The month-long Hari Raya celebration is coming to a close. I always find it a blessing to be in Singapore where we not only get to celebrate our own ethnic festivals, but we also observe or, most of the time, participate in other ethnic celebrations. And as we get to know more about the traditions and cultures of another ethnic group, each year's festive celebrations carry a different experience.
Beyond the extensive *bling bling* Hari Raya light-up decorations lining the street from Eunos MRT Station all the way to Geylang Serai, it is the practice of traditions and cultural interactions that define the festival and which are what makes Hari Raya unique in Singapore.
Globally, a series of attacks threatened to undermine the sacred month for Muslims. These include the Orlando nightclub shooting, Nice attack, Atatürk Airport attack in Turkey and the suicide attacks in Saudi Arabia at the end of Ramadhan. In some parts of the world, the religion came under assault in the wake of the attacks.
In Singapore, this year's Hari Raya happened to fall in July, the month of Racial Harmony celebrations. In form and/or in substance, Singaporeans are reminded by the world around us that the social fabric could very well be ruptured if we do not continue to safeguard racial and religous harmony.
I am fortunate to be able to participate in a series of activities during this period.
On 22 June 2016, Eunos and Kaki Bukit Grassroots Advisers and Grassroots Leaders joined Mr Amrin Amin, Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and residents of The Leo Dormitory in breaking fast (Iftar). It was my second time visiting the Dormitory, the first being an introductory visit before the Dormitory went into operation in 2014.
Ambassadors, appointed among the residents, assist in organising various activities for the residents of diverse nationalities. The month-long Iftar (break fast) is one such activity that the residents plan and execute themselves, with support from the Dorm's management.
In keeping with tradition, when communication technology was not as advanced, drum was sounded to inform the neighbourhood that it was time to break fast.
Group photo with fellow Grassroots Leaders
On 25 June 2016, a brigade of motorcycles roared off to make over beneficiaries' homes, as part of the annual Ramadhan-on-Wheels (ROW) project by the Malay Youth Literary Association (4PM).
The same morning, Tabung Amal Aidilfitri (TAA) Trust Fund held its disbursement exercise at Eunos Community Club. Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli graced the event and presented cheques to Malay Muslim Organisations and beneficiaries. One of the ways that TAA Trust Fund collects its zakat (alms) is through the collection boxes located at Geylang Serai as well as shops across the island. The zakat collected in 2015 is disbursed to recipients in 2016.
These programmes encapsulate the spirit of Ramadhan, in assisting the less well-off among the community and sharing the festive joy with them.
On the same evening, Eunos CC Malay Activity Executive Committee (MAEC) and TAA Trust Fund jointly held the Majlis Iftar. The speaker was delivering a message in Bahasa Melayu when I heard "Hidayah". Turned over to Eunos CC staff Hidayah who was just beside me, and innocently told her that the speaker had called her name. Found out that in arabic language, Hidayah actually meant "Guidance".
To learn culture, it's always best to plug yourself in the midst of it. Also learnt about the significance of Ramadhan to Muslims that evening. Ramadhan is more than just a month-long of cleansing the physical body through fasting. It also involves the cleansing of the mind and soul, and a time of reflection.
Fast forward to the eve of Hari Raya on 5 July 2016, where residents at Eunos Vista (Zone '7' precinct) organised the annual Kenduri together with neighbours.
While we can sit back and LIKE neighbourliness stories posted online, such as the Sembawang family who break fast annually together with their neighbours along the corridor, we can also initiate or participate in such activities. I, for one, would set a goal of organising next year's Chinese New Year event with neighbours, and reach out to 2 Muslim families to open their house for their neighbours at Eunos Division next year!
Had the best Mee Siam I ever eaten
Jalan Raya to a neighbour's place on 9 July 2016. I met Shaikh through grassroots activities. He is one of the Eunos Heights Community Gardeners, and I always joked that he had the best view of the happenings in the garden from his bedroom window. Had the pleasure to makan the awesome dishes plus the desserts, all made by the family. Enjoyed the catch-up and got to know more about the talented and hardworking family.
A week later, had the opportunity to taste Malay cuisine again at fellow grassroots volunteers Jamal and Latifah's place. The Malay wedding at the void deck right opposite their block provided music and songs for our ears.
My Hari Raya "celebration" culminated with Muhibah Raya, organised by Eunos CC MAEC. Besides Sufie Rashid who dazzled the audience at the Hari Raya dinner, Aljunied GRC Grassroots Advisers Chua Eng Leong and Shamsul Kamar also peppered the programme with light-hearted entertainment.
The key ingredient to racial harmony and social cohesion is the social capital and trust that exist across the ethnic communities. The People's Association grassroots movement consciously create platforms to bring people together. It is a never-ending process and we will always agree more can be done. One day, race and religion will see no boundary. Till then, let's take the initiative to appreciate each other's culture and be the catalyst to strengthen our unique social fabric.