|Singapore's Malays mistrusted, left out of the mainstream and left behind
Negative stereotypes of Singapore's Malays are continuing and the island has been urged to give more attention to racial and other forms of discrimination, including job bias, faced by the community.
Malays, the second largest ethnic group in Singapore, make up 13.4 percent of the population behind Chinese.
A survey last month found that Singapore's Malays who are largely Muslims and have a rich heritage, have made progress in areas such as education, standard of living, social and spiritual development, but that this has “not been across the board.''
The survey was done by the Suara Musyawarah independent committee. It is a panel “whose name literally means “voice of lively discussions and fruitful sharing of ideas”,'' was formed to listen to Malay/Muslims views and make recommendations.
A third of Malay/Muslim households have incomes below S$3,000 and they feel the rising cost of living “more acutely.''
“Even families who have access to social welfare services are still barely making ends meet,'' the report found.
Malays lag behind in home ownership and top the charts in terms of illnesses such as hypertension and diabetes, as well as obesity compared with the main ethnic groups.
The 70-page survey also found that Malays are excluded from the “elite or sensitive" areas of the Singapore Armed Forces. They are kept out of commando units, air defense, and naval vessels.
“Participants [in the survey] said they were not satisfied with one or two ‘poster boys' to show that Malays can thrive in SAF," Suara Musyawarah committee chairman Sallim Abdul Kadir, 57, told Singapore's The Sunday Times.
The report says that while Singapore's efforts to ally concerns are acknowledged by the Malay/Muslim community, “there is common agreement that such policies or practices call into question the loyalty of the Malays to the country.''
The panel noted however, some issues faced by Malays “are not unique to the community'' and that “some issues may be structural.''
In recommending inclusiveness in jobs, the panel said the state and large employers should take the lead and that a study be undertaken on discriminatory practices in Singapore.
The panel suggested that Malay/Muslim families should plan their finances. “Often, imprudent household financial management, which results in families living beyond their means and even in debt, leads to break-down of families.''
Survey participants lamented the lack of support and funding by Singapore for the six full-time madrasahs, or Islamic religious schools that operate as private schools.
Drug abuse arrests are high among Malays. They made up 51 percent (or 1,760) of the total drug abusers arrested and about 52 percent of new abusers detected in 2012, according to the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) Drug Situation 2012 Report. Between 2011 and 2012, the number of Malay drug abusers increased by about 10 percent, the report said.