Fond memories of KBPS Class of 1968

 

Fond memories of KBPS Class of 1968

The excitement was already in the air some three weeks before Saturday, 22 April 2017, the day when the excitement came to grandeur in a reunion gathering of the “Class of 1968” schoolmates of Kaki Bukit Primary School (KBPS). It has been almost half a century, how time flies…

It all started when Mdm Mariati Johari, popularly known as Hajah Mariati Johari, Director of Institute of Aromatherapy Enhancement Pte Ltd, Singapore, started the ball rolling by creating a chat group that first consisted of a few people, including me, their form-teacher of Primary 6A.  Soon, the number swelled to include overseas members – from Abu Dhabi, Perth and Kuala Lumpur.

Fourteen people, including me, attended the reunion gathering at Hajah Mariati’s business premises. They are:

Mdm Mariati Johari, Mr Jamal Rahim, Mdm Norjah Arrifin and Mr Omar Mattar.

Mr Suhaimi Bari, Mdm Rohani Rahim, Mr Zohri Ali and Mdm Khadijah A.Kareem.

Mdm Zainab Marican, Mr Isa Adam, Mdm Kasmah Latif and Mr Iskandar Sabirin.

Mdm Junainah Hassan and Mr Shaik Kadir, writer of this article.

My memory of the people who attended the grand reunion gathering that auspicious Saturday, goes way back to 1964.

The year 1964 was certainly memorable for me because it was the year when I first started my working life after leaving Secondary 4 in 1963. I started work in April of that year as a trainee-teacher, attending a 3-year part-time teacher-training course at the former Teachers’ Training College at Paterson Road.

Three years later, in 1967, I became the class teacher of Pri 5A. I enjoyed teaching this class. There was a small-sized Malay boy, Muhammad Bin Zamawi; and there was a lanky Indian girl, Leela Devi, both always vied for the two top positions in the class examinations.

The following year (1968), I followed the same class of students to Pri 6A. I taught all subjects (English, Mathematics and Science) except music and physical education as these subjects were handled by specialised teachers. Everyone in my class passed the Primary School Leaving Examination. I was overjoyed. That year was also my last year of teaching in a primary school, after five wonderful years of teaching primary school children.

In 1992, I went for the Haj (Pilgrimage to Mecca) which is one of the Five Pillars of Islam for those who can afford the cost and health.  One of the rituals was to be performed in Mina, and one night there, while trying to sleep for the night, a pilgrim on the adjacent bed, who I met there for the first time, and I chatted for a while. He told me his name – Faisal Abdullah Fernandez, a convert to Islam, and asked me where I was working.  I told him that in my early working days, I was a teacher in Kaki Bukit Primary School and taught Primary 6A in 1968. Surprised, he told me his wife was a student there and mentioned her name. But, I couldn’t recall her.  We exchanged our home telephone numbers and took photographs of us for remembrance of our meeting in Mina.

A couple of weeks after we returned from the Haj, I received a call from a lady who identified herself.  She was Mr Faisal’s wife, Ms Rohani Rahim.  She called to ascertain if I was her teacher as my name sounded familiar to her, and that started my friendship with the couple. In 2010, Rohani and her other classmates arranged for a KBPS-1968 reunion gathering at the condo of Junainah Hassan. I was invited.

Some years ago, Rohani was posted to Abu Dhabi and she still works there.  Her husband passed away in that city.  In our remembrance of him we shall, at this point in time, silently recite the Fatiha and doa for Allah’s Blessings on his soul.

When Rohani heard from Mariati about the second reunion of their classmates, she flew to Singapore for the occasion.  Omar, who has migrated to Australia, also flew in with his wife, Elizabeth.  Another of their classmates, Mohamad Nasir Said, who lives in Kuala Lumpur, was also eager to join the gathering, but he could not make it.

A few pictures of the members of “Class of 1968” when they were in Kaki Bukit Primary School were circulated.  Some of them are reproduced as follows:

Music and physical exercises (PE) were conducted by specialised teachers. The 6-person group photo shows Kasmah (second from left), Norjah (third) and Rohani (sixth). The girl on Rohani’s right, Jariyah Ahmad, was always third in position in the class examinations. She passed away a few years ago –  and, in our remembrance of her, we shall now silently recite the Fatiha and doa for Allah’s Blessings on her soul.

First photo: Omar as a “Bar Girl”; second photo: Omar as a “Chetty” complete with sarung pulikat and an umbrella; and in the third photo: Omar as an “Invisible Man”, so need  not waste time in trying to locate him!

Some of the schoolmates of “Class of 1968” when they were in Primary 3A with Ms Amina Jani, their class-teacher.

When the mood of the reunion get-together mounted, someone suggested something in pantun-style and the writer of this article, SK, threw in a couple of replies as appetisers and the initiative developed into a pantun (poem) contest in which no one won any top prizes but all the five entries, judged by Mdm Khairon Mastan, wife of the writer, were deemed worthy of being declared winners. All the seven pantuns, two by SK and five entries, are as follows:

Pantun initiation by SK

(1) “Memori rakan sekolah Kaki Bukit Primary”

Kita berkenalan dari Sekolah Rendah Kaki Bukit
Keinginan bertemu dengan semua sentiasa di ingini
Alhamdullillah, keiginan itu menjadi realiti sedikit
Jadi, marilah kita bergembira pada Hari Sabtu ini
– SK

(2) “Selamat datang Omar dan Rohani”

Disana Omar, disini Rohani
Ditengah-tengah Omar punya isteri
Bersatu hati, berhati murni
Mereka dah datang ke negeri sendiri
– SK

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Pantun contest

Entry 1: “Pantun mengenalkan teman”

Sir Kadir guru kita sekolah primary
Orangnya tegas mengajar penuh makna…
Memang Rohani balik kenegeri sendiri…
Tapi Omar datang sebagai foreigner…
– Iskandar Sabirin

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Entry 2: “Kenangan Memori Rakan-rakan KBPS”

Satu dua tiga dan empat
Lima enam tujuh dan lapan
Memori kita ini bertempat
Bergolek ketawa di-perjumpaan.
– Jamal Rahim

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Entry 3: “Kawan tertawa…padan muka”

Itik jalan terkedek kedek
Push up!!! di tepi sekolah tangga
Cik Gu nampak Omar makan keledek
Murid2 nampak ketawa berdekah dekah!!
– Mariati Johari

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Entry 4: “Rindu serindu-rindu nya”

Omar dan isteri dah sampai dulu,
Esok nya pula Rohani Rahim;
Perjumpaan kawan sekolah di hari Sabtu,
Untuk mengeratkan silatul rahim.
– Khadijah Abdul Kareem

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Entry 5: “Bersua kembali teman2 persekolahan”

Omar di-Perth, Rohani di Abu Dhabi
Sama2 jauh tak pernah bersua
Sekarang mereka dah sampai di-sini
Tiba esok happy2 semua hendak bersama
– Junainah Hassan

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The day of the grand reunion get-together party, held on Saturday, 22 April, 2017, was held at Mariati’s business venue, “Institute Of Aromatherapy Enhancement Pte Ltd”,  at Grandlink Square in Guillemard Road.

Omar Mattar, who flew in from Perth, his hometown, came with his innovative initiative for each us – an autograph card and a souvenir keychain.


This autograph card made by Omar is given to everyone present for the group members’ signatures and keeping. Omar also gave each person a keychain as a souvenir.

“A reunion meeting is a great way to catch up with old friends, relive old memories and enjoy a day of fun. Some students of Class 1968 first met seven years ago, in 2010. Since last year, we have been clamouring for another reunion. Junainah Hassan and I made efforts to search for our other “lost” friends, and we gathered in a WhatsApp group. We fixed a date, and finally we met, at my venue.  By meeting almost 50 years later, we picked up where we left off when we were children in Primary 6.Our honoured Sir Kadir, our Form Teacher of Primary 6A, was invited, and all of us had a great time together.  I must say, it was the best reunion we had.  I wish and doa that all my friends and Sir Kadir a blissful and blessed life till Jannah.”  – Mariati Johari

“I was excited to meet my long lost schoolmates, whom we have not met since we left Kaki Bukit Primary School in 1968, in the reunion gathering in April.  When we met, there were hugs and tears in some eyes for getting this opportunity to meet on this memorable day.  We appreciate the warm hospitality of Mariati who hosted the reunion party at her shop. It was also nice of Omar to fly from Australia and Rohani from UAE to meet us.  Omar also made a memorabilia card with our Primary 3 class group photo printed on it for everyone to sign and keep as a memento.  We also got a souvenir key chain from him. Thanks Omar. Our class teacher, Mr Shaik Kadir was also present.  We salute you, Sir Kadir.”   – Khadijah Bt Abdul Kareem

“I was quite excited and nervous on the day of the reunion gathering.  When I was at the door, I saw the people inside. I didn’t recognise them but they were smiling at me. They recognised me from my photo which I had sent in our WhatsApp group before we met.  A man came up to me and hugged me.  After 50 years of not seeing or contacting my classmates – because I live in Australia – I was happy and glad to meet up with them.  After we broke the ice, we laughed, we joked and we reminisced about our school days. Also, l thank our class teacher, Mr Kadir, for joining us. He is so friendly.”  – Omar Mattar who lives and works in Perth, Australia.  

