SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday that the Malay-Muslim community has done well in Singapore's merit-based system and without affirmative action.
Speaking to 500 Muslim professionals at the Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) convention, he said the community has done well overall despite problems such as drug abuse and a fall in home ownership rates in the last decade due to families suffering financial difficulties and break-ups, The Straits Times reported.
Higher household incomes, more young Malays entering tertiary institutions and fewer dropping out of school are among some accomplishments the community has achieved.
Not many communities in the world have made such progress, he said.
In his speech, Mr Lee also addressed a longstanding concern of how the Malay-Muslim community is faring relative to other communities.
The AMP had highlighted in a report released yesterday some worrying trends, such as the decline in personal median income among Malays in the last decade while incomes for other groups went up.
Mr Lee said it was better to concentrate on doing one's best and aim for steady growth rather than focus on the difference between the Malay community and the other communities as it "is a moving target".
The Prime Minister also gave his views on AMP's plan to set up a community forum aimed at repositioning Malay-Muslim organisations into groups that "engage a national, inter-ethnic, issue-oriented agenda".
While acknowledging AMP's belief that issues affecting Malay Muslims cut across communties and are national issues, he urged the AMP and other Malay Muslim organisations to "have a care if venturing into civil society issues which are not primarily to do with the Malay-Muslim community".
It may then lose focus on its primary task - tackling social and economic issues in the Malay Muslim community and improve the well-being of the community, he said.
He also reminded his audience that in Singapore, "we try very hard not to debate our national issues along ethnic issues".