Singapore National Day 2016



Another eventful year for Singapore as we cross into 51 years of statehood independence and what a journey it has been for Singapore. Our forefathers have toiled this land to make this country a safe and prosperous one – a place where everyone can live, work and play (Pokemon GO) safely.

I am no doubt happy to be a Singaporean, as much as Singaporeans continue to remain in search for our unique identity. The debate between Singlish and English continues, and what do we make out of the strict ethnicity quota that hasn’t changed much as well as battling the evils of what globalisation has led us to (indiscriminate racism on social media and acts of terrorism through proxy funders).

But beyond the constant search for our Singaporean identity and mine (being of mixed ethnicity can get extremely confusing), the safety and security that this country has provided us all remains at the forefront of envy among others in the world. That is something that we cannot take for granted. We continue to be a place that is safe for our young and old to walk the streets at night compared to most countries regionally, our education system continues to be extremely rigorous in producing scholars and we continue to be a place where everyone can have freedom of worship.

True that there is a lot more that we could work on to become better than what we are today – a better pace of living, better work-life balance and to be a more affordable place to live in with better living wages to enjoy some of the best things in life when we choose to retire.

But as the National Day Parade yesterday has shown, we frequently still do travel back in time to revisit our historical past. We are a country of people that remains sentimental at heart, fillial to our ancestors and elders, and that helps to keep us grounded to who we really are.

Of course, while there were comments about the Badang narrative that was potrayed, I felt that what was more important is that there were those of us who knew the story and were trying to put things right to it. We believe in the right to potray what is truthful. There were contentions about Badang having tattoos, being a bit too muscular and flying at that but none of us were arguing about the legitimacy of his story because we know and we understand that Badang did exist.

So, I am proud and I am happy that Singaporeans were stepping up to defend Badang’s authenticity (looks, storyline, etc) and I wish that more people would step up to talk more about the other stories that we have in Singapore because the Singapore narrative is so much more beyond Sang Nila Utama and Sir Stamford Raffles, Singapore holds stories to so much more history that if one decides to venture out in search for it, you will be amazed at how much history there is (if you’re really keen on venturing out to these places and learning about them, give this a try Lumba Bahasa & Budaya Gerek).

More than just stories about Singapore, the stories that one can discover will make you realize how connected we are to our closest neighbours, Indonesia and Malaysia, and how much we actually share our history with theirs. It’s a lot like the prequel begins in Indonesia, then the plot thickens in Singapore, with the sequels in Malaysia.

But moving beyond our history and shared history, we need to create new stories, we need to create new heroes or have people stepping forward, we need to create new figures or have figures that we can all stand together behind and support. And I’m not talking about politicians or figures of state, but it’s the story of the everyday Ali, Muthu, Ah Tan or John that we can all connect with – the story of how a young Singaporean saves his country like the story of Hang Nadim, or the story of an immigrant who roots himself in Singapore and puts Singapore on the map like Badang.

We need this to move forward and to do that, we need to stop arguing endlessly over the small things, agree to disagree and start looking at the big picture, of how we are positioned in relation to the world and work together hand in hand, locals and foreigners, putting aside our differences but align our commonalities for what is most important to us all – and if you ask me what that could be, I’m guessing it’s HAPPINESS.

True to the words of Pak Zubir Said when he composed our National Anthem,

‘Mari Kita Rakyat Singapura Sama-sama Menuju Bahagia’

Let us all, Singaporeans head towards happiness

because if we aren’t happy, then really, what do we want?


5 years ago, around the same time, I blogged about my hopes and dreams for Singapore as part of the National Day Celebrations (‘Live Our Dreams, Fly Our Flag’).

In case you missed it, here’s what I wanted:

“As a Singaporean, one of my dreams is for us to be able to experience a state which encourages the following:


I also have a dream for all Singaporeans:


How different have my views been over the past 5 years?

Not much really. I still believe in each and every single one of those hopes and dreams that I spoke of. More than just that, I actually have one more to add.

I would really like to see Singaporeans learn more about one another, our cultures, our ethnicities, our faiths, so that we can better engage foreigners who come to live, work and play in Singapore and make this country a better place for not just Singaporeans, but also for them as well.

Government policies aside, we can exercise our vote this coming General Elections, but as a community, a nation, we need to show the rest of the world that we are loving, caring and have the ability to accept people of all backgrounds.

Why am I so focused on this?

Because over the past few years, Singapore has had to deal with many issues related to conflicts arising out of Interfaith-Intercultural misunderstanding or miscommunication (Amy Cheong, Anton Casey, Cook A Pot of Curry). But these issues are not just exclusive to Singapore.

This issue affects each and every single country, globally, all around the world.