“Our last year in primary school was 1968 and after that I kept in touch with only a few of my classmates of that year when we were in Primary 6A. An opportunity to meet some other 1968 schoolmates came in 2010 in a reunion gathering. The feeling of renewing friendship developed further. Then, in March this year, we searched for more “lost” schoolmates via Facebook and “found” some more. I was indeed excited about the April gathering. We met on 22 April.  It was a simple but meaningful reunion. In this reunion, I met Iskandar, Omar and Jamal for the first time. I respect everyone, and we are now active in our WhatsApp group.”   – Rohani Rahim who works in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Mr Mohammad Nasir

“To reunite after being separated for about 50 years is something unexpected. Nevertheless, the reunion took place in April. My primary school friends and our beloved form-teacher, Mr Shaik Kadir, met at this reunion get-together.  Coincidentally a few months ago I said to myself how nice it would be if I could meet my teacher and primary school friends in Singapore. I was longing to meet them. Unfortunately I was unable to attend the reunion gathering because my beloved father was seriously ill in hospital.  I yearned to meet Mr Shaik Kadir and my primary school friends in person. I am looking forward to seeing all of them in the next reunion, insya Allah.”  – Mohamad Nasir bin Said, who lives and works in Kuala Lumpur

 

I am touch by the above poem written by Khadijah. I must also say I enjoyed the reunion get-together event, and I thank you all for the respect and honour given to me as your former teacher. Here’s a short poem for you:

As tonight (Friday, 26 May, 2017) begins the blessed Islamic month of Ramadan, I take this opportunity to wish you all: KBPS Class class of 1968 and all Muslim readers, Ramadan Mubarak (Have a Blessed Ramadan) and Selamat Berpuasa (Happy fasting) from tomorrow.

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Addenda: Salam friends, there are two surprises for you and I am inserting them as an addenda to this article, indicated as Addendum 1 and Addendum 2.  They are:

Addendum 1: Who do you think I met last night (28 May)?

It’s one of your classmates who was not present in the Class of 1968 reunion get-together on 22 April.

After the terawih prayers at Masjid Kassim last night, as I was crossing the road in front of it, I heard a voice calling, “Cikgu!”  I turned around and saw Rashid Misgon, one of your 1968 classmates.  We talked excitedly, and I then asked him why he was not present in the Class of 1968 reunion get-together in April, to which said he was unaware of  it and would have attended if known.

Rashid gave me a lift and sent me home. In his car, we talked briefly about our meeting in Kuala Lumpur last December (2016).  Yes, I happened to meet Rashid in the Malaysian capital. I was with Ms Dewani Abbas, a Berita Harian journalist, who is also a former KBPS student of mine (Primary 5 in 1966) and who I coincidentally met in 1982 when she interviewed me for getting a Fellowship Award for an attachment with Sydney Times, Australia. We became family friends since that time, and we used to travel together to India and China and even for Umrah in 2012.  In December last, Dewani, her husband and her husband’s relative, me and my wife went for a holiday to Penang and stayed one night in Kuala Lumpur. It was there that we met Rashid who was with his wife, and they joined us for breakfast and lunch.

With Rashid and Dewani in Kuala Lumpur in December last year (2016), and with Rashid in his car last night (27 May).

Rashid conveys his salam (Islamic greeting) to everyone present in the get-together.

Addendum 2: Isa Adam’s compliment of his former teacher

Isa and his wife, Mdm Tania Anis.

Isa Adam, who was present in the Class of 1968 reunion get-together on 22 April, placed two messages in my Facebook. The messages are:

(1) To My Dearest Teacher Mr Shaik Kadir. It takes a big heart to shape little minds. As a student’s a teacher always takes a hand, opens a mind and touches our heart, always encouraging, inspiring, hardworking, dedicated and supportive. THANK YOU SIR for being so helpful, enthusiastic, patience, kind and a caring model. We may not say this everyday but your inspirational words are like a beautiful footprints that have been etched in our hearts and minds forever.  You “SIR” a truly amazing hard to find and impossible to FORGET. Teachers like you are ONE in a million. Thank you forever so very much!

(2) “Thank You Sir Shaik Kadir for being the best teacher for always being kind for making lessons fun for showing us new things and for helping us to G R O W. Amin !”

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Once again, Ramadan Mubarak to all.

Shaik Kadir
26 May 2017
(1 Ramadan 1438 H)

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Remembering SIGA 2017

Remembering SIGA 2017

Furthering Asean alliance from the Philippines

Friendship attained must be retained

 

Thirty-seven delegates from Singapore recently attended a 5-day mega event, SIGA 2017, in the Philippines, with the theme, “One Heart, One Beat, One Team”.  The assembly seeks to broaden the participants’ international outlook, and foster mutual understanding and friendship across Southeast Asia and Japan.

Some 200 delegates from the ten Asean nations and Japan comprising past youth participants, national leaders and host families of the Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program (SSYEAP) attended the meeting from 26 to 30 April (2017).  This is the 29th year of SIGA meeting, held annually in Asean countries.

Last year (2016), SSEAYP International General Assembly or SIGA was held in Cambodia.

Way before delegates of SIGA 2017 arrived on the shores of Iloilo and Boracay, Philippine newspapers and newsletters have made announcements of the guests’ arrival. Some carried advertisements of the SIGA gathering, and huge billboards were displayed at some road junctions, welcoming the guests.

This year’s SIGA gathering was held in two beautiful cities of the Philippines – Iloilo, a smoke-free city, and Boracay, an island in paradise, which is rated Number 1 Tourist Destination in the world.

In Iloilo, SIGA 2017 was held at the Iloilo Convention Center (ICC).  Iloilo City Mayor, Hon. Jed Patrick Mabilog, met the delegate leaders and opened the ceremony with a message emphasising the strengthening of friendship among Asean nations.

The group discussions focussed on seven topics based on livelihood, environmental conservation, and maternal and child health.

It was not all discussions and report presentations every day; the delegates did go for educational visits, and even provided some community service at an Ati village. The Ati people are one of the aboriginal tribes of the Philippines.

The closing ceremony of the Iloilo assembly was held at the Central Philippine University where Dr. Teodoro C. Robles, the institution’s President, made his welcome remarks. Exchange of tokens and gifts followed.

The second part of the assembly was held in the beautiful island of Boracay at the Paradise Garden Resort Hotel. During the closing ceremony of SIGA 2017, held in this hotel, speeches were made and lively cultural performances were staged.

Hon Jed Patrick E. Mabilog, Mayor of Iloilo City, and Mr Yacob Hussain, Singapore Delegation Leader, exchanging gifts at the opening ceremony of SIGA 2017 at the Iloilo Convention Center.

Singapore’s delegation leader, Mr Yacob Hussain, who was nominated to deliver the closing remarks, praised the Philippines organising committee for putting up an excellent and elaborate programme for the delegates. “The one that was really constructive and noticeable was the service to the Ati community,” he emphasised.

“But, most importantly, SIGA was once again filled with love and friendship with the spirit of SSEAYP touching all hearts.  We shall cherish the happy experiences and memories of SIGA 2017 in the Philippines, and look forward to next year’s SIGA in Bandung, Indonesia,” concluded Mr Yacob who was a SSEAYP Participating Youth of 1992 and a Singapore National Leader of SSEAYP 2003.

The Singapore team was applauded for being the largest contingent for which it received a Certificate of Recognition. Each delegate received a Certificate of Participation.

In Iloilo: Activities at the Iloilo Convention Centre

An enchanting drumbeat-dance performance at the entrance of the Iloilo Convention Center by the Dinagyand Tribe

Meeting delegates from other countries in the outer hall of the auditorium.

Delegates being entertained  by various exciting performances…

With the talented children after their vibrant performance…

The Singapore Delegation Leader, Mr Yacob Hussain, exchanging official gifts with Iloilo City Mayor, Hon Jed Patrick E. Mabilog. On the Mayor’s left is Mr Nielex C. Tupas, Executive Director of the National Youth Commission, while on Mr Yacob’s right is Ms Noormah Azizi, Secretary General of SSEAYP International Singapore. Later, the Singaporeans snatched an opportunity to have a group photo taken at the outer hall of the Iloilo Convention Center.

Group photos of the Asean Delegation Leaders and the Singapore delegates with Hon Jed Patrick E. Mabilog, Mayor of Iloilo City.

Group discussions (workshop): Each of the seven groups discusses a topic relevant to the current socio-economic scenes, namely: Social Inclusion, Health and Sanitation, Asean Integration, Migration and Labour Export, Climate Change, Workforce Integration and Good Governance and Economic Growth.  Mdm Khairon Bibi  (first photo) and Mr Joey Koh (last photo) are seen giving their points of the discussion topic.

Presentation of discussion findings and suggestions, and group photos.

The final day in Iloilo ends with farewell songs and friendship links…

Social Contribution Activity at the Ati Village

The delegates had the opportunity to be involved in a community service in Barangay Lanit, Jaro, where they took part in a tree-planting activity, vegetable farming, storytelling and even a Zumba exercise session with the people of the Ati community.  The Ati children welcomed us with music and dances and participated in the various activities with us.

Visit to places of interest

Among the places the delegates visited were a wind-spin site for electricity generation, the Iloilo City Esplanade, an offshore fish-farm, a heritage site, a “Bible Garden” and a mango farm – yes, the mango is the Number 1 fruit of the Philippines.

“See, no hands!”, these Singapore ladies seem to say as they try to get their teeth onto the enticing mouth-level mangoes.

Closing ceremony at the Central Philippine University

A musical band welcomed the delegates’ arrival at the entrance to the Central Philippine University where a gala dinner was held in the delegates’ honour, during which the delegates were treated to several cultural presentations. The delegates received mangoes as a parting gift.

A group photo with the Mayor of Iloilo, Hon. Jed Patrick E. Mabilog (seated centre, blue jacket); and the President of Central Philippine University, Dr Teodora C. Robles (seated on the Mayor’s left). Beaming with great joy is Ms Noormah Azizi (standing at extreme left wearing red baju kurung and bluish tudung) whose image, unaware to her, appears on the large screen.

Mr Yacob Hussain, leader of Singapore’s delegation, exchanging gifts with Dr Teodora C. Robles, President of Central Philippine University. The delegates get to watch more Philippines cultural performances, including a bamboo dance that sought audience participation.

And there are opportunities for more lovely photos with lovely people…

On the way to Boracay

Five big and comfortable tour coaches took the SIGA 2017 delegates from Iloilo to the jetty to board speedboats to Boracay Island, with each coach displaying the official SIGA 2017 emblem banner on its sides (as can be seen from the above photos). The top photo shows Singaporeans with Malaysian delegates.

