Malay/Muslim public servants and professionals. NUS, he said, has formed a committee for the professorship and will make an appointment soon.

The professorship, which aims to enhance research in areas like ethnicity and multi-culturalism, was announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally last year as one of three initiatives to honour Mr Yusof, who died in office in 1970.

Hosted a Hari Raya lunch for Malay/Muslim professionals yesterday, to recognise and appreciate their hard work. In...
Posted by Yaacob Ibrahim on Saturday, August 1, 2015

Also, the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) will be renamed the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute on Aug 12, and a Yusof Ishak Mosque is being built in Woodlands. It will be ready by end-2016.

The fund-raising is spearheaded by the Malay/Muslim community as one of the activities of the SG50 Kita Committee, which coordinates efforts to give back to society as part of the Golden Jubilee.

Committee chairman Sallim Abdul Kadir said the fund-raising for the professorship was a way to honMr Yusof as a staunch champion of multiracialism.

The professorial appointee will contribute cutting-edge research and intellectual leadership in areas such as multiculturalism and religious diversity, said Dr Yaacob, who is also Communications and Information Minister.

Dr Yaacob said many from outside the Muslim community have contributed funds, including the Lee Foundation and companies like M1. "This shows that the professorship we hope to set up is not just for our community but for the nation," he told reporters.

"They do remember the contributions of the late Encik Yusof Ishak to Singapore as one of the first pioneers who worked together with the Government for the progress of the nation 50 years ago."

In a speech yesterday, Dr Yaacob spoke about the community's steadfastness and grit in overcoming challenges over the years, reiterating his message at an annual Hari Raya dinner last Friday.

In the community's efforts to find solutions, it set up self-help group Mendaki and the Association of Muslim Professionals, he later told reporters.

"This shows we have the capability to find a way, and this is an important foundation for us, to think about how our community can progress in the 50 years to come," he said. "With the resources, experiences, and values we have, we can progress even further."

The gazetting of Istana Kampong Gelam as Singapore’s 70th national monument is a lovely golden jubilee gift to the...
Posted by Yaacob Ibrahim on Friday, August 7, 2015

Collection of Malay artefacts to expand
Malay Heritage Centre's galleries to include current research, finds from istana grounds
By Yeo Sam Jo, The Straits Times, 8 Aug 2015

The Istana Kampong Gelam, which was recently gazetted as a national monument, is set to expand its collection of artefacts on display at the Malay Heritage Centre's galleries.

These additional exhibits will include research currently being undertaken by the centre, and finds from archaeological digs carried out between 2000 and 2003 on the centre's grounds, said Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim yesterday.

"They will help to reaffirm the Nusantara's trading history, as well as Singapore's important role as an important nexus along the world's trading routes," he said. Nusantara refers to the Malay world.

Dr Yaacob was speaking at the centre's annual Hari Raya open house, where he also unveiled the national monument plaque for Istana Kampong Gelam.

Once the seat of the Johor sultanate, the 172-year-old building is a reminder of Singapore's historic links to the Malay world. When it was the residence of the royals, it used to host important community events.

It was officially gazetted as the country's 70th national monument on Thursday. The former palace in Sultan Gate also houses the Malay Heritage Centre, which opened in 2005.

Dr Yaacob said it is especially meaningful that the gazetting of the monument coincides with the nation's 50th birthday this week.

"What is more significant is that it is the eighth national monument associated with the Malay/Muslim community in Singapore, thus reaffirming the contributions of our pioneers and our community to the multicultural Singapore landscape," said Dr Yaacob, who is also the Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs.

Yesterday's open house, which also commemorated Racial Harmony Day, featured not only Malay games and dances but also activities such as henna painting and Chinese opera mask painting.

Said Dr Yaacob: "Having (all these activities) under one roof speaks of our nation's dynamic and rich cultural tapestry. This is also consistent with the Malay community's values and traditions, of being inclusive by opening its doors to everyone and anyone, and regardless of race and faith, during Hari Raya."

Malay community leader Suryakenchana Omar, 43, said the istana's fresh national monument status is important for its preservation. "If you look at the buildings here today, other than mosques, not many are traditionally Malay."

Retiree Jaafar Shafaat, 72, who volunteers at the Malay Heritage Centre, urged more young Malays to visit the istana.

He said: "It's important for younger Malays to be aware of their roots. A person without roots is like a tree that won't flourish."

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