In the US, you have had a non-white Miss America winner which caused a huge ruckus. To quite a significant number of ignorant Americans, the typical American had to be blonde and white, which in my personal experience, is far from it. And even for those who have been living in America for a long time or are even Americans, they still face issues that recur time and again (Blackface).

These are issues related to ethnicity, culture and to some extend, faith.

Since 2014, I have been actively trying to engage the community through my own personal endeavour to spread the importance of interfaith-intercultural understanding, a personal commitment arising out of my fellowship in the US. Nonetheless, an issue I strongly believe in and champion for.

Achieving Interfaith-Intercultural Understanding Through Games

“Achieving Interfaith-Intercultural Understanding Through Games”, National Day Celebrations 2015, Hwa Chong Institution

I am thankful for the opportunity that I have been given to give lectures and talks on this issue. More than that, I hope that the audience I have engaged in, have a better understanding of the dangers of what social media can do to them. Going forward, we all need to learn how to “RESPOND, NO REACT” to situations that invoke our emotions. We need to rationalise the situation and provide the best response that will create positive outcomes not just for us, but for everyone.

In the words of Zubir Said,

“Mari Kita Rakyat Singapura, Sama-sama Menuju Bahagia”

(Let us all, the citizens of Singapore, move towards happiness)

“Cita-cita Kita Yang Mulia, Berjaya Singapura”

(Together with our noble dreams, hopes, ambitions, success Singapore)

“Marilah Kita Bersatu, Dengan Semangat Yang Baru”

(Let us all unite, with renewed hope/energy)

“Semua Kita Berseru, Majulah Singapura”

(Let us all proclaim, Onward Singapore)

We all need to internalize the lyrics of our National Anthem and work towards it. The lyrics resonate with us even today as we struggle with issues and as we seek to find renewed hope/energy. But we can only achieve success and happiness, if our ambitions, dreams and hopes are noble.

So, my dear Singaporeans, this National Day, let us focus on these lyrics. Let’s remember this lyric as we enter the General Elections and vote for the candidate/party that will be able to bring everyone together to achieve our noble dreams, ambitions and hopes for our success and happiness, and most importantly, to bring Singapore forward.

Overcoming The Wall – Seeking Solutions for Peace

I promised that I would share a transcript of my speech. So, here it is.

This is dedicated to my Peacebuilder friends back at University of California, Irvine, especially to my fellowship supervisor, Dr Paula Garb, who’s a conflict negotiator as well as to the other groups of peacebuilders that I had the opportunity to meet.

I also dedicate this to my Israeli and Palestinian friends who now have some peace in their lives. 



A very good evening fellow Singaporeans. It brings me great pleasure to be standing here, once again, surrounded by many who believe in peace and in making a positive change, not just in Singapore but overseas, in Gaza.

At the last event that we organized, the war or massacre had taken the lives of 800 Gazans. Today, a month after that event, after more than 2000 dead Gazans and 69 IDF soldiers dead according to IDF or 150 IDF soldiers dead according to Hamas, a truce is finally in place.

A truce, that would perhaps be considered a victory in all instances to Gazans. A victory, because several deals critical to restoring normal life were reached in the demands for a truce by Hamas, which signaled a defeat to Israel, in my opinion.

When this event was first planned, there were many concerns. Some of those concerns were:

  1. How many people would turn up, compared to the last event?
  2. Would this event still be relevant if a truce was called?

And we agreed, that while numbers mattered, it was important that this event continued nonetheless because a truce does not mean that the conflict is over and more importantly, the Singapore community also needs to learn and know that civil activism is a long process and change cannot happen overnight.

At the last event, I mentioned that it is important for us to ‘Respond, not React’, in any given situation, to ensure that we are aware, responsible and accountable for the actions that we choose, and not let it be a knee-jerk reaction to a situation.


Today, we are to talk about solutions for peace, positive peace that will ensure the walls that separate Israel and Palestine, can be overcome.

This truce we see today, this is negative peace. Peace in a volatile situation whereby conflict can erupt at any time. Peace in a situation where there is still much distrust. Peace in a situation where civilians on both sides, still do not have access to each other.

Steps & Solutions

Step 1

To achieve positive peace, to overcome the wall, the first and most important step is already in place – the truce.

Step 2

The next step, is for both sides, civilians especially, to begin talking to one another, to engage one another in conversations to build trust, to build relationships with one another, to find commonalities with one another, so they know, that at the end of the day, they want the same thing, share the same hopes and dreams.

This, I learnt from my mentor, Eboo Patel, who is on Obama’s Council for Interfaith Relations, who shared that to find peace, conflicting sides must find commonalities that they can work together and agree on.

Putting Theories into Realities

Commonalities, is also something that all of us, not just here in Singapore, but also in many parts of the world, share, when it comes to this conflict.

Most of us believe and agree that the occupation must stop and I also believe that we also agree that violence is never the solution to resolve any conflict.