The coaches travelled in a disconnected line of convoy sandwiched between security forces – two traffic-police outriders, a police car and a SWAT van with the hind-team consisting of an additional service – an ambulance.  The coach carrying Singaporeans was the first in the convoy.  With the police motorbikes and the police car blaring their sirens gesturing for space and the right of way, the convoy, with the traffic giving way to us, could have reached the destination in half the time but for an unfortunate but small incident.  A few delegates, one in the Singapore coach and the others in the other coaches, caught stomach discomfort, even diarrhoea, for which the convoy stopped for the medics to provide help.

A couple of houses at the point of the convoy stoppage offered help by allowing the severely affected delegates to use their toilets. One of the Singapore delegates even has to be hospitalised for a day.

We, the Asean delegates, heartily thank the police, the SWAT team, the medics and the residents for all the assistance and support given to us:  Mr Iloilo City Mayor, we salute you for giving us the impressive security and medic services.  We also thank you for the food gifts you placed in each of our hotel rooms as well as the security, comfort and friendship you gave us throughout our stay in your beautiful, smoke-free city.

Mr Agus Othman…

“During our entire journey from Iloilo to Boracay, our 5-coach convoy of Asean delegates was escorted by police outriders, the police, a SWAT team and an ambulance. Even when we were in the speedboat to and from Boracay Island, we were escorted by the police coast guard. We thank them for keeping us safe.”  

– Mr Muhammad Agus Bin Othman, who has been a SSEAYP host family since 1986, Singapore   

Ms Joyce Velu...

“The people who we met in Iloilo and Boracay are friendly and hospitable. We thank the administrators of SIGA 2017 in the Philippines for taking good care of us.  We are also thankful to all the friendly security teams, the resort staff, tour guides, bus captains and others involved in making this event successful.”

– Ms Joyce Velu, who has been a SSEAYP host family since 1987, Singapore  

 In Boracay: Fun on Boracay Island

We really enjoyed our short stay in Boracay, indulging in its natural habitat and playing in its enticing beaches and surrounding waters.

Coast”, the Singapore delegates’ hotel

“Coast” is a beautiful, popular hotel by the beach of Boracay Island, where we stayed. The group photo shows our excitement. Some members from the other delegation, seeing us cuddled in a group to take a photo, ran and joined us in the spirit of Asean friendship. A couple of them are: Standing tall in the middle in pink singlet is Mr Bong Manlulu ll, from the Philippines. He is Deputy Secretary General and Chairman of SIGA 2017 Organising Committee; and squatting second from right is Asst. Professor Dr Siripong Preutthipan, President of Thailand Alumni Association. (On the right is the glass door to the “Halal eating hall” temporarily set up for the SIGA Muslim delegates.)

A Halal poster is displayed on the glass wall of the temporary “Muslim eating hall” to indicate that the food served there, for all meals, is halal (permissible for Muslim consumption). (Adjacent to this hall, Coast has a big restaurant for its other guests.) Delegates Habsah Jamal (left) from Singapore and Mujahidah A. D. Sharief from the Philippines are taking breakfast in this “halal” hall. Later, I asked the front-desk staff if there was any halal outlet nearby for snacks, and the friendly Sales Manager of “Coast”, Ms Pettina Mae Cruz, asked Ms Apple to take us to one that is close by. One the way, I told Ms Apple my name, saying “My name is Orange,” to which she giggled aloud, saying where in the world could anyone have such a fruity name as “Orange”!

Scenes of the sea and beaches

Lure of the Boracay waters…and the more adventurous ones drift into the dark, ghostly caves…and the Muslim ladies, well, they didn’t have “burkinis” but no problem, they are still sporting.

 

Desmond Yew (left), his wife, Lynn, and Joey Koh engaging in the thrills of para-sailing.

Lure of the Boracay beach: People delighting themselves with sand building and enjoying the last rays of the setting sun…but the fun and fiesta of the day is not over yet – the lively Boracay evening has just begun.

Soon it was parting time, and on the evening of our farewell dinner reception at the Paradise Garden Resort Hotel, there were community singing. The Singaporeans took part in singing, too, with everyone in the delegation racing to the stage and vibrantly dancing to the beat of the ever-popular song, “O Singapura, sunny island”, with Mr Desmond Yew, delegation co-ordinator, leading the troupe from a hidden distance.  The fun was so intense that nobody gave his or her phone to the non-Singaporean audience to take photos of us.

Scenes of parting

At the closing ceremony in Paradise Garden Resort Hotel, Boracay: Mr Yacob Hussain, Singapore Delegation Leader, Ms Cecilia Yvonne C. Ledesma, President, SSEAYP International Philippines, Mr Bong Manlulu, Chairman, SIGA 2017 Organsing Committee, and Mr Desmond Yew, Co-ordinator, Singapore delegation; and (in the other photo) some of the Singapore delegates posing for their last minute snaps in Boracay  to record their memorable SIGA 2017 experiences.

Mr Earth (SK, but see his name closely) and Ms Quake (from the Philippines) having some earth-shattering earthquake fun…

Mr Joey Koh...

“SIGA 2017 in Iloilo and Boracay was really a great treat for us.  The beautiful powdery beaches, the super clear turquoise colour water and the enchanting sunset in Boracay have also captured our hearts.  It is a privilege to be entertained by cultural dances and music, and given the hand of friendship. Thank you, Philippines.”             

– Mr Joey Koh, who was an Assistant Youth Leader of SSEAYP 1990, Singapore    

New friends

Indeed there was social mingling among the delegates of the various Asean nations and Japan and fellowship established, and that is truly the spirit of Asean. During the five days of involvement in SIGA 2017’s programmes together, it was easy to make friends. In my wife’s and my case, we made many friends but we could only show some of them, indirectly shown in the many photos attached in this article. Here are two more new friends in the following collage.

We made many new foreign friends…among them are Ms Mujahidah Ameenah Dirampantan Sharief (Amick) from the Philippines – but don’t play, play with her – she’s a judo exponent; and Ms Namie Ikejiri from Japan.

Cebu, here we come

Some members of the Singapore delegation, 12 people, including my wife and me, with the exploratory spirit of the Philippines still attached to us, flew to Cebu by domestic flight for a 1-night 1-day stay to savour in some sights and sounds of this beautiful province of the Philippines.

Among the interesting places we visited were an old prison museum, the Santa Nino Church, Ford San Pedro, Magellan’s Cross, Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral and the Temple of Leah located on top of a mountain that gave a panoramic view of Cebu City.

The highlight here: Briyani lunch. Mr Yacob Hussain chanced upon “Briyani House” and we settled for mutton and chicken briyani, eating like gluttons. “Long time no eat briyani,” Yacob said, and we even walloped the second helping and left the plates clean. And the most popular drink among the 12 was hot masala tea.

The highlight here: Singaporean visitor. Perhaps it is easy to spot Singaporeans. One young lady, who was with some other people, approached us and jubilance burst out as the Muslim ladies exchanged the salam (hand-to-heart-touch) with her. Her name is Inna Saidi, and a quick group photo was taken with Ms Inna standing in the middle.

The highlight here: Yap Sandiego Ancestral House. This house, now turned into a museum, is one of the oldest wooden houses in Cebu. I wanted to purchase it as a present for my wife but she declined, saying she preferred a bungalow in Bandung, Indonesia. We hope to go there to look for it in April next year.

SK (Unofficial) trophy

And the SK (Unofficial) trophy goes to…….the lovely couple, Desmond Yew and his wife, Lynn Ng. (Hey, readers! Give a hearty applause lah in the spirit of Asean.)

Home sweet home

The Singapore delegates returned home with fond memories of an interesting and exciting SIGA 2017 trip to the Philippines.  Here are comments of two friends from the Philippines delegation:

Ms Quake Garrido…

“I admire Singapore for sending the biggest delegation. The Singaporeans took part in all the activities at the various venues to establish friendship and camaraderie.  Along with the other Asean delegates, they embraced and appreciated the cultures of the Philippines.  I am happy to see the solidarity achieved with all the national delegates united in promoting understanding and closeness of the SSEAYP Family.” 

– Ms Quake Garrido, a SSEAYP Participating Youth of 1997, Philippines

Mr Bong Manlulu II…

“I take this opportunity to praise the Singaporeans for meeting all the requirements of SIGA registrations very early. They made full pre-payment and their delegation was the biggest delegation comprising 37 people. I wish other Alumni Associations would emulate Singapore in making it comfortable for future SIGA organisers to do the necessary efficiently in all matters, such as in administration, logistics and finance.  And, I want to thank all involved for the success of SIGA 2017.”

– Mr Bong Manlulu II, who is Chairman of SIGA 2017 Organising Committee

At Changi Airport

We couldn’t resist taking one last shot together with Ms Keiko Soeda (second from right), who had come to fetch her husband, Mr Yacob Hussain, Singapore’s  delegation leader, at the airport.


And we hope to meet any of the SIGA 2017 delegates again: Friendship attained must be retained.

(To read about SIGA 2016, go to “Remembering SIGA in Cambodia”: https://readnreap.wordpress.com/2016/05/10/general-interest-wide-ranging-remembering-siga-in-cambodia/ )

Shaik Kadir

(The writer and his wife, Khairon, were among the SIGA 2017 Singapore delegates.  They have been hosting SSEAYP participants for the homestay stint for more than two decades, since 1989 and were Singapore representatives in the Invitation Programme for Host Families of SSEAYP from 25 Sep – 6 Oct 1995 to Tokyo and on board Nippon Maru to Brunei Darussalam, the port of call that year.)

 

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Adam’s days in Singapore and Italy

Adam’s days in Singapore and Italy

 

Munirah, Allen and their son, Adam Rayan Dula were in Singapore for a total of 14 days recently (February/March 2017). The family is staying in Sydney where Munirah is studying for her PhD. This is her final year.

The family took the opportunity to come to Singapore enroute to Italy where Munirah made her presentation in an international educators’ conference in the city of Florence, entitled “Analyzing the Effect of Managing Element in Interactivity in Science Learning”.

