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.

Beliefs and Values in Decisions/Choices

Life hands us different cards when we were born, one which we have no control over and if you are a Muslim like me, you’d also believe that your entire life has already been chartered – Qada’ and ‘Qadar, but this does not mean that we are limited by what we can pursue in life because we still have the freedom to choose and this is where the challenge lies for each and every single one of us given the circumstances that we begin with.

Some of us were born with the best of cards and some of us were born with the least of the good cards and these are the cards that we can never change and will remain with us throughout our entire life. It forms part of who we are, our history and are the building blocks of our foundation and life story. 

Through the choices that our family make for us when we were younger, we were handed some tools in life. These are the tools that would essentially be one of the many guiding tools that we would use throughout our life – our beliefs and values. 

For some of us, our beliefs and values are guided by religion and for some of us, by the cultures that we were born into, but for most of us, our beliefs and values are a combination of religion and our cultural heritage. These tools, they continue to grow as we learn more about our religion, culture as well as information that we read and experience through different sources that we come across either by our own choice or coincidence (though if you are Muslim, nothing is ever coincidental since it’s already been pre-determined).

With such growing tools that we have in our repertoire, we begin to use them in our decision making skills, each and every single time we are dealt with options. We begin to dig deep into our repertoire of knowledge and understanding, analyze the options, weigh the emotions and then we make our choice.

At times, the options or decisions or choices that we have to make in life questions or goes against our beliefs and values that we have learnt from our religion and the cultures that we were raised in but the information and additional knowledge that we come across over the years provides us with an alternative option that would perhaps seem to be something new that we could carve out, a new path that we could take as opposed to the traditional paths and for those courageous enough, they take this new path.

And whilst there is no study on understanding of the psychology of how people make their decisions on, it could be due to how strong the individual feels grounded by it’s religious and cultural beliefs and values. Religion as we know it, not only provide guidance on beliefs and values, but also on the type of decisions or choices to take. Culture on the other hand, is decided by a group of people living together.

With each decision or choice to be taken, there is always a consequence that comes with it – a sin or a good deed and frowned or liked upon. Some sins are considered small sins, which could be easily forgiven and some are big sins, whose consequence is so huge, the type of punishment meted out could even mean death. That said, even some small sins though easily forgiven, may never be forgiven because when it is a sin committed on a person, forgiveness can only come from the one who had been sinned. 

Regardless of the degree of the sin, all sins can be forgiven, provided there is repentance and sincere effort made to never again repeat those sins – making a different choice when faced with the same decision making process. 

Of course, some choices made as a result of our strong religious and cultural beliefs and values, leaves us feeling dissatisfied and unhappy, and that is perhaps the challenge for every human being – to be able to resist making choices that makes us happy all the time for the ‘greater good’ of the larger society and for some of us, for the afterlife.

Surely, the struggles we face in our decision making process because of how strongly we feel or are grounded by our beliefs and values is not one that is easy for anyone to make but the choices made must be respected, because it is the choice of the individual making it, not the onlooker.

Breaking News: Fatwa Issued in 2006 ruling Smoking as Haram


Not quite breaking news but just news that when published in 2006, received so much protest from the Muslim community in Singapore.

About a month or two ago, this was debated again, online, amongst my circle of friends and thus, I decided to send an email to seek clarification and confirmation on this fatwa.

Before that, I had always known that Smoking was, Makhruh (Best not to do, but when you do it, you do not inherit any good deeds nor sins). But to have a fatwa to state that Smoking is now Haram (prohibited), I’m quite sure it would be difficult to be accepted by the Muslim community.

I’m just thinking how the Muslim community during the time of Prophet Muhammad had reacted when told by God that drinking wine, which was previously permitted, was made prohibited, overnight.

How did they cope with the sudden change?

Did the Prophet and his friends decided to protest, complain or simply submit to God’s new command.

But certainly, that was God’s words but Fatwa is not.

At best, it is simply based on a deep research and understanding by Islamic scholars using the Quran and Hadith.

Besides, the oldest institution in the world and the most respected Islamic institution in the world, Al-Azhar University has also issued a Fatwa of the same degree, ‘Smoking is Haram’.

Now, I’m very curious.

Would Muslim owned businesses stop selling cigarettes now that cigarettes would perhaps be in the same category as alcohol?

Anyone who sells, delivers or purchases for another is in cahoots with the one committing the act of Smoking.

This is interesting and if I became an enemy of the state for this (loss in taxes for the Republic), I don’t think I should worry because I am doing what a Muslim should do – Spread The Love Yaw!

So, if you’re reading this, feel free to repost or share this blog entry or just the photo to your friends, loved ones and enemies!

Traditional vs Modern Society – Islam

There’s a good reason as to why I love my religion, Islam.

Not only does it require its followers to submit (Islam means submission), it also comes with a handbook(Quran) and guidebook(Hadith), instructing and guiding one on the Best Practices EVER by the one who spread the message, Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).

One of the interesting things that we seem to discuss in modern day is about the issue of what’s traditional and what’s modern.

Lets take for instance the issue of a man marrying a woman who earns more than him. There’s always the idea that the man must earn more than a woman or he is seen to be less capable. Or perhaps a woman asking a man for his hand in marriage. We often hear women speak about them being traditional and wouldn’t ask a guy out but DID YOU KNOW that:

– Prophet Muhammad’s first wife was actually his EMPLOYER. This meant that she was earning more than him at the time of marriage.
– Prophet Muhammad’s wife was the one who ASKED FOR HIS HAND IN MARRIAGE

Or how about an older woman marrying a younger man?

