Singapore indeed comprises a multiracial and multireligious society.
Because it is multiracial, it has places called Chinatown, Little India, Geylang Serai and Kampung Glam
. Prevously, there was even Kampung Melayu.
Bazaar Ramadhan all over Singapore have been organised in conjunction with the month of Ramadhan where Muslims fast. It’s link to fasting cannot be understated. And as the name implies, Bazaar Ramadhan, when sellers sell food, should be targetted at Muslims in the first place. If it’s not targetted at Muslims to patronise, then it should not be called Bazaar Ramadhan.
When Bazaar Ramadhan are meant for Muslims to patronise, they should also cater to the dietery needs of Muslims. The foods sold must be halalan toiyyiban.
The most basic is that the stalls should be MUIS halal-certified or Muslim-owned. Placing tudung-clad women alone does not make a non-Muslim-owned stall become halal. Neither does using halal-certified food products makes a non-Muslim-owned stall ‘automatically’ halal.
However, as Bazaar Ramadhan all over Singapore are mainly commercially driven, it would be a challenge to really make every stall to fulfill the basic halal toiyyiban criteria. Understandably, profit-making is the major driving force.
Some members here have expressed their views of how the basic character of Bazaar Ramadhan in Geylang has changed over time. Fundamentally, they see an erosion of the basic Malay character of the Bazaar Ramadhan in Geylang Serai area. This is similar to views on how the historical character of Kampung Glam area has suffered from the presence of many watering holes or eateries selling liqour or alcohol (see https://www.facebook.com/kgglamalcoholfree/).
Traditionally and historically, Geylang Serai has been closely associated with the Malay ethnic group. Previously, Kampung Melayu shopping area was even placed at the Geylang Serai area. Now an even more sophisticated version of that Kampung Melayu is being developed in Geylang Serai.
When views expressing the eroding Malay identity of the foods sold and of the profile of sellers in the Bazaar Ramadhan are being shared, they should not at be seen as being racist. Even the Government has previously expressed views of the eroding Chinese identity within the Chinese ethnic group in Singapore. The SAP schools have since been established in Singapore to address that concern.
And some have dismissed such expression of eroding Malay identity in Bazaar Ramadhan at Geylang Serai area as alienating other non-Malay Muslims. Historically, Malays have been, by and large, Muslims. Expressing views on the erosion of the Malay identity in those Bazaar Ramadhan is by no means alienating other non-Malay Muslims. Traditionally, there were more Malays, who were Muslims, who ran stalls selling foodstuffs during Ramadhan in the Geylang Serai area. And the foodstuff that they sold were all meant for Muslim consumption in the month of Ramadhan and also during Hari Raya. But when the profile of sellers changed, what more when the status of halalan toiyyiban of such stalls was also unclear or ambiguous, raising concerns should not be seen as alienating non-Malay Muslims. It is in fact addressing the concerns of all Muslims with regards to the halal status of foodstalls at such Bazaar Ramadhan.
It is a valid and legitimate concern for all Muslims if the halal status of foodstalls in Bazaar Ramadhan cannot be clearly ascertained, when such stalls are neither MUIS Halal-Certified nor Muslim-owned.
Yes, we need to be mindful of the multiracial and multireligious character of our nation and the importance of upholding the principles of racial and religious harmony. However, that does not mean and entail the suppression of views on the importance of preserving and conserving the ethnicity and religiosity of each group. We also need to recognise the need to help ethnic and religious groups maintain the respective core characteristics and celebrate the ensuing diversity that each group brings and contributes to Singapore’s heritage and overall development.
Otherwise, no point having Chinatown, Little India, Kampung Glam and Geylang Serai.
Otherwise, no point calling the bazaar in the month of Ramadhan as Bazaar Ramadhan if they are no different from any other bazaar in any other months of the year, and no different from bazaar set up in Chinatown for Chinese New Year and in Little India for Deepavali.
Let’s maintain and celebrate the ethnic, cultural and religious diversity by bringing out the true character of each group rather than making them all the same. Only then would Singapore be a truly vibrant world-class city able to showcase the cultural, ethnic and religious diversity that it manage to hold together in harmony.
3 Ramadhan 1438
29 May 2017
Source: Mohd Khair