But a conflict such as this, requires a lot of people power, not just from the people in Palestine, but internationally and a conflict such as this, also requires a lot of support from the international community because this is not just a conflict between two states.

It is a conflict which involves citizens of the world, just like any other conflict in any part of the world. And we, cannot afford to sit comfortably in our homes, as bystanders to this conflict, only sending our prayers in private and messages of goodwill through Facebook, because a conflict such as this, requires a visual, it needs to be seen and it needs to be heard.

It needs to be seen and it needs to be heard, so governments can get involved. It needs to be seen and it needs to be heard, so people involved in the conflict know that they have support from the global community. It needs to be seen and it needs to be heard, because activism requires action to be taken.

Change through activism can happen, but let’s do it through peaceful, nonviolent means.

Example 1

In 1915, Mahatma Gandhi, organized peasants, farmers and urban labourers to protest against excessive land-tax and discrimination. He led several peaceful campaigns nationwide and advocated for others to practice nonviolence and truth in all situations.

He was a man, who lived a peaceful, nonviolent life and was active in civil society. Without him, we may not have India today and the concept of nonviolence would not have been well-known.

Example 2

In 1955, a young pastor and other civil rights activists held demonstrations, drawing attention to racial discrimination, demanding civil rights legislation to protect the rights of African-Americans. The young pastor, was of course, Dr Martin Luther King Jr, and his peaceful mass demonstrations attracted more than 250,000 protestors to Washington D.C where he delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech. Through his peaceful demonstrations, positive change was made and African-Americans now have equal rights as any other Americans.

His peaceful demonstrations took close to 10 years of activism before a change was seen.

Importance, Impact & Effects of Actions

And if we, Singaporeans, truly believe in this cause for Palestine, that they deserve to be recognized as a state and that the walls have to be brought down, then we need to continue to be civilly active, to participate in civil activism that is peaceful, to help push for statehood for Palestine.

And being active in civil society is important because change can only happen, when there is enough pressure on the people in power, and the people in power will always listen when there is a large crowd of people who believe in the message that is being delivered.

While it’s true that the internet is a great platform to gather people and to hear opinions, but the internet only gives a number, which could be a number of people internationally or from bots. But when people come together in numbers, in real life, those numbers become a reality and that is what’s most important.

The impact and the effect that the news carries on the number of people who ‘Like’ a certain cause or page is vastly different as compared to the impact and effect when a news outlet covers an event with thousands of people involved.

Newsworthiness counts as well in civil activism.

If a police officer arrests one of the speakers here today because he wasn’t registered to speak and one of you records the incident, and this incident goes viral, it will get picked up by the news outlet because it is newsworthy.

Not only that, the police force will also be put under pressure to answer queries as to why a peaceful gathering with people speaking peaceful things are being arrested in a democratic country, in a space where individuals are supposedly allowed to speak freely without the need for a permit?


So my dear Singaporeans, we can also help to seek solutions for peace to overcome the wall, even though we are far from Palestine.

We can take theories, and turn them into realities by taking action, by remaining active in civil society.

Ask our friends to contribute actively in online discussions, to participate in events such as today and to encourage others to join in as well because the impacts & effects of what we seek for, is the long-term effect beyond the truce we see today – a recognized peaceful statehood relationship between Israel and Palestine, without walls.

This is a journey, a very long journey that we need to carry on because though the conflict may be age old, but the people involved aren’t and while our activism may die out, the people involved in the conflict might die should the truce be breached.



The irony of mentioning about the Police because even though I was a registered speaker with NParks, they still came up and approached me because I wasn’t one of the approved 3 speakers under the permit issued (I was informed that permit classified this event as ‘Religious in nature’).

Rebuild Lives in Gaza from Singapore

After seven weeks of war between Israel and Gaza, they have finally come to a truce. 

While the war may have seen more than 2000 Gazans (Mostly civillians consisting of females, children and elderly) dead and 69 according to IDF/ 150 according to Hamas (IDF Soldiers) dead, this truce is more of a victory for Gaza than it is for Israel.

It is a victory for Gazans because, they have won demands to:

  • Remove Israeli blockade of their borders. This increases the current crossings from 2 to 5, with Rafah border under negotiation with Egyptians.
  • Widening of their fishing zones
  • Lifting of money transfers

Moving forward, there are major reconstruction and rebuilding of life work that needs to be done.

Homes, Schools, Hospitals, Places of Worship need to be reconstructured but normal life, needs to resume most importantly.

The living will continue to live without the dead, will envision and will forge a better future ahead for themselves as how their fallen friends and families had once hoped for.

Most of these rebuilding and reconstruction will be reliant on one very important key resource – CLEAN WATER.

As such, being far away from Gaza, the least we could do, from Singapore to Palestine, is to contribute what we have in excess, our wealth. 

So, let’s try to contribute and encourage others to do the same as well so that we can collectively be a part of the rebuilding process in Gaza.

Clean Water 4 Gaza

Clean Water 4 Gaza

And do join us this Saturday, 30th August at Hong Lim Park for another Peace Gathering event. This time, we will be hearing speakers talk about solutions to overcome the wall. 

Overcoming The Wall - Seeking Solutions for Peace

Overcoming The Wall – Seeking Solutions for Peace

I will be there. I hope to see you there as well. 

Open Letter to President Obama

Dear President Obama,

I am Abdillah Zamzuri, a 2013 Community Solutions Program (CSP) alumni, a program sponsored by the U.S Department of State and I am also the first Singaporean to be on this program.

As a fellow of the CSP working and developing a project on ‘Tolerance and Conflict Resolution’, I was attached to the University of California, Irvine (UCI), where I worked with a group of students who sought to bring peace on campus. The student organization, Students for Global Peacebuilding, had successfully organized the first ever Peace Week event in January 2014.

As President of the ‘World’s Most Powerful Country’, your continued silence for Israel’s onslaught and genocide of innocent civilian Palestinians in Gaza is unbecoming of a family man who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. 

You and your governments’ cowardice to stand against your biggest lobby and economy contributor is not representative of a government that believes, propagates and advocates for democracy and human rights. You and your government, in fact, only believes, propagates and advocates for democracy and human rights for Israel and Israel only.

A man without a backbone to stand for what is right, is not a man at all. You, Mr President, is looking a lot to look like that man, a man who has been demasculinized. Be a man, do the right thing. You would resist if you were illegally occupied. You would resist if your family was being harassed physically and mentally. You would resist if you were not able to sleep in peace every night. If you wouldn’t resist, then I pray that your family will have the opportunity to have such an experience, so that you can learn to empathize with others.

I plead and urge you, to dig deep into your soul to take the right course of action by being a good friend of Israel and to take all necessary action required to stop the genocide, the same way your government have intervened in previous conflicts. Wouldn’t good friends do all they can to help if they see their friend committing a crime? Wouldn’t good friends be the check and balance for a friend that has overstepped the line?

Should this job and task be one that conflicts your moral values, then perhaps, you should step down from your Presidency or you will very well go down in history as the President Without Moral Guts, just like all the other World Leaders who have stood at the side to continue watching this ongoing genocide.

The world needs to have peace.

The wall needs to be brought down so that people living on both sides can begin to have dialogues, to learn about one another, to have an understanding of one another, to clear misunderstandings with one another, to build trust with one another and most importantly, to love one another.

If there’s one thing that I have learnt from the many sharing sessions organized by the U.S Department of State representatives speaking on Conflict Resolution, is that to resolve conflict, parties need to focus on commonalities.

In this conflict, PEACE is a commonality shared by the GLOBAL COMMUNITY.

In this conflict, GENOCIDE is a common word to describe the situation in Gaza.

In this conflict, WAR CRIME is a common word that has been used to describe what Israel is doing.

Yours Truly,

2013 Community Solutions Program Alumni

A Peace of Singapore

It was an idea sparked through a Facebook comment exchange with a fellow friend, who suggested that I should organize an event to support and call for peace in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as I was expressing my unhappiness with what was happening there.

That was all it took and not before long, the status update, although only shared 33 times, provided an opportunity for me to be linked up with a few other individuals who were keen to join and organize one, which eventually led me to ‘From Singapore to Palestine’, who coincidentally were also planning to organize and was looking for people who could help.

Facebook Status Update

Although there were those who ridiculed the idea or suggested that rather than organize such an event, it would be better to just send prayers, I knew that it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough to only send prayers because I was raised and taught that prayers alone will not bear fruit because it also requires effort. And I had friends there, I knew people there and I knew that they needed HOPE.

Hope, to encourage and motivate them to carry on with their daily struggle, and hope cannot be felt through prayers alone.

So, that was how it began for me.

Right up to days before the event, we weren’t sure if we would receive the Police Permit approval but we did, at the 11th hour and the turnout at Hong Lim Park on 26th of July at 4pm, was encouraging and motivating.

Planned for only 3 speakers, but we ended up with 8.

Regardless, thank you everyone for your attendance. Your support has given hope to my friends involved in the conflict.

There will no doubt be another of such event in the near future.

To those who left early or didn’t have the opportunity to attend and be a part of it, here is a copy of my script.

A Peace of Singapore
A very good evening, ladies & gentlemen, boys & girls, fellow Singaporeans, it brings me great joy, to be here with you today, in what, would go down in Singapore’s history, as the first ever peace gathering.

A peace gathering, that is an irony in itself, because this gathering, could not have taken place, had the peace, between Israel and Palestine, been broken.

