Beggars at Kampong Glam harder to spot

Beggars at Kampong Glam harder to spot
A man, who identified himself as Mohd Yussoff, was seen outside Sultan Mosque recently, approaching tourists outside Sultan Mosque at Muscat Street for money.

SINGAPORE - They roam the Kampong Glam district during this Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, preying on tourists outside Sultan Mosque at Muscat Street for money.

But they never stay at one place for long, afraid of being spotted by the authorities.

On three occasions this month, The New Paper spotted at least six beggars, who appeared to be a mix of local men and women and foreigners from as near as Malaysia to faraway Pakistan.

The beggars prowl Arab Street to take advantage of the generosity usually associated with the Ramadan period.

But there are fewer this year and they are more discreet, compared to 10 years ago, when it was normal to see more than 50 beggars waiting outside Sultan mosque.

As one beggar, who identified himself only as Din, told TNP in Malay last Thursday: "I move around a lot as there are police walking around because begging is an offence here."

TNP understands that auxiliary police officers contracted by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) conduct regular patrols in