Embracing multiculturism has always been a hallmark of Singaporean society, and our potpourri of festivals reflects that.
That is why while Hari Raya Puasa is a religious holiday to celebrate the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, it has become commonplace for all Singaporeans, and not just our Muslim community, to bask in the festive spirit.
Whether it is gathering with family and friends for iftar or open houses, there is no doubt that this year’s celebration, the first in three years without restrictions, is both poignant and memorable.
As Minister for National Development Desmond Lee shared after joining West Coast residents to buka puasa, “Our communities grow stronger when we come together to celebrate and learn about each other’s cultural and religious practices.”
With one more week to go before Hari Raya, there is still time to join in the festivities and take the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the Muslim heritage and Islamic culture.
Head down to Kampong Glam for a heritage trail
Our historic Muslim Quarters and original hipster enclave need no introduction.
But there is more than meets the eye in this area. To guide us on a DIY tour, the National Heritage Board has designed a Kampong Glam Heritage Trail that takes in the deep heritage and culture of the Malay community.
From the shophouses along Kandahar Street to the Malay Heritage Centre (once a palace), every nook and cranny of Kampong Glam tells a story not only about Muslims but that of a diverse community that has left an indelible mark in Singapore.
Enter gastronomic paradise at the bazaars
The much-loved Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar is quite likely what excites Singaporeans the most during Ramadan.
With nearly 150 food stalls selling culinary delights one might not even know exists, here is the place to go for an eclectic mix of food such as Chilli Crab Praffle (prata/waffle hybrid), Nutella filled you tiao, before washing it all down with a cup of Harry Potter-inspired butter beer (non-alcoholic).
Those looking for something more old-school will find the usual suspects – Apam Balik, Goreng Pisang, Otah-Otah, Ramly Burger and traditional Kuehs.
Urging more of us to visit the bazaar (which is on until April 22), Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli said, “You get to see a variety of stalls selling different kinds of food and drinks, clothes, as well as home furnishings. This is what makes Singapore unique – a melting pot of cultures, tastes, and senses.”
Besides the main event, similar bazaars have popped up around the heartlands (Woodlands, Jurong West, Punggol and Tampines).
Smaller in scale but still bustling with flavour, our MP Ms Mariam Jaafar (Sembawang GRC), have been spotted during her jalan jalan and supporting residents in Woodlands.
Multiculturalism in Singapore
Singapore is one of the most multi-racial and multi-religious countries in the world.
However, like everywhere else, race and religion remain potential fault lines that can destabilise our society.
As Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said at the IPS-RSIS forum on race and racism in June 2021, “We would be fooling ourselves if we believed that racial and religious harmony was the natural order of things. It does not fall ready-made from the sky.”
For that reason, the PAP Government has (for decades) worked hard at developing national policies and legislation to promote social harmony.
In addition, Singapore will continue to take a strong stance against individuals who attempts to promote ill will among racial and religious groups.
Of course, tolerance without understanding cannot work. So while policies can facilitate representation and integration, it is the relationships we forge at the grassroots and individual level that will help us build common ground with each other and maintain the values of multiculturalism we have come to cherish.
With Hari Raya fast approaching, this is an opportunity to learn more about one another and forge closer ties. After all, at the core of any celebration is a desire to build relationships through food, joy, love and laughter.
Photo Source: Roots.sg/Lee Hsien Loong/Mariam Jaafar/Masagos Zulkifli via Facebook