So, while we celebrate, this achievement of being able to organize this peace gathering today, and will be celebrating the end of Ramadhan with our loved ones. We, are gathered here today, because we believe that peace is important, because we, reject violence and because we, reject the sufferings that people have to go through because of violent conflict.

Today, I will speak and share with you about my beliefs, my personal experience and how, I am involved in this conflict, and the perspectives that I see.

My dear friends, like many of you here, I am affected, by the pictures and videos, that have been shared on Facebook. I am affected, by the physical violence that continues to kill and injure civilians. I am affected, by the speech violence that I continue to read in the comments on Facebook.

Violence, my dear friends, is beyond just the physical violence that we are so familiar with, but violence, can also come in the form of words. Words, that cause emotional hurt, to people that we love or to strangers. Words that serve no other purpose than to cause discord and unhappiness between people.

BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY, violence, is often a result, of OUR REACTION. Like a volcano that erupts, and blows its lava up into the sky, causing destruction to everything and anything in its path. Or like a young child, who hasn’t learnt how to express its emotions properly, throws a tantrum when the adult fails to understand its message or request.

That is how violence is. It is destructive, it is noisy, it does not make you or me happy and it is extremely challenging to control. To exercise self-control from being reactive, is not easy my dear friends and we all know, that when we react to situations, we often end up in regret.

So the question then, why do we still continue to react, when we can choose to respond.
We are all humans, gifted with the use of our intellect, to be able to tell what is right, and what is wrong. To be able to assess, and understand, the repercussions of what we do today, will have consequences in the future.

Because when we respond, we are in control, of our decisions, of ourselves. When we respond, we determine the outcome and we, are aware of the consequences. Most importantly, when we respond, it is an informed choice that we have taken.

And I learnt about making choices to Respond, and not to React, when I was serving my National Service and I understood about the importance of Responding through the life of people that I met when I was serving my fellowship in the US.

About a week before the end of Ramadhan last year, I flew to the US and spent 4 months, completing my fellowship, at the University of California, Irvine, as advisor, to a student group called, Students for Global Peacebuilding.

It was there, that I had the opportunity, to not only learn about Peacebuilding, but also to meet the very people who have committed their lives, to peacebuilding work. The circumstances which led them on their journey, may not have been the best, but they certainly believed in the importance of positive peace, as how it is called in the peacebuilding community.

I met a church pastor, who at one time was so adamant about blowing up a mosque, that he had already prepared himself, his family and his congregation to die, in the name of God, when he realized he was wrong and turned instead to peacebuilding work.

I met a gangster, who at one time, never wanted to be a gangster, but because of his environment, he ended up in one. He, who at one time, wanted to quit and was ready to quit after the last mission given to him, but he ended up paralyzed, because he had received two shots in his back, one of which, hit his spine.

I met a Muslim, a Briton, who was the founder of an organization that served to kill non-Muslims, but was arrested before he could commit that act.

And I met a mother, who lost her daughter through violent conflict. She was a PhD student doing her research in the area, helping others.

And all of them, had one thing in common – they believed in peace, no longer interested in the violent activities that they had once engaged themselves in, because they could have caused destruction to others, and to the people they love.

Besides meeting such inspiring individuals, I also worked with students from the Olive Tree Initiative, students who were passionate about the Palestinian – Israeli conflict, students who had travelled to the region to learn in-depth and to gain experience first-hand, and to listen to the stories from the people involved in the conflict, from the settlers who live in constant fear to the academics and the policy makers, and they returned home, more confused than when they first embarked on their journey, because they no longer saw the conflict as how they previously did.

During one of the classes that I was a Teaching Assistant, we had guests from The Parents Circle Families Forum, who were on campus to share their experience of losing a family member directly to the conflict.

The Parents Circle Families Forum, is a group of people who had come together to provide emotional support to one another. These individuals, have lost a family member to the conflict, and consist of both Palestinians and Israelis.

Let us all exercise the use of our imagination. You can choose to close your eyes and listen if you want to. If you are a parent, I want you to imagine this. If you are not a parent yet, I want to imagine that you have a sibling.

Imagine that you have a son/brother, your son/brother has always been a peaceful person and is also involved in peacebuilding work. Your son/brother, strongly believes in nonviolence and condemns war.

One day, your son/brother receives a reservist call-up. This reservist call-up, requires your son/brother to put on a uniform that another party recognizes as an enemy, and will kill on sight. The other party does not know or bother that your son/brother is a peaceful person because when the moment son is wearing that uniform, he is an enemy to the other.

So, your son/brother contemplates on reporting for duty because he does not want to kill anyone. And after much thinking, he decides that he should serve. He will serve because he believes that if he is on duty, he will be able to protect the other by being in control of his men. He will serve because he believes that he can educate and influence his men to take up nonviolence and join him in being peaceful.