We were excited about Adam’s Singapore visit.  Previous to this visit, the last time my wife, Khairon Mastan, and I saw our grandson was for 12 days in November last year when we visited the family in Sydney, and celebrated his third birthday at Werrington Lake Park near their home. (See https://readnreap.wordpress.com/2016/12/10/1504/ )

Previous to our Sydney visit, the last time Adam was here was for six weeks in November 2015. He was two years then, and we celebrated his birthday with some pomp.

Adam, born in Singapore, is now (March 2017) 3 years 3 months old.  Munirah, in the “Acknowledgement” page of her final thesis which she is in the process of drafting, acknowledges several people who have been her motivational guide, especially her professors and Singapore and American family members.  Of her husband, Munirah records: “Thank you to my husband Allen Dula for being the sole caretaker for our son, Adam, so I can complete my studies with a peace of mind knowing that he is in good care of his loving father.”

Most of the following photos of him with his parents and relatives were taken during his recent visit to Singapore and Italy.

Previous announcement posters

Previous Announcement poster in SK’s Facebook on 25 March 2017.

Previous announcement poster in Shaik Kadir’s Facebook on 28 March 2017.  In the “Comments”, Adam’s American grandpa Fred Dula wrote: “He is a very special kid. He has the record for photos taken of any child in Asia, Europe and North America up to 4 years old. And more loved than any up to 10 years old.”
And, Adam’s American grandma Lib Gray Dula commented:  “He is so cute and I know you all miss him a lot and I know he will miss you a lot. I love that we have so many pictures and I also love my FaceTime with him.”

Faces of Adam

Adam with his American relatives

(From left): Three-month-old Adam with his grandfather Fred Dula and Edie Dula in North Carolina, USA. Two of the photos show Adam’s parents, Allen Dula and Munirah Shaik Kadir. One day during Adam’s stay in North Carolina, his American grandparents took him to the Wright Brothers museum.  He went through the “first flight” programme without crying and so received the Junior Park Ranger’s badge, shown above on the right.

(From left): Three-month-old Adam with his grandfather Fred Dula and Edie Dula in North Carolina, USA. Two of the photos show Adam’s parents, Allen Dula and Munirah Shaik Kadir.

International conference in Italy

At the International conference in Florence, Italy themed New Perspectives in Science Education: Adam’s mother, Munirah Shaik Kadir, a PhD candidate, making her presentation, “Analyzing the Effect of Managing Element in Interactivity in Science Learning”.  Under “Comments” of Munirah’s Facebook on the photo of her conference presentation, Adam’s American grandmother, Lib Gray Dula, wrote:  “So proud of my awesome daughter-in-law.”

Romancing in Rome

Friendship renewed 

Munirah and Allen and their friends, Suriati Supani and her husband, Roger Bamrud. Singaporean Suriati married Roger who is a Norwegian and they live in Norway. They came to Italy on a short tour to meet Munirah and Allen.

Adam in school in Singapore

Adam’s Aunt Suriani Suhaimi gave Adam an opportunity to learn, play and mingle with other children of her school at Bright Beginnings Learning Centre. Because of the short time in Singapore, Adam managed to attend the play-group classes only twice. Adam thanks Aunt Suriani and her husband, Uncle Hamid Abdul Majid, for allowing him to join the play-group.

Everything new and interesting

At Atuk’s home: Adam doing many interesting things, even calling up his relatives and admiring neighbourhood cats.

Cousins Adam Rayan Dula and Nur Iffah Muhammad Imran being cuddled by Aunt Shuhaila Sidik (Aunt Shu) (left) their Grandmother Khairon (Nani) and Aunt Fazillah Abdul Gaffa (Aunt Faz).

Adam with Uncle Hamid, Aunt Mira and Uncle Imran.

In the neighbourhood

Wow! Adam is really enjoying himself, even from a height above Tanah Merah MRT Station.

Family get-together

Family members with Adam

A poolside party at Aunt Faz’ home. (Missing in the photo is Iffah’s mother, Aunt Shu, who is in South Korea attending a teaching course conference.)

Farewell, Adam

Bye, Adam. We shall see you back in Singapore soon when your mother graduates with her PhD.

Back in his Sydney home: Is Adam performing some magic tricks which he learned from his Uncle Imran? No, though it looks quite ghostly, his mother says Adam is waving furiously at us to gesture goodbye and goodnight on his first night back home.

With Skype and Facetime we are able to contact people living faraway live. Adam is contacted very often, and we sense that he does miss us too, often asking for “Atuk” to see and talk to his grandfather.

Shaik Kadir

4 April 2017

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Iffah with her Japanese “kakaks”

Iffah with her Japanese “kakaks”

My wife and I have been volunteering our services by accommodating youths from ASEAN and Japan over 20 years now, since 1989, in various student-exchange and Singapore-exposure programmes, including the well-known Ship for South-east Asian Youth Programme (SSEAYP) for the homestay stint, usually for two nights at each visit and two participants of the same gender at each visit.

Over the last two years, since the time my wife and I took charge of my grand-daughter, Nur Iffah Muhammad Imran, when her parents, both teachers, are at work, Iffah has had the opportunity to meet with those participants who stayed at my home, all Japanese students. She calls them “Kakak” (Sister) in Malay.

In the extreme left photo, Ms Moemi Takei (left) and Ms Nao Kanda; in middle photo, Nur Iffah Muhammad Imran, and in the right photo, Ms Aoi Mori (left) and Ms Mikuru Mori.

The following 10 photos provide some idea of our interaction with our visitors, Ms Moemi Takei and Ms Nao Kanda (in the first 5 slides); and Ms Aoi Mori and Ms Mikuru Mori (in the second five slides).

WITH MOEMI AND NAO

Ms Moemi Takei  (extreme left) and Ms Nao Kanda trying out Malay dress. In the centre is the host and Iffah’s grandmother, Mdm Khairon Mastan. Other photos show Moemi and Nao taking Iffah out for a walk in the neighbourhood.

The last photo shows Moemi and Nao at home with the host family, Mdm Khairon and Mr Shaik Kadir.

WITH MIKURU AND AOI

Ms Aoi Mori (extreme right) and Ms Mikuru Mori with the host and Iffah’s grandmother, Mdm Khairon Mastan (centre). Other photos show Aoi and Mikuru taking Iffah out for a walk in the neighbourhood.

The last photo shows Aoi and Mikuru at home with the host family, Mdm Khairon and Mr Shaik Kadir.

Iffah loves to see their photos from my handphone, and this posting is the result with selective photos for her easy viewing, and sharing with all my Facebook friends.

Other articles with Japanese homestay themes are:

At this juncture, I must also say that some of the other SSEAYP/JENESYS participants who have had the homestay opportunity at my home and always contact me are Indira Tabo (Filipino), Hairos CM (Malaysian), Kaho Matsushita (Japanese), Michiko Akaboshi (Japanese), Miyu Taniguchi (Japanese), Rosnani Abd Rahman (Malaysian), Yulia Indahri (Indonesian) and Sakurako Tsutsumi (Japanese).

Shaik Kadir

15 March 2017

 

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Islam rising in the Land of the Rising Sun

h1-japan-pix

Islam rising

in the

Land of the Rising Sun

Just very recently, a group comprising Muslims and people of other races and religions in a chat platform received a posting that makes claims implying Japan is discriminating Islam and Muslims – a negative image for Japan, and a bad image for Muslims as it strongly implies that Islam and Muslims are so bad as to be kept at bay by Japan.  Obviously this would be embarrassing to the Japanese Government and hurtful to Muslims around the world and to those Muslims in that chat group.  I am one of those in the group.

This article provides readers with some perspectives of Islam in present-day Japan as well as sources that debunks the ill-intentioned claims.

First of all, the offensive posting is headlined “Japan keeps Islam at bay by putting restrictions on Islam and all Muslims.”  But is this claim true?

It is not.  In fact, Japan is witnessing a surge in its Muslim population in the last three to four decades.  The number of non-Japanese Muslims working in Japan is increasing; the number of Muslim tourists is increasing, the number of Japanese converts to Islam is increasing, and more and more Japanese are learning about Islam by attending lectures and visits to mosques. The land of the rising sun is fast embracing Islamic interest in the face of globalisation.

Japan is a homogeneous country with its people speaking just one language. However, since about two decades ago Japanese perspectives have widened, and Japanese hospitality towards Muslims is blossoming. Tourism is one of the areas of focus. Japan is attracting Muslims to it by boosting its tourism industry with Islam-friendly facilities, even making prayer rooms available at airports.

Obtaining halal food (permissible for Muslim consumption) is now not a concern.  Many halal eateries have sprouted in major Japanese cities apart from Tokyo. To facilitate Muslim visitors, lists giving the location of halal restaurants are made available online.  Mosque-visits to allow Japanese to see the interior of the mosque and learn about Islam are regularly arranged.

In an article, “Japan embraces Muslim visitors to bolster tourism”, Michael Penn, president of the Shingetsu News Agency, says: “The Japanese are opening their arms to Muslim tourists”. (17, December, 2015, Aljazeera)

A handbook produced by the Aichi Prefecture for Japanese illustrating Islamic practices and requirements to welcome Muslim visitors; and the interior and exterior views of the biggest mosque in Japan, Tokyo Camii. (Photos from Internet)

A handbook produced by the Aichi Prefecture for Japanese illustrating Islamic practices and requirements to welcome Muslim visitors; and the interior and exterior views of the biggest mosque in Japan, Tokyo Camii. (Photos from Internet)

Michael points out that the Aichi Prefecture in central Japan has published a Japanese-language Muslim Hospitality Handbook.

The 15-page handbook outlines the basic Muslim beliefs, common difficulties that Muslims face when visiting Japan, the facilities that Muslims need for their prayers, the locations of the local mosques, the food Muslims can eat, and other information and services helpful to Muslim visitors. ( http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2015/12/japan-embraces-muslim-visitors-bolster-tourism-151215112245391.html )

MOSQUES AND THE QUR’AN

There are numerous mosques all over Japan.

The oldest mosque is the Kobe Mosque, built in 1935.  “But the Tokyo Camii, which is modeled on Istanbul’s Blue Mosque, is the country’s largest. Today, over 80 mosques dot the country, and most of these are in major cities with big expat populations such as Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Yokohama,” says Ms Naomi Schanen, staff writer of The Japan Times.