Prophet Muhammad’s first wife was 15 years older than him! He was 25 and she, 40.

I don’t think this issue is quite modern nor traditional itself because if it is, then Islam has to be considered the most advanced and modern society because this all happened some 1400years ago!

Now of course, everyone has their right to their own opinion but for those who have reservations or issues in dealing with friends or family members who haggle with these issues, then I do suppose you could bring up this story.

After all, I’m confident that we all know that the life of Prophet Muhammad is one that is exemplary and certainly, an example to be made for all Muslims.

The Need To ‘Cheong’ as a Society

The advent of technology these days lands a lot of people in the hot soup.

It’s worst when you are holding a position in office whereby you are leading a group of people and your personal opinion/unhappiness gets aired in public by your own guilty admission.

Yesterday, I was rocked by a series of comments/ FB updates on a certain individual which goes by the name, ‘Amy Cheong’, an Assistant Director at NTUC in charge of Membership, she had posted up a comment on her FB which eventually led to her being a trending topic on FB and Twitter.

NTUC Amy Cheong

NTUC Amy Cheong

Whilst her comments didn’t quite sit well with the majority because it had an expression of racism, it showed the seriousness of the issues that Singaporeans are living with despite being highly educated and living in highly a highly connected world, destroying what our predecessors had built up for so decades.

Living in a multi-racial/religious society like Singapore or pretty much, anywhere in this globalised world, one is made to live alongside communities who have a different set of cultural traditions. Singapore’s government housing policy to ensure that community living in HDB flats could emulate the success of Kampong living may have taken off well when it first started but the novelty has since eroded as more home owners/tenants now prefer to remain behind closed doors as opposed to keeping their doors open.

Of course, leaving your door open today is also a major security concern because identifying strange faces would be relatively a challenge. This in comparison to kampong living whereby a strange face would be easily identified because if you don’t live there, then being in that kampong needs to be justified. And arresting/apprehending suspects is much easier as well because of this very same reason.

Where do we go from here as Singaporeans?

Have we truly understood what it means to live in a multi-racial/religious society or have we simply forgotten how to?

As individuals begin to be more disconnected in understanding others cultural and religious beliefs, there is a pressing need for communities to constantly have conversations with each other, to question to seek a better understanding, all in the name of community living.

Just ask yourself, how much do you know about the communities living or working amongst/with you?

Nonetheless, in a society that’s constantly evolving and trying to seek it’s own unique identity, we are bound to face frequent setbacks in our progress and such hiccups provides an insight into the larger issues which needs to be addressed. It’s not bad in my opinion, it’s just unfortunate that some individuals have to be penned down in history as the one who caused the issue.

Ms Amy Cheong, I forgive you for your ignorance but in your attempt to seek an understanding of the Malay Wedding and draw a relationship with Divorce rates, perhaps you should have exercised due diligence in exercising your EQ as the Assistant Director of Singapore’s largest union organisation which has thousands of Malays as members.

THAT Hari Raya Puasa Party

Ramadhan is indeed drawing to an end and whilst Muslims around the world celebrate the success of our Jihad (personal struggle and YES! Muslims are on a very huge Jihad come every Ramadhan) towards self-control from committing sinful acts during this fasting month, our non-Muslim friends celebrate the long weekend which will begin from Friday night to Monday, as its an off-in-lieu.

And while Muslims globally celebrate with prayers and visiting our friends and relatives to ask for forgiveness as well as to forge closer ties between one another, I’m sure in some part of the world, our non-Muslim friends will be celebrating in style at the clubs dancing and enjoying themselves over the long weekend.

And in Singapore, one such organiser will be organising an event themed after Hari Raya Puasa at a club with booze and dancing to Dato Siti Nurhaliza songs this coming Saturday, 18 August 2012.

Hari Raya Puasa Party

Hari Raya Puasa Party

Now, I’m no saint or should ever be considered as being holier than thou but as a Muslim, I do feel enraged at the insensitivity of the organisers to organise a themed party related to a religion which prohibits amongst others; Alcohol, Free mixing between genders, Dancing/Partying. (I’m not sure if any other religion prohibits what has been mentioned but if they don’t, then I don’t see why there should be any restriction on celebrating such occasions but since Islam prohibits it, I don’t think there should be an association made between what is prohibited with the celebration)

I think what makes it worst is that the songs that the patrons will be performing to will be that of a renowned Muslim, Dato Siti Nurhaliza. Nevermind the singing, but it is just utter disrespectful to be singing her songs especially when her face and name is featured on the marketing collaterals, giving the impression that perhaps she supports or endorses the event, which I highly doubt so because she is performing her small pilgrimage at Makkah at the moment.

But my issue here is not so much with the insensitivity or lack of knowledge of the organisers, as I’m sure there are many others out there living amongst us in society. My issue is that there is a lack of inter-religious education within society in what we call Multi-Racial, Multi-Religious Tolerant Singapore.

And in being tolerant, we practice to deliberately allow or permit something which we disapprove of. In easier terms, to bear with it or to endure it. And of course, to bear with it or endure it also means that there’s a certain limit that one can bear with and when it transgresses the limits, something may or will happen.

I’m not blaming the organisers of the event as they aren’t Muslims and they have also apologised but perhaps this incident would be a good lesson for all of us, regardless, Muslims or not, that it is important for us to exercise the importance of due diligence to understand and to respect one another, living in this Multi-Racial and Religious society. (I have blogged about this previously here)

And if you are wondering, the ad is no longer available on the website.