Between 6th to 13th March, we ran a survey to identify Singapore Muslim community perceptions on several socio-political issues. The survey was based on the Suara Musyawarah report, responses to the report and several AMP studies of the Malay community.
The survey indicates strong concerns on the cost of living, perception of discrimination and the community’s legal and education standing.
The online survey was published on Almakhazin.com. Surveygizmo.com provided the engine.
Five broad categories were addressed: socio-legal, Leadership, Foreign workers/ demography, economy and education. Responses are based on the Likert system with respondents indicating on a 5 point scale from “Strongly agree” to “Strongly disagree”.
This survey is by no means a comprehensive study of the Muslim community. It serves as an indication on several specific issues. Over the next few months, we plan to expand and deepen the understanding of community preferences through with more community surveys. We hope that it will provide a little insight as to how sections of the community perceive various issues.
We used social media to gather respondents for the survey. Invitations to participate were placed in several Singapore Muslim pages such as Suara Melayu Singapore, Almakhazin SG and Singapore Muslim Students Overseas. None of the groups are based on any political or religious persuasion.
According to ShareThis count, the survey page was shared 603 times. It was shared through Facebook 578 times, by Twitter 18 times, once by email and Liked 235 times. 6 shares were unaccounted by ShareThis.
As is inherent in any online survey tool, we rely on respondents’ self identification (religion, gender, age etc) and responses. There is no way to determine if what they declare for themselves are true. However, this is not a unique problem. It exists in online and offline surveys.
There was also initial concerns of multiple responses from the same person. To minimise the possibility of such behaviour, we filtered responses through IP address. Only the last response per IP address is recognised.
Total number of responses: 334
After filtering repeats through IP address: 314
Muslim respondents: 313
One respondent identified as Christian. Since the survey is on the Muslim community, we had to remove the response.
The youth age group (defined here for those between 18-35) makes up a slight majority of respondents. However, there was strong representation from 35-54 year olds at 38.7%.
There was an over-representation of male respondents. 2/3 of respondents identified as male. The survey did not seek specifically male or female groups or participants.
About a third of respondents have tertiary qualifications with Bachelors degree making up a quarter of respondents. A further 34.5% have diplomas.
As expected, a large majority of respondents (78.6%) identify as being Malays. 10.2% as Indians.
The survey was set up into 5 categories:
3. Foreign workers and demography
In this analysis however, we will recategorise the survey. There are five categories that make up our analysis:
1. National issues
2. Community concerns- government
3. Social contract
4. Community concerns-Internal
In terms of the economy, there appears to be uncertainty in the way the government is managing it even as the respondents tend to believe it is not going very well. There are also concerns with the way the CPF is managed. However, there is a strong concern with the cost of living in Singapore.
96.8% of respondents are worried about the cost of living in Singapore with 76.4% stating they strongly agree with the statement “I am worried about the high cost of living.”
However, slightly less than half of the respondents believe the government is not managing the economy well. 30.4% are neutral and about 20% think the government is managing it well.
62% are concerned about the way CPF is managing their funds with 33.9% indicating they “strongly disagree” with the statement “I am confident with CPF’s management of our funds.”
There appears to be concern on the number of foreign workers and as it relates to the percentage of Malays.
59% disagree with the statement “I believe the government is right in its foreign worker policies.” 77% feel there are too many foreign workers in Singapore.
About 63% are “concerned that the number of foreign workers will result in a reduction in the percentage of Muslims in Singapore.”
Policies that affect the community negatively appear to get a strong response.
There is strong support among the respondents for hijab to be allowed in school and at the workplace. In reference to the ban of hijab in school, 90% of respondents “believe that Muslim students should be allowed to wear hijab in school” with 68.1% saying they strongly agree. 8.6% were neutral to the question. Only 1.3% disagreed and no one strongly disagreed.
A stronger response was received for question on whether anyone should be denied employment because of hijab. About 98% believe that no one should be denied employment due to hijab with 87.9% believing strongly. 1% were neutral and only 0.6% (even split) believing they can be denied employment due to hijab.
89% “believe that Muslims should be allowed to enlist in any branch of the armed forces.”
Further to the concerns of discrimination, 93% “believe that Singapore should enact an Anti-discrimination law to ensure no one is discriminated.”
Article 152 of the constitution states:
“Minorities and special position of Malays
—(1) It shall be the responsibility of the Government constantly to care for the interests of the racial and religious minorities in Singapore.
(2) The Government shall exercise its functions in such manner as to recognise the special position of the Malays, who are the indigenous people of Singapore, and accordingly it shall be the responsibility of the Government to protect, safeguard, support, foster and promote their political, educational, religious, economic, social and cultural interests and the Malay language.”
Signifying the strong sense of the existing social contract 75% of respondents believe in retaining Article 152 of the constitution. Only 3% believed the Article should not be retained.
About 20% believe the government is living up to its responsibilities as specified in the Article. 34% are neutral about the government’s performance and 43% believe the government has not lived up to it.
We received several queries in the comment section indicating the respondents’ unfamiliarity with Section 152.
Community concerns- Internal
The Malay statistic for imprisonment and educational underachievement has been a disconcerting discussion in the community for some time. Another issue that has received some attention is of the erosion of Malay language use in Singapore.
With 79% being concerned about the over-representation of Malays in prison, it indicates not only the concern of the severity but also the recognition that the Malays are over-represented.
Similarly, the perception of Malay educational underachievement is strong with 83% indicating their agreement that it is a concern. Only about 4% are not concerned about the over-representation in NA/NT streams and ITE and the underrepresentation in Universities.
However, it should be noted that with a growing recognition of the value of ITE education, respondents may have indicated their lack of concern due to their acceptance of ITE as a viable and valuable educational pathway.
There is also a strong position taken on Malay language. 80% are concerned about the erosion of the language in Singapore. 14% are neutral.
The concern however may also be due to the greater public statements and campaigns encouraging the use of the language. With enhanced recognition, the belief in its lack and improper use may have become stronger.
There is also a strong sense of the necessity of community autonomy from government control. About 80% of respondents believe madrasah should be independent of government control and for the highest Islamic authority to not be appointed by the government. About 63% also believe that community leaders should not be involved in politics.
There appears to be disenchantment within the community in various government policies. There also is a strong sense of communal concern among respondents. This can be due to the possibility that those who participate in such surveys to already be concerned about the questions asked, that the issues are current and significant or there is a socio-political alignment among those who participate in such community based surveys.
It may also be due to respondents who participate in social media based discussions to be more concerned about the issues in the survey.
The demographics indicate a wide variety of respondents. If this can be taken as a cross section of Malay community response, then it indicates a substantial disagreement with current policies especially with regard to community-government relations.
There appears to be a greater sense of disenfranchisement between members of the community and the government. Discrimination, control and high cost of living apart from community underachievement are real concerns that need to be resolved.
This survey provided the broad strokes in community perception. We will follow up with surveys that go in depth on the issues discussed above with special attention on community-government relations.
The survey results can be viewed at: