Come June 4th, the annual Hari Raya light up will be held once again at Geylang Serai, with this year’s theme being “Reliving our Kampung Spirit”.

We attended a media briefing on Tuesday, held by the Hari Raya Light Up committee, which included Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister for Social and Family Development, and Assoc. Prof Fatimah Lateef, Adviser to Marine Parade GROs.

Yet, as Mr Tan began speaking, we realised that his main area of focus was not something as straightfoward or tangible as we thought.

“This year’s Hari Raya light up is about deepening the kampung spirit, and how we can use this activity to  bring the community closer together,” says Tan. “[It is to] bring not just the Malays, but also other Singaporeans to enhance their understanding about this spirit”.

Minister Tan ended on a more sombre but telling note; “With the serious issues that are happening globally regarding Muslims and Islam, it is especially important that the theme of this year’s Hari Raya light up is properly conveyed to the community”.

The meaning of that last sentence was not lost on any of us sitting in that pavilion that morning.

Ever since the emergence and public knowledge of Radical Islamic activities around the world, public perception towards the Muslim community – especially in the West – has plummeted.

For example, across Northern Europe, Muslims are the second most intolerated community, only falling behind to Gypsies. The situation in US as you should know is no better, with 38 anti-Muslim attacks within the country following the deadly November 13 Paris attacks.

graph

Photo by YouGov UK

Thinking about all this, we began pondering about the public perception towards the Malay-Muslim community here in Singapore today.

We are a small country, clustered onto a plot of land no bigger than 719sqm, with a population of 5 million, which means that if you are non-Muslim, you probably have a friend who is. The government has also tried their best, launching a plethora of racial harmony campaigns and ensuring that the theme of racial awareness features prominently in our primary and secondary education.

There exists a more cohesive social climate here as compared to that of many Western countries.

Be that as it may, the fact is it does not make the threat of terrorism any less real. We should not take our safe social climate for granted and treasure our friendships.

In the end, the conclusion we reached was something stated right at the start by Minister Tan: “[the kampung spirit] is not just about Hari Raya, it’s important to us all the time as a theme of nation building”.

Ketupat

The Malay weave on ketupat, representing a close-knit community; Photo by Wikipedia

We live today in an age where we have access to almost any kind of information and perceptions. It is an age where nobody can tell you what or how to think any longer.

All we can do is hope people around us think the same way.

For more information regarding this year’s Hari Raya light up, visit their Facebook site here.

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