Political leaders in positions of power have the privilege and the platform to chime in on matters concerning the community with the hope of reining in the outrage before it escalates into something worse.
Various Malay community leaders and former MPs gave their views on the matter when approached
Mr Zainal Sapari, former MP for Pasir Ris–Punggol Group Representation Constituency (GRC), said that he would not frame the recent incident as a case of racism.
“I believe PA is true in its cause of promoting racial harmony and social cohesion,” the former PA grassroots adviser said.
“Despite their best efforts, such incidents do happen and will happen again in future, but I would not frame it as racism.”
He also hopes that this incident “does not dampen the spirit of many volunteers who want to serve the community, but may make some bad judgement calls unintentionally”.
“We should just apologise, learn from it and move on,” he added.
Mr Zainul Abidin Rasheed, former Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said that the reactions to the incident should be one of understanding rather than taking on an accusatory tone.
“We need to continue to learn from each other — how do we appreciate each other’s cultures and differences and bring about better understanding and harmony — rather than to start pointing fingers,” the former Aljunied GRC MP said.
Mr Mohamed Imran Mohamed Taib, an interfaith activist and founding board member of the Centre for Interfaith Understanding, said that racism cannot just be confined to an act of an individual or a particular incident.
He said in a Facebook post on Tuesday — which he confirmed with TODAY was a response to the PA incident — that racism is a “structure, and a system of thinking and doing, that can manifest in an individual, group or social organisation through a style of thinking, speech and communication, law and policy, and physical action”.
“One has to go to the root source and identify what makes the individual think, say and act in a particular way,” he said in the post.
“Doing so would bring us to a point where we say it is not his, her, their or my problem, but it is our problem; that there is something wrong in the way we organise society.”
When asked to elaborate on his post, Mr Imran told TODAY that given the sensitivity of the issues concerning racism, we “must learn not to rush into saying that something is racist or not”.
He said that racism is experienced at the “everyday level” and one should be careful not to dismiss and invalidate the experiences of racism, especially among minorities.
“Instead, we must learn to ask ourselves what racism looks like, especially to those who are at the receiving end... Racism feels real, even if we don’t believe so.”
Mr Hazni Aris Hazam Aris, vice-chairman of AMP Singapore, a non-profit group serving the Muslim community, said that there needs to be a “paradigm shift” in how inter-racial relations are approached and understood.
“The types of conversations on race must progress beyond festivals and clothes, and move into understanding values and worldviews that shape how members of a race thinks or behaves.”