Tokyo Camii, in Shibuya, was first built in 1938 and rebuilt in 2000 and can accommodate some two thousand Muslims during prayers.  “Camii is a Turkish word derived from the Arabic jami, and refers to a central “congregational mosque”. (“Tokyo Camii: Japan’s Biggest Mosque”/Nippon.com http://www.nippon.com/en/features/c01301/ )

The Tokyo Camii holds regular mosque-visits for non-Muslim Japanese adults and high-school student to get them see the interior of the mosque and know some basic facts about mosques and Islam.

Almost all mosques in Japan conduct Islamic classes for Muslim adults and children, would-be Japanese converts and non-Muslim Japanese who want to know Islam.

Copies of the Qur’an is a must-have in any mosque for people to read it while waiting for the prayer to start or at any other time of the day.

The Qur’an has been translated in over 200 major languages.  In Japan, the first Japanese who translated the Qur’an into Japanese was Mr Shumei Okawa, a prominent Islamic scholar in both the Japanese government and academia in matters of Japanese-Islamic exchange and studies.

A decade later, in 1958, another prominent figure, Mr Toshihiko Izutsu, who was professor emeritus at Keio University, completed the translation of the Qur’an into Japanese.  [Note: When one says “Qur’an”, it is the one in its original Arabic received by Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) as Revelations from God delivered by Angel Gabriel, the same Angel who delivered Revelations to all the prophets, including Prophets Abraham, Moses and Jesus (Peace be upon them), while translations are not the “Qur’an” but merely people’s efforts in interpreting the original.]

Japanese Muslims can get a copy of the translation of the Qur’an from the mosques in Japan, and any non-Muslim Japanese can get a free copy from the organisation, “Japanese Muslims”. ( http://www.japanesemuslims.com/free-quran/ )

CONVERTS TO ISLAM

Over the last 30 years, Japan is seeing an increase in the number of Japanese converting to Islam. Regarding the number of monthly converts to Islam, Naomi Schanen mentioned in her article in The Japan Times article, “Converts make up 10% of growing community”, that Mr Shigeru Shimoyama, a spokesman for the Tokyo Camii Mosque and a convert himself, had estimated in an interview with Nippon News in 2013 that around five Japanese enter the Islamic faith every month.  (Mr Shimoyama has edited and published numerous works explaining Islam to Japanese readers.)

Well-known Japanese wrestling, Antonio Inoki, converted to Islam in the 1990s, changing his name officially to Muhammad Hussain Inoki (though changing one’s name is not a must upon conversion), and continues to make his mark as an ambassador for world peace.

Another person, Ms Junko Hayashi, 37, who converted to Islam in 2001, has become Japan’s first female Muslim lawyer.

Yet, another convert is Prof Hassan Ko Nakata, a community activist, who sits on the board of directors of the Japan Muslim Association (JMA) whose President is Sheikh Amin Tokomasu, a Japanese and graduate of Al-Azhar University. In an interview, Prof Nakata said that JMA was established in 1952 by Japanese converts to Islam. “It is the oldest Islamic organisation in Japan. We in JMA maintain Muslim cemeteries, publish translations on the meaning of the Holy Qur`an, produce journals and generally publish and disseminate material on Islamic issues.”  He also said that most converts are Japanese women who have married foreign Muslim men. (http://english.religion.info/2010/08/07/islam-in-japan-an-interview-with-professor-hassan-ko-nakata/ )

Many Japanese who married foreign Muslims live in their countries while keeping close ties with their parents and relatives in Japan. One such person is Ms Keiko Soeda, who married a Singapore Muslim, Mr Yacob Hussain, 20 years ago and lives in Singapore with her husband. They have three children, from nine to 18.

Mr Yacob Hussein.

Mr Yacob Hussain.

When asked if halal food is easily available for Muslim tourists, Mr Yacob, a businessman, who makes business trips to Japan and also visits his in-laws, said: “There are halal outlets in Tokyo airports. Last December, I was in both Haneda and Narita airports in Tokyo. I was happy to see there were restaurants serving halal food.  At Haneda I saw a halal restaurant and bought some food; and at Narita, there were two big restaurants certified halal by both Malaysia and MUIS of Singapore.”

He added:  “Japanese are friendly, and they may also know halal food outlets, and even take you there.”

FRIENDLY AND COURTEOUS

Ms Keiko Soada

Ms Keiko Soeda

Mr Yacob’s wife, Ms Soeda, agreed and added: “Yes, Japanese people are friendly and courteous. There is no uneasiness in my family for me marrying a Muslim. In the last 40 years or so, most educated Japanese love travelling and they have contacts with Muslims.  For instance, our Tokyo Governor. Ms Yuriko Koike is not a Muslim but she studied and graduated from Cairo University and speaks fluent Arabic and English. She speaks in Arabic when speaking with Embassy officials from Arab countries and has strong ties with Arab countries.  She is now working hard in preparing to welcome Muslims from all over the world for the 2020 Olympics.”

Ms Soeda said that even before she married Mr Yacob she had known Muslims in Japan.  “Also, there are many Pakistanis and Turkish Imams (prayer leaders) in Japan’s mosques.  There are Muslims from Indonesia and Malaysia studying in Japan.  Some of the older Japanese may have a bit of misconception about Islam.  But there are already some Japanese working very hard to inform the Japanese public that Islam is a peaceful religion and inform them about its teachings.  Providing accurate information about Islam in the Japanese language is very important like what Mr Shimoyama, a Muslim convert, from Tokyo Camii Mosque is doing.”

A newspaper article urges Japanese to learn about Islam such as the importance of halal food for Muslims to accommodate the increasing number of Muslim tourists in Asahikawa, Hokkaido. The second photo shows Ms Keiko Soada’s son, Muhammad Yasir Yuuta, showing a halal restaurant logo flag issued by Halal Media Japan (HML). (Photo credit: Keiko Soada)

A newspaper article urges Japanese to learn about Islam such as the importance of halal food for Muslims to accommodate the increasing number of Muslim tourists in Asahikawa, Hokkaido. The second photo shows Ms Keiko Soeda’s son, Muhammad Yasir Yuuta, showing a halal restaurant logo flag issued by Halal Media Japan (HML). (Photo credit: Keiko Soeda)

As for Muslim requirements, Ms Soeda said that the Halal Media in Japan is an active organisation.  “They provide information regarding halal restaurants, mussolah or prayer rooms on FB and makes Muslim-friendly maps for major cities in Japan.”

When asked how often she visits her parents in Japan, Ms Soeda said: “My husband and I try to visit my family in Japan once a year.”

Mr Yacob, praising Japanese social values, said: “Though our cultural background is different, we have so many common values. These common values make me comfortable with Keiko’s family.”

He added: “Her parents are very warm and respect our differences. My mother-in-law has a whole set of utensils just for us to meet our halal requirements. They don’t think of it as a burden but she does it out of love and respect for me and Keiko who has converted to Islam and taken the name Khaiyisha Abdullah.”

Mr Yacob’s and Ms Soada’s three children: (From left) Muhammad Yasir Yuuta and Muhammad Yusof Yuuki enjoying their dinner ; while Nur Zahrah Yuko is helping her Japanese grandparents in preparing New Year mocha. (Photo credit: Keiko Soada)

Mr Yacob’s and Ms Soeda’s three children: (From left) Muhammad Yasir Yuuta and Muhammad Yusof Yuuki enjoying their dinner ; while Nur Zahrah Yuko is helping her Japanese grandparents in preparing New Year mocha. (Photo credit: Keiko Soeda)

Ms Soeda and her husband have allowed their children to learn about Japan and its culture. “We just spent the Japanese New Year (2017) there and our kids experienced Japanese traditions like eating osechi (traditional Japanese new year food), toshi koshi soba (noodle we usually eat between 31st and 1st midnight of the New Year) and made mochi ourselves.”

She added: “We want our kids to be broadminded. We allowed them to visit shrines and see how they celebrate the New Year.  It was a good learning experience for them. As my children are bigger now and can understand and appreciate the many aspects of Japanese culture, we even visited Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Hiroshima and Niigata and the World Heritage Sites during our visit to my parents.”

Ms Keiko Soada (right, wearing red jacket) and her family members and friends at the Todaiji Temple in Nara, Japan, a world heritage site, containing the country’s biggest statue of Buddha. (Photo credit: Keiko Soada)

Ms Keiko Soeda (right, second row, wearing red jacket) and her family members and friends at the Todaiji Temple in Nara, Japan, a world heritage site, containing the country’s biggest statue of Buddha. (Photo credit: Keiko Soeda)

Another Japanese, Ms Sakura Tsutsumi, 23, who my wife and I have had the pleasure of personal contact three times within a year, the latest being in mid-February this year (2017), has been exposed to eating and staying with Muslims.

Ms Sakura Tsutsumi met the writer’s family three times within a year: (From left photo, first, when she (left) came with her university-mate, Ms Kaho Matsushita, for a 3-day homestay under JENESYS at the writer’s home in February 2016 during which she wore the writer’s daughter’s Muslim-Malay; second, when she came to Singapore with a dance troupe to present Japanese dance items for the “50 years of Singapore-Japan Friendship” festival in October 2016, and third, when she and her friend, Ms Sayaka Ogawa, came to Singapore for a 3-day holiday in mid-February 2017.

Ms Sakura Tsutsumi met the writer’s family three times within a year: (From left photo, first, when she (left) came with her university-mate, Ms Kaho Matsushita, for a 3-day homestay under JENESYS at the writer’s home in February 2016 during which she wore the writer’s daughter’s Muslim-Malay; second, when she came to Singapore with a dance troupe to present Japanese dance items for the “50 years of Singapore-Japan Friendship” festival in October 2016, and third, when she and her friend, Ms Sayaka Ogawa, came to Singapore for a 3-day holiday in mid-February 2017.

A few days ago, I messaged her asking three simple questions about Japanese-Muslim relationship and almost immediately came the reply. The following are her exact, unedited replies:

1) “Muslims in Japan are not bad people. They are full kindness people like you!! Bad or good is not depends on their religion. I like muslim friends.”