And so, while your son/brother is on reservist duty, protecting the other side, he gets shot by a sniper because he was wearing that uniform, the uniform recognized as an enemy to the other.

How does that make you feel as a parent/sibling?

Would you take vengeance if you had the opportunity to?

These were the same kind of questions and emotions that went through the mind of this young man’s mother. And she decided that in order for her to move on, she had to find this sniper. So, she went in search of his sniper and eventually met up with him.

And what did she do?

She decided, that it would be better off for her, to forgive him, because that was what her son would have done. That was what her son believed in – nonviolence.

How many of us here would have the courage to be able to do that? To meet and forgive the person who killed our family member, in person.

This lady, this mother, that I’m talking about, is a real person. She did lose her son to the conflict, shot in the head by a sniper.

My dear friends, this lady, taught me what it meant to Respond, and not to React. Now, she travels to share her story together with many others from The Parents Circle Families Forum, to talk about peace and why as outsiders in this conflict, we should not be picking sides.

And I quote her, “Don’t bring this conflict back to your friends. Don’t choose which side to support. This is not a soccer team where you can choose sides to support. This is a real conflict. People die.”

If we had to choose a side, then choose peace. Choose peace because for as long as we choose to take a side, we are still supporting the conflict, if death does not come to the team we support, death will come to the other side. And this is not a conflict where we want to keep toll on the number of deaths, we want to have peace. Positive peace.

So, what is positive peace some of you may ask? Positive peace is a time of peace where people are able to trust one another. When we can trust one another, we can live in peace, happily, and that is what positive peace is all about.

And how am I involved in this conflict?

I have friends who are Palestinian Muslims and Israeli Jews. Not only have I met them, I have photographs taken with them and I share memories with them, and they, these two friends of mine, have memories with one another as well.

I fear for their safety. I fear for their lives. I fear for the lives of their family. I fear for the lives of their friends and students, who do not support this violence, who only want to live in peace with one another.

Ever since the start of this war, I have been keeping myself updated through them on what is happening on the ground in Israel. Trying to confirm with them, the authencity of the stories heard on the media and they have been actively demonstrating against the war and for as long as peace does not come to the region soon. They may die in the hands of a Hamas missile or an Israeli bomb, and it doesn’t matter which one will kill them, because when they die, I will lose a friend, or two friends.

Even my Israeli Jew friend is not spared from the violence of his own Israelis when he was protesting. The right wing Jews were there and had reacted violently towards the peaceful protest that my friend was involved in, because he, wanted the war to end.

Today, I hope that all of you here, will support for peace. I hope that all of you here, will side for peace and for humanity because the blood that flows out of an Israeli or Palestinian, is the same type of blood that runs through our veins.
Let us stop this war through nonviolent means, through education and through cultivating love and trust amongst, and between one another.

Thank You.

So being here today, let us spend the next 5 – 10 minutes, sitting in silence, in remembrance of the lives that has been lost, not just through this violent conflict, but also, the other violent conflicts that is happening around the world today, in Syria, in Myanmar, in Ukraine, in Iraq, because every single life is precious.

Every single life that is lost, is a life that could have made a difference to the world in a positive way. Because every single life that is lost, could have been the life of your own family member or a close friend.

So, let us all sit in silence, and reflect upon ourselves, how we, can choose to respond nonviolently from today onwards, through our actions and especially through our words.

Peace for Israeli – Palestinian Conflict

It’s been a few days since the war between Israel and Palestine began again, and just like old times, lots of Palestinians have died but who’s fault is it this time?

The story that we know, is that 3 Jewish settlers were kidnapped and killed prompting other Jewish settlers to kidnap a Palestinian boy and burn him to death. In retaliation, Hamas decided to launch missiles into Israel and in self-defence, Israel counters with their own form of offensive which has killed more Palestinians than ever before.

While the anti-Israeli movement and overwhelming sympathy has poured out to Palestine, not many have questioned the legitimacy of the story or have given thought to why this even occurred in the first place.

So, over the past few days since the exchange of fire began, I began asking my friends as well. Not just any friends, friends who are directly affected by this situation. Friends who are living in fear and who are more well-informed than any media because they live there.

And this is what I’ve been able to gather:

– The 3 Jewish settlers weren’t kidnapped. They did die. They died in a car accident. The cause is yet to be known. I don’t suppose anyone is going to bother to investigate it at this juncture.
– The parents of the 3 Jewish settlers claimed/alleged that their children were kidnapped and killed by Palestinians.
– The rest of the story remains true. Hamas fired first before Israel, in self-defence launched an all out air offensive, attacking targets believed to be where Hamas was hiding missiles. Unfortunately, these targets were homes of people.

Nevermind who’s to be blamed for this problem we have at the moment because the problem right now is that Hamas does not have the capability to cause any serious damage to Israel compared to what the Israeli forces are able to do. Not that I’m suggesting Hamas should be shooting if they had better weaponry.

Going by this, Hamas has to apply all logic to stop, in order to save civilian lives. They shouldn’t have even begun firing those missiles in the first place but as an extreme political power, they decided to retaliate, shooting missiles from underground bunkers where they are safe.


Yes. You get angry when your own gets kidnapped and burned alive. There is no question about that but this is where you need to learn to RESPOND and not REACT.

One wonders how over decades of being in such a disadvantaged position, these guys still have not learnt how to respond but instead, continue to react, putting their own people at a disadvantage OR is this could simply be a trick that Israel is pulling to launch an offensive OR a trick that Hamas stupidly came up with.

Now, it’s easy for me to say this but the reality of the matter is that these guys live separated by a large wall. A wall so large that the other has no idea what is happening, and when either side does not have an idea what is happening, both sides have a lack of trust that each once to make peace, but instead wants to take up arms to end the others’ lives.

That is the reality of what it’s like.

That is what I know based on experiences shared by students from the Olive Tree Initiative, a group of students in Universities who have an interest to learn and understand about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Students who travel to Israel and Palestine, and talk to locals and academics and politicians to gather information before they try to make any conclusion out of it. Most of the time, it leaves them even more confused and this is where they learn that fighting for a side, will not help the cause.

But this is war and like it or not, death is still death. Death in a warzone does not recognize your faith or race, but the pain of having a loved one die is the same. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Palestinian or an Israeli, because when a loved one dies, you feel that pain, the same pain.

This pain and disdain for war is what drove the bereaved parents of the conflict from both sides to come together to work towards peace. They call themselves, The Parents Circle and they have a message that they want to send out,

“Don’t take sides. This is not a soccer game. This is real. People die.”

The experience of listening to them share their experience of losing a loved one to the conflict and then forgiving the other in order to come together to work for peace is a powerful message that I’d like to share with everyone, and I hope you’ll share this too.

If the parents of those who have lost a loved one to the conflict, can come together to work towards Peace and Reconciliation, why are we taking sides other than for Peace?

So, regardless of the religious group that we belong to, in this conflict, there is only one side that we need to take, PEACE.

Without peace, we can’t learn to build trust and trust is one of the building blocks of any positive relationship.

Without trust, we can’t sit down on the same table to begin discussing plans on how we’d like to move forward.

Without plans, we can’t see what are the potentials that we can create for future generations.

And there are groups within Israel and Palestine itself, who believe that the only way to solve this conflict, is to move towards a two-state solution. Isn’t that what we all want at the end of the day? A recognized Palestinian state living in peace with the state of Israel because let’s face it, the reality is that the state of Israel is here to stay, and until we can all come to that page, this conflict will never end.


Imitation is the best form of flattery

In a city-state country like Singapore where imitation goods and breach of Intellectual Property rights receive heavy punishment, it is a safe haven for companies and individuals who have patents on ideas and products.

Several months ago, on my return from my fellowship in the United States, Singapore saw its first riot in a very long time. Now dubbed, ‘Little India Riot’, the case received much international media attention and I had my fair share when I wrote in a letter to Minister Teo and several other Members of Parliament offering assistance to the situation in the form of programmes that will benefit civil society.

Days after the email, I had a meeting with Ministry of Home Affairs officers in charge of the Community Engagement Programme (CEP) and had proposed my idea for an ‘Interfaith-Intercultural Understanding Programme’ aka IF-IC-UP.

This programme was designed based on research and observations I had conducted when on my fellowship at the University of California Irvine (UCI) on the trends of conflict over Singapore’s history, and I had shared them with those officers on what were some modules that would be best implemented and the strategies that we could work around to tackle those issues, in preparation for the future.

I was also told that perhaps I should take a look at what CEP was all about to have a better understanding on their directions. I took a look and observed that it was a more intervention approach with a focus on post-terrorism. I, on the other hand, was proposing a more preventive approach as I felt and knew from experience being a volunteer and an educator that prevention is better than cure.

However, my suggestion wasn’t taken up.

Fast forward to several days back, I saw on the news, “CEP Connectors”.

This programme was to be run in the form of Interest Group at all Community Clubs/Centres with its objective to build understanding between different cultures! – THE VERY SAME OBJECTIVE THAT I HAD SHARED MONTHS EARLIER!

Of course, trying to stake a claim from them for my ideas would seem ridiculous as it would difficult for me to prove that they had in better terms, ‘stole’ my idea (intellectual property), and redesigned it to be something a little different.

I have to say, I’m extremely flattered that my national movement idea was considered, ‘stolen’, adapted and implemented, all without my knowledge, after possibly providing some valuable input.