2) “Yes! In my university, there are many Muslim exchange students!!”

3) “You are sooo kind!!! For this time (holiday in Singapore), I messeged you before the day we meet, but you treated us and cooked really delicious food! Thanks a lot!! You are always great for us.”

Ms Soeda, who works at the Japanese Embassy, said there are many Japanese Muslims in Singapore. “I know of many.  We have a network among a few of us, called Sakura Club, and whoever is a Japanese convert can join the club. We all retain our Japanese roots and speak in Japanese and eat halal Japanese food. By converting, we are not less Japanese; we are still Japanese but Muslims.”

After the marriage solemnisation (nikah) at the Sultan Mosque, Singapore: “A recent marriage of a Japanese, Youngri, to a Singaporean, Ridzwan. With them are Japanese converts who came to support the occasion,” says Ms Keiki Soada who is wearing a black scarf (second from right). “Eleven Japanese converts residing in Singapore gathered to join in the celebration representing the bride side.” (Photo credit: Keiko Soada)

After the marriage solemnisation (nikah) at the Sultan Mosque, Singapore: “A recent marriage of a Japanese, Youngri, to a Singaporean, Ridzwan. With them are Japanese converts who came to support the occasion,” says Ms Keiki Soeda who is wearing a black scarf (second from right). “Eleven Japanese converts residing in Singapore gathered to join in the celebration representing the bride side.” (Photo credit: Keiko Soeda)

The writing of this article, interviewing Ms Keiko Soeda and her husband, Mr Yacob Hussein, and Ms Sakura Tsutsumi and doing some research on Islam in Japan, is the outcome of a sensitive point-form graphic claims that was forwarded by a person to a chat group which comprises Christians, Muslims and Hindus.  Mr Yacob and I are in the group.

FALSE INFORMATION

Finally, regarding the graphic image forwarded by irresponsible people, Louis Jacobson, in his article, “Viral graphic says Japan keeps out radical Islam through strong restrictions on Muslims,” in PolitiFact, highlighted as a starter the following four issues:

In Japan, (1) “permanent residency is not given to Muslims,” (2) the “propagation of Islam” is banned, (3) “one cannot import a Koran published in the Arabic language,” and   (4) “Muslims cannot even rent a house.” — Viral image on Monday, November 16th, 2015 in posts on the Internet

Mr Jacobson interviewed three professors on the focussed four claims and the following are their responses:

  • “The chain email is nothing but malicious falsehood,” said Prof Kumiko Yagi, Tokyo University.
  • All four of the claims we spotlighted are wrong, said Prof Kamada Shigeru, University of Tokyo
  • These four claims “are totally unfounded,” said Prof Glenda S. Roberts, Waseda University.

(The full article by Louis Jacobson is given in Appendix 1 of 3 provided below.)

Any responsible person who received such malicious materials pertaining to religion, ought to do some homework first before re-forwarding it to others. People who forward sensitive materials are equally guilty of a serious offence to those who created the materials in the first instance.

Mr John Vijayan.

Mr John Vijayan.

Not all forwarded materials carry accurate information. Serious matters – matters that can hurt personal feelings and disrupt harmony ought to be deleted and not re-forwarded. On false information and sensitive matters that touch on race and religion, Mr John Vijayan, a community activist, has this advice: “Do not forward something that is sensitive to race and religion although it may seem okay to the sender but not so to the recipients.  It is important to know that the sender is still liable under our local laws if he forwards postings which undermine religions and races, even though they may not be penned by the sender.”

The Qur’an warns against irresponsible and mischievous acts.  To irresponsible people in such cases as is being highlighted in this article,  the Qur’an, more the 1400 years ago, warned: “O those who believe, if an irresponsible person brings you a report, verify its correctness before telling it to others, lest you harm people out of ignorance.” (Qur’an, 49:6)

Shaik Kadir

25 February 2017

APPENDICES

Appendix 1 (The full article by Louis Jacobson in Poilifact debunking the info in the viral image)

The following article, “Viral graphic says Japan keeps out radical Islam through strong restrictions on Muslims,” by Louis Jacobson published in PolitiFact on Tuesday, November 17th, 2015, is reproduced here for free sharing.

Website: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2015/nov/17/viral-image/viral-graphic-says-japan-keeps-out-radical-islam-t/

=====================

The article highlighted the following four claims of the graphic:

In Japan, “permanent residency is not given to Muslims,” the “propagation of Islam” is banned, “one cannot import a Koran published in the Arabic language,” and “Muslims cannot even rent a house.” — Viral image on Monday, November 16th, 2015 in posts on the Internet

About this (headline) statement:

Published: Tuesday, November 17th, 2015 at 4:43 p.m.

Researched by: Louis Jacobson

Edited by: Angie Drobnic Holan

Subjects: DiversityReligion

Sources:

Viral graphic, received by PolitiFact Nov. 16, 2015

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, “Websites of Japanese Embassies, Consulates and Permanent Missions,” accessed Nov. 17, 2015

Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet, “The Prime Minister Hosts the Iftar with the Islamic Diplomatic Corps in Japan,” July 16, 2014

Ministry of Justice of Japan, “The Nationality Law,” accessed Nov. 17, 2015

Email interview with Kumiko Yagi, professor at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies Graduate School, Nov. 16, 2015

Email interview with Kamada Shigeru, professor of Islamic studies at the University of Tokyo, Nov. 16, 2015

Email interview with Glenda S. Roberts, professor of cultural anthropology and Japanese studies at the graduate school of Asia-Pacific Studies at Waseda University, Nov. 16, 2015

The article:

Viral graphic says Japan keeps out radical Islam through strong restrictions on Muslims

By Louis Jacobson on Tuesday, November 17th, 2015 at 4:43 p.m.

Amid rising concerns about terrorist attacks by ISIS, we’ve seen an uptick in chain emails and viral images about Islam.

One viral image points to Japan as an example of a country that keeps out radical Islam by cracking down on all forms of Islam and its adherents, implying that this is a good model for the United States to follow.

The graphic is a simple black-and-white block of text with the headline, “Japan keeps Islam at bay by putting restrictions on Islam and all Muslims.” The graphic then mentions a variety of ways in which Japan supposedly keeps tight control over the Muslims in its midst:

  • “Japan is the only nation that does not give citizenship to Muslims”

  • “Permanent residency is not given to Muslims”

  • “Propagation of Islam in Japan is banned”

  • “In the University of Japan, Arabic or any Islamic language is not taught”

  • “Japan is the only country in the world with a negligible number of embassies in Islamic countries”

  • “One cannot import a ‘Koran’ published in the Arabic language”

  • “Muslims must follow Japanese law and language”.

  • “The Japanese government is of the opinion that Muslims are fundamentalist, and unwilling to change their Muslim laws”

  • “Muslims cannot even rent a house in Japan”

  • “There is no sharia law in Japan”

We wondered whether the graphic is accurate. To streamline our analysis, we focused mostly on these four claims — that in Japan, “permanent residency is not given to Muslims,” the “propagation of Islam” is banned, “one cannot import a Koran published in the Arabic language,” and “Muslims cannot even rent a house.”

We heard back from three experts who have experience with the intersection of Japan and Islam, and all three said the graphic is blatantly incorrect.

“The chain email is nothing but malicious falsehood,” said Kumiko Yagi, a professor at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies Graduate School who has written extensively about Islam and other religions.

Kamada Shigeru, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Tokyo, agreed, saying that all four of the claims we spotlighted are wrong.

He said Japan doesn’t discriminate in permanent residency on the basis of religion and that “propagation” of Islam is not banned. He added that the Koran or other religious books in Arabic can be imported.

As for renting a residence, he said there may be some reluctance among residents of Japan to rent apartments to foreigners as a general rule, but he said there’s no specific animus toward Muslims.

These four claims “are totally unfounded,” said Glenda S. Roberts, a professor of cultural anthropology and Japanese studies at the graduate school of Asia-Pacific Studies at Waseda University in Tokyo. “It is disturbing that such an email is circulating,” she added. “These claims are simply ridiculous.”

Other claims in the graphic are easily debunked.

For instance, the graphic claims that “Japan is the only country in the world with a negligible number of embassies in Islamic countries.” Yet a quick visit to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website shows that Japan has embassies in such countries as Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen, plus a permanent representative to the Palestinian Authority.

Meanwhile, there is nothing in Japanese nationality law that prevents Muslims from becoming naturalized citizens. The requirements concern length of residency, age, a history of “upright conduct,” the ability to support oneself and a willingness to give up other nationalities. There is no mention of religion.

As for universities not teaching Arabic, we found that the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies does. Classes in Arabic are also taught at the Arabic Islamic Institute in Tokyo.

Last year, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made clear Japan’s respect for people of the Islamic faith during an event with the Islamic diplomatic corps.

“I have found that a fundamental aspect of the spirit of Islam is harmony with and love for others,” Abe said. “I believe therein lie points of commonality with the Japanese spirit, which is founded on co-existence.”

The graphic says that in Japan, “permanent residency is not given to Muslims,” the “propagation of Islam” is banned, “one cannot import a Koran published in the Arabic language,” and “Muslims cannot even rent a house.”