Regardless, for those of you are interested to learn more about it, do visit to find out more about what my programme is all about and hopefully, we could find a way to work together.

Most importantly, do share with your friends, the link.

Moving ahead, I will be proceeding to run an online version of my plans on Facebook!

Will be announcing that in the coming weeks to come, as soon as I get more information up onto the website!

Edited Notes:

I had proposed to run this programme with People’s Association as early as June last year before I left for my fellowship. On return, I had followed-up to propose a meeting to discuss but was turned down by People’s Association. Thereafter, the meeting with Ministry of Home Affairs happened.

This programme is now rolled out by People’s Association. The individuals are trained under the CEP.

Further Edit:

This issue has since been clarified. I wrote in to Professor Fatimah and have received clarification from her that this project was conceptualized by her in October 2013 and is purely her initiative.

Exercising Importance of Interfaith-Intercultural Understanding (for work and personal)

As part of my Community Solutions Program Fellowship follow-on project, a speech highlighting importance of Interfaith-Intercultural Understanding at Singapore Polytechnic to graduating students of Diploma in International Business.

If you are interested to have an Interfaith-Intercultural Understanding Program workshop for your school/organizations, email me

Other workshops available:
– Positive Bystander Intervention
– Successful Events Management
– Personal Leadership Planning
– and many more!

Follow me on twitter @AbdillahZamzuri

Changing The World – Extremely Peaceful


The life of an extremist, gang member and mother to a child who was an activist – we have all heard of them in the news and the activities that they engage themselves in. For those who were violent, we question their misled intentions and purpose in life but for the ones who grief, there are times when we never get to hear their story and for the ones who made that radical change from a life of violence to becoming a promoter of peace, very often, they don’t make as much news of their activities. Yesterday, was an opportunity, an honour to have been in the company of former extremists and gang members who have made that change.

The location took place at SOKA University of America, a liberal arts college with only 400 students. The people in attendance ranged from students to intellectuals to social workers, all in one room with one belief, to support and ignite social change in their communities and around the world for peace.


A former Islamist, Maajid got involved into extremism at a young age, got arrested, served time in prison and is now a peace activist. He summed up his experience and of others who fall into the trap of extremism as individuals who only received or listened to half truths with a focus on the negatives, instead of the positives.

It couldn’t have been wrong when you begin to look at arguments that people make, they negate or leave out the positive that has been done and instead focus on the negatives and develop a narrative out of it. He cited the example of America against Islam as one such narrative, jihadist tend to ignore the good work that America has done for Muslims and focus on the drones and deaths and use it as a cause to wage war against America. By failing to look at the bigger picture, painting the image of America against Islam was a narrative that has managed to garner support and movement all around the world. However, this doesn’t mean that sending out drones to kill is acceptable, it simple means, looking at why certain actions are done.

Then there’s Eric and Paul, former gang members. Eric was shot 5 times in the back, one of which hit is spinal cord, permanently disabling his lower half of his body. Their stories connected with me because as a young boy, I wanted to be a gang member. The school I chose and the friends I hung around with, they made the perfect concoction for a career in a gang. Fortunately or unfortunately, due to my small size, my friends who were gang members managed to discourage me and instead offered me protection at no cost.

Although gang activities in Singapore vary with the one in America, violence is still one common theme and deaths could be a result of the violence. Without access to guns, Singapore gangs are limited to fighting in close body contact, and even so, deaths still occur.

Their stories resonate with me as having been involved in mentoring at-risk youths, some of my mentees do move away from gang activities, I can’t speak the same of my friends whom I know, some are still involved and are even leading the members. I only hope, they realize that there are other options available. The bubble environment they’ve grown up in, shouldn’t be the same one they want to raise their children in and therefore, they should reconsider options and exhaust all of it, and none of it should include turning back to being a gang member.

Then there’s Kerry, an ordained Minister who wanted to and almost bombed an LGBT church. It’s not something that we hear of everyday, but it does happen. There are people living around us who may be on the brink of extremism but they just fail to realize it. When their emotions overcome them and they allow their logic to justify their emotions without considering the relationships and complexities involved, they turn radical and their purpose in life becomes one that is extreme.

Like the panelists, everyone else in the audience believes that people can change. As a community, we need to provide them with the solutions and opportunities which allows them to find their way out of the life they are in. Volunteer your time and expertise, donate your money, there’s always organizations out there who need continuous support to do the work.

Is there a need for such work in Singapore?

Will people be willing to listen to what it is, I don’t know.

Will people be willing to support for such changes, I hope so.

The work that I’ve been involved here has taught me a lot, with less than 2 weeks left, I know there’s a lot more to be done and as much as I would love to stay and extend my time here, it’s time I bring these knowledge, skills and experience back to Singapore and hopefully, there will be an audience ready to listen, to get involved.