Each of these four statements is incorrect, and the overall point of the graphic — that Japan keeps itself free from radical Islam by discriminating against all Muslims — is dramatically off-base. We rate these claims Pants on Fire.   -END-

Appendix 2 (A video debunking the info in the viral image – by a young non-Muslim lady)

“Japan is NOT anti-Muslim”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkoblxzVjfA

Appendix 3 (Just 15 of the numerous Youtube videos about Japanese Muslims and Japanese-Muslim relationship)

1.    “Meeting the Muslim in Japan (With English subtitle)”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFlDorHeYUs

  1. “Muslims Vs Japanese – Inside Lens – NHK WORLD – JAPAN NEWS”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UoXkTG7YBIw

  1. “Japanese and Islam (Explained by convert Shimoyama)”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URclZuaho8M&t=61s

4a) “Rise of Islam in Japan ♥ Part 1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Hwek17-qE0

4b) “Rise of Islam in Japan ♥ Part 2

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGL5e1U2qrI

  1. “Very Emotional Converts to Islam Japan”

www.youtube.com/watch?v=krQ5qsfDh8o

  1. “Japanese Islamic Marriage in Tokyo Camii”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnUCQXSpbCQ

  1. Japan getting ready for Muslim tourists”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvq59F6SSNk&t=54s

  1. “Being Muslim in Japan”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmSr_HfAdvI&t=244s

  1. “Muslims In Japanese Society”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Omtr04Kbyvc&t=215s

  1. “Bridging Muslims and Japanese – Inside Lens – NHK WORLD”

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6sTQ2DW5SU

  1. “Japanese listening to the Qu’ran for the first time”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xkf2gj-47wg

  1. Japanese Man Journey To Islam

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hc6ADbQQmhQ

  1. Japanese Adhan / Azan Jepun (Muslim Brotherhood)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDDqBFYOa_A&feature=youtu.be
  2. Japanese Style Qasidah Burdah – Nasheed by Sh. Ahmad Abu Hakeem Maeno 

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUN2kNE4I7M&feature=youtu.be

  3. Sheikh Yusuf Estes in Tokyo, Japan – October 2012

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tqh5UEU7QkQ&feature=youtu.be

  *  **  *  **  *

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Saving one life is like saving the whole mankind

Saving one life is like saving the whole mankind

(Reproduced from author’s own article published in The Muslim Reader of 33 Issue 2015-2016)

(1)Front cover of The Muslim Converts’ Association of Singapore’s biannual magazine, “The Muslim Reader (TMR), 33 Issue 2015-2016. (2)	Title page of Shaik Kadir’s article in TMR on Page 76.

(1) Front cover of The Muslim Converts’ Association of Singapore’s biannual magazine, “The Muslim Reader (TMR), 33 Issue 2015-2016.
(2) Title page of Shaik Kadir’s article in TMR on Page 76.

First page of the article on Page 77 of TMR

First page of the article on Page 77 of TMR

The saving of even one human being life from death is like saving the whole mankind.  This is the message of Islam.

The essence of Islam is believing in God and doing righteousness.  And saving of lives of human beings or animals is an act of righteousness.  In fact, the instruction to do righteous acts is a thread that runs through all religions.  Indeed, according to the Islamic faith, Islam is the zenith of the divine or revealed teachings (of all the prophets down the ages) that started from Prophet Adam (AS), the first prophet of God, and completed by Prophet Muhammad, the final prophet. Between these two prophets there were hundreds of other prophets of God sent to all nations and tribes with every one of them giving the same fundamental Islamic instruction: Serve God and be righteous.  With the completion of the way of life for all mankind, comes Islam, the divine name as given by God in the Qur’an.  Islam, in its core, means peace.  When a person observes Islam seriously, his life will be at peace, his actions will motivate righteousness and his environment will stimulate harmony.

In Islam, torturing or killing of animals for entertainment or sports, like in cock-fight, bull-fight and rodeos as well as cruelty to animals in whatever way, like depriving them of food or keeping them in a small and confined place, are haram (prohibited).  No animal ought to be abused for fun or killed for entertainment.  In Islam, even when one kills a permitted animal for food, the animal must be killed in the Islamic way (without making the animal suffer or go through fright and pain) for the meat to be deemed halal (permitted for consumption).

Islam considers all life forms as sacred but the life of human beings is even more precious.  Thus, the killing of any human being, except by the decision of the court of law of the country concerned, is a hideous act; it is un-Islamic and is a crime.

The killing of an innocent person by a member of the public or by people of any group, is often carried out, in its core, due to societal or political animosity and vengeance or religious hate or misguidance; and is not based on the teachings of a religion.  In this respect, if a person who called himself a Muslim and killed any human being, Muslim or a non-Muslim, by any method, he ought to be condemned as a murderer and due punishment by the law of the country meted out to him when arrested. God says: “If any one kills a person, it would be as if he had killed the whole mankind…” (Al-Maida, 05:32)

There have been many reported killings by people who call themselves Muslims.  Many of them kill innocent people, both Muslims and non-Muslims, in the name of Islam.  These so-called Muslims who killed innocent people in public places and even during their prayers in churches and mosques had clearly gone against the basic rules of Islam.  The Qur’an instructs: “Take not life, which God has made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus does He (God) command you, that you may learn wisdom.” (Al-An’am, 06:151)

In Islam, the sanctity of human life is so special and sacred that the Qur’an gives a vivid emphasis, thus: “If any one kills a person, it would be as if he had killed the whole mankind: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole mankind.”  (Al-Maida, 05:32)

First page of the article on Page 78 of TMR

Second page of the article on Page 78 of TMR

Violence is against Islam – because in a violent situation, people, both the perpetrators and the innocent bystanders, would be hurt or killed. The living condition of their family members of both sides would also suffer.

Islam wants Muslims to show restraint, patience, fortitude and piety in the face of provocation and humiliation.  This is evident from the moral character of our Prophet, Prophet Muhammad (SAW).  He was a living exponent of the Qur’an.  Indeed he showed restraint, courage, patience, fortitude and piety when people insulted and humiliated him.

Despite all the provocations and insults, our Prophet (SAW)never retaliated the provokers; instead he advised his followers, who were ready to die to defend his honour, to restrain and be patient. Our Prophet (SAW) was abused and even physically attacked.  He was stoned and he bled.  But he and his followers, though angry, did not retaliate.

Islamic teachings advocate the saving of lives and the Prophet (SAW) had to restrain to be an exemplar to his followers, himself following what he had been sent to teach: Save lives.  He was sent as a mercy to all mankind (Rahmahtul-Alameen) and not restrictive to Muslims only.

So, what happened to our Prophet (SAW) and Islam for observing and fortifying the principle of restraint and patience to save lives?  Our Prophet (SAW) became victorious, his followers increased and Islam flourished – all in a period of 10 short years during his stay in Medina after being driven away from Mecca, the city of his birth and growth.

A decade later, when the Prophet (SAW) re-entered Mecca with 10,000 followers, he could have easily demolish his enemies but he did not.  His bitter enemy, Abu Sufyan, was spared.  Abu Sufyan’s wife, Hindon, had engaged an assassin to kill the Prophet’s beloved uncle, Hamza, and when he was killed, Hindon even cut open the deceased’s chest and pulled out his heart and abused it. Still, the Prophet (SAW) saved her life.  The lives of many others who had a hand in driving away the Prophet (SAW) from Mecca and who had humiliated and provoked him and killed his followers were all saved.

What happened to Mecca?  Mecca and the whole of Arabia became Muslim within 15 years of the passing of the Prophet (SAW).

Muslims, from any part of the world need to follow the moral example set by our Prophet (SAW).  Indeed more and more unbiased people are embracing Islam through the efforts of Muslims in portraying Islam through admirable behaviour, conduct and speech.  Insulting and demeaning religious founders, especially by educated people, is highly deplorable.  In the case of Muslims, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is near and dear to them. Insulting and demeaning the Prophet (SAW) would certainly anger Muslims.  But Muslims ought to emulate the character of their beloved Prophet in observing restraint and patience.

Muslims need to do their part to portray a good image of Muslims and the beauty of Islam indirectly through good behaviour, conduct and speech and directly through inter-faith dialogues and forums and through writings from organisations and individuals.

Third page of the article on Page 79 of TMR

Third page of the article on Page 79 of TMR

Also, what both Muslims and non-Muslims should seriously begin to act upon as from now is to take the recent the incidents in Paris, Syria and North Carolina as lessons and banish hate, prejudice, bigotry, ignorance, provocation, vengeance and intolerance from their hearts and souls, and instead come forward to establish rapport and bonding with one and all and learn from each other’s way of life for enrichment and appreciation.

God, addressing all people of whatever race or religion, says:  “O mankind! We created you from (a single pair of) a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that you may despise each other). Verily, the most honoured of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you.”  (Al-Hujurat, 49:13)

There are black sheep among people of every religion; but the good ones are certainly overwhelming in number.  So, we must not let the handful of the bad people hijack the religion and the good people.  Islamophobia needs to be ousted.  Indeed, there are many broad-minded non-Muslims who understand Islamic practices and principles lend support to Muslim aspirations.

With understanding and tolerance, we can make the earth a safe place to live and dwell for our children and future generations. Save lives, and promote humanity and humanitarian endeavours to build a harmonious and peaceful world. Perhaps some countries need to take a leaf from the success of Singapore in maintaining peace, harmony and togetherness among its multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural citizens, where freedom of speech does not mean that anyone can poke fun or ridicule other religions or religious founders and leaders, where freedom in their religious and cultural practices are allowed and where possession of fire-arms are outlawed.

As for Muslims in general, they have a great deal of self- improvement and development to do to observe righteousness. The Straits Times (13 February 2015) in its subsequent report of the Chapel Hill (North Carolina) incident mentions that Mr Farris Barakat hoped that the murder of his brother would not be retaliated with further violence.  He said: “Do not fight fire with fire…do not let ignorance propagate in your life, do not reply ignorance with ignorance.”

Islam instructs all people: Do not kill but save lives: “…if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole mankind.”  (Al-Maida, 05:32)

*  **  *  **  *

Shaik Kadir

(Reproduced from author’s own article published in The Muslim Reader of 33 Issue 2015-2016)

5 February 2017

 

 

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“My school uniform”

“My school uniform”

A week before I started school on 2 January 2017, my parents made me wear my school uniform just to make me feel how nice it would look on me and to get me used to it.  They want me to start my childhood by socialising with different racial and religious communities of Singapore.

My name is Nur Iffah Muhammad Imran. I am two and a half years old in January, and the school, Sparkle Tots Preschool, is in Bedok North. My class is Nursery 1, a daily two-hour play-group class with15 multi-racial children.

My first day at school began from my paternal grandparent’s home. I call my grandmother “Nani” and my grandfather “Atuk”.

Both Nani and Atuk have given me lots of school-life encouragement. They made me feel that school-life is interesting, saying I would have many friends, have many toys to play, play games with the teachers and learn many things.

MY FIRST DAY

Since I was six months old, Mommy and Daddy have been sending me to Atuk’s home at around 6:15 in the morning on weekdays and then go to work. They fetched me home around 7 pm after having dinner at Atuk and Nani’s home.

I was excited on my first day of school. As my school starts at 10 in the morning, at about 8:45 am Nani bathed me and put on my school uniform.  I didn’t like the white and red uniform.  My favourite colour has always been pink. I made fun of it at first. Below are some photos of me in my uniform.

At first, I disliked my school uniform. Uh! Red and white. My favourite colour is pink.

I don’t like my school uniform. Uh! Red and white. My favourite colour is pink. Ha! Ha! Terrible colours!  The red makes me dizzy!

I maee fun of the uniform by running around in a circle in different poses.

I make fun of the uniform by running around in a circle in different poses.

But, a few minutes later I began to like my uniform.  The colours are like that of the Singapore’s flag – the white colour stands for purity and virtue while the red stands for brotherhood and the equality of man.

Soon, I like it. Ah, red and white are colours of Singapore’s flag. I am proud of wearing it now.

Suddenly, I realised.  Ah, red and white are the colours of my Singapore’s flag. I am proud of wearing the uniform now.  The colours match strikingly with my blue schoolbag.

That morning Mommy was able to take a few hours off her work and so she came back from her school to take me, Atuk and Nani to my school. Daddy was unable to get leave.  But he has given me lots of kisses early that morning.

Today (2 January 2017) is going to be my first day at school. My Nani, Atuk and Mommy are going to send me to school. I am ready but I am a bit nervous – I sat with my Nani, walked around and wrote something while waiting for my Mommy to arrive.

Today (2 January 2017) is going to be my first day at school. My Nani, Atuk and Mommy are going to send me to school. I am ready but I am a bit nervous – I sat with my Nani in the balcony, walked around and scribbled something while waiting for my Mommy to arrive.

MY CLASSROOM

I entered my classroom with some unease and held my Mommy’s hand tightly. Atuk and Nani too came into the classroom. Since it was the first day, parents, grandparents and guardians were allowed in, and our two teachers, Teacher Casey and Teacher Pauline, talked about our school matters to them while many of us, seeing the numerous play-things in the room, excitedly walked around touching and lifting this and that.

My first experience in a school. My Mommy, my Nani and my Atuk are all in the classroom to support and give confidence to me in my formal educational journey.

My first experience in a school. My Mommy, my Nani and my Atuk are all in the classroom to support and give confidence to me in my formal educational journey.

While Teacher Casey and Teacher Pauline talked to parents and guardians of the children, we children busied ourselves with the many playthings around us.

While Teacher Casey and Teacher Pauline talked to the parents, grandparents and guardians of the children, we children busied ourselves with the many playthings around us.

Soon, our first day ended and we were happy.  I love school. There so many things to play. And I shall make friends with the other children. But for today, my first day, I want to go home.

After the first day session, I posed for photos just outside my classroom with my Atuk, Mommy and Nani who were so happy to see me happy.

After the first day session, I posed for photos just outside my classroom with my Atuk, Mommy and Nani who were so happy to see me happy.

We were also happy throughout the week because only one acquainted person of every child, usually a parent or a grandparent, was allowed to be with us in the classroom while our teachers sang nursery rhymes and danced with us.  In my case, while both Nani and Atuk took me to school but only Nani was with me in the classroom. Atuk stood and loitered outside, occasionally peering from the open windows to make sure I was alright.

Over the next few days Teacher Pauline (left) Teacher Casey played with us. They even taught us to play the choo-choo train game.

Over the next few days Teacher Pauline (left) and Teacher Casey played with us. They even taught us to play the choo-choo train game.

In another Nursery Rhyme game, Teacher Casey “fell” and I quickly rushed to help her. And then two other children came to help her.

In another Nursery Rhyme singing game, Teacher Casey “fell” at the end of the song and I quickly rushed to help her. And then two other children came to help her, too.  We enjoyed the game.

The real anxiety began in the second and third week when the parent, grandparent or guardian were told to leave the classroom slowly after about an hour. Of course, many of the children wailed and cried. I sobbed, crying “Nak Nani, nak Nani” (I want Nani, I want Nani) and pointing my hand in the direction of the door but my teachers consoled me.

I looked glad that the ordeal of the day was over and my loves ones were there to take me home.

From the second day onwards, Atuk and Nana took me to school and back. For memory, photos of me were taken even at the bus-stop and in the bus.

From the second day onwards, Atuk and Nani took me to school and back. For memory, photos of me were taken even at the bus-stop and in the bus.

My paternal relatives meet me regularly. Once, Nani Nab (first photo) came to my school and we went home together and at another time, Nani Mah came. But every day, I would be with my paternal grandmother, “Nani”. Once, I even met up with Aunty Denise (photo at extreme right) who would come out of her office to hug me when Atuk takes me for a walk in the neighbourhood before going home.

My paternal relatives meet me sometimes. Once, Nani Nab (first photo) came to my school and we went home together and at another time, Nani Mah (second photo) came. But every day, I would be with my paternal grandmother, “Nani”. Once, I even met up with Aunty Denise (photo at extreme right) who would come out of her office to hug me when Atuk takes me for a walk in the neighbourhood before going home.

Atuk used to take me to the playground near his block every day before I started schooling, but one day in mid-January, he took me there for me to me recall the place.

Atuk used to take me to the playground near his block everyday before I started schooling, but one day in mid-January, he took me there for me to recall the place.

Everyday, at the end of the class, when our parent/grandparent came to fetch us, our teachers hugged us one by one and we bid them goodbye.

MY FRIENDS

By the middle of the third week, a few of my classmates were still, like the previous days, afraid to go into the classroom unaccompanied. They cried, some refused to go in. But our qualified teachers were firm and took charge of us. But, I made friends.  Now I have many friends.

With my classmates Hazel, Elydia and Kaeden...

With my classmates Hazel, Elydia and Kaeden…

With my classmates Elise, Li Xin and Lutfi…

With my classmates Elise, Li Xin and Lutfi…

With my classmates Anshika, Anisah and Bandi…

With my classmates Anshika, Anisah and Bandi…

MY TEACHERS

I was no longer scared, but I was tensed when Nani left me to wait for me outside the classroom. The windows were closed so no parent/grandparent distracted our attention while we were with our teachers.  Most of the wailing and sobbing children slowly calmed down with the close attention of our teachers.

On the last couple of days of the third week, I did not cry at all.  I have developed confidence to be on my own.  Thanks to my teachers for their care and love of us. That made me confident of myself. They are wonderful. Both my teachers gave the thumbs up to Nani and Atuk when they came to the door to fetch me.

Everyday, at the end of the class, when our parent/grandparent came to fetch us, our teachers hugged us one by one and we bid them goodbye.  I love my teachers.

Everyday, at the end of the 2-hour class, Teacher Pauline (left) and Teacher Casey gives each us a loving hug as we leave the classroom. I am not afraid because my Nani and Atuk waited outside to fetch me. I have stuck a photo of my Daddy, Mommy, Nani and Atuk on the wall.

Everyday, at the end of the 2-hour class, Teacher Pauline (left) and Teacher Casey give each us a loving hug as we leave the classroom.  I have stuck a photo of my Daddy, Mommy, Nani and Atuk on the wall to remember them.  But,  I am not afraid of school any more. My teachers are always there, ready to help us. They love us.

CHINESE NEW YEAR CELEBRATIONS

The end of January was a time for joy as students all over Singapore celebrated the Chinese New Year (CNY) on its eve. We too celebrated. There was no need to wear our uniform and many of us came to school in “red”, the auspicious colour of the Chinese New Year custom, many wearing red Chinese attire.  I was wearing a dark blue Chinese attire. We had lots of fun.  We wished our teachers a very Happy New Year.

With two of my classmates, my Nani and my maternal grandparents... My paternal Atuk is unable to join us children for the Chinese New Year celebrations because he had injured his toe badly and it is bandaged.

With two of my classmates, my Nani and my maternal grandparents… My paternal Atuk is unable to join us  for the Chinese New Year celebrations because he had injured his toe badly and it is bandaged.

At the nearby amphitheatre, the children get ready to make their presentations. Most of us wore Chinese attire, many in red colour.

At the nearby amphitheatre, the children get ready to make their presentations. Most of us wore Chinese attire, many in red colour.

Parents/guardians are always around to comfort and encourage us.

Some of the parents are always around to comfort and encourage us to participate in the CNY celebrations..

My Mommy and I are waiting for my turn to go on stage.

My Mommy and I are waiting for my turn to go on stage.

Soon, I and some of my classmates made our presentations, a lively song-dance item.

Soon, I and some of my classmates went up the stage and made our presentation, a lively song-dance item. I performed well. I enjoyed my first public performance.

BACK TO SCHOOL

After the long Chinese New Year holiday weekend, school resumed today (1 February 2017), exactly a month from the day I first stepped into the classroom. It is fun to go back to school.

I’m back to school on 1 February, after enjoying my long Chinese New Year holidays. Atuk is not able to send me to school because of his foot injury, so I gave my salam to him. Nani took me to school and I waved and threw kisses at Atuk from the lift. Ta-daa! Some half hour later, I’m in front of the school door already. Yes, I am happy to go to school. I love my school. I love my teachers.

I’m back in school on 1 February, after enjoying my long Chinese New Year holidays. Atuk is not able to send me to school because of his foot injury, so I gave my salam to him. Nani took me to school and I waved and threw kisses at Atuk from the lift. Ta-daa! Some half hour later, I’m in front of the school door already. Yes, I am happy to go to school. I love my school. I love my teachers.

I love my school uniform, my very first school uniform, and look forward to wearing many other school uniforms along the long journey of my school life.  Insya-Allah.

Nur Iffah Muhammad Imran

(Transposed by Atuk Shaik Kadir)

1 February 2017

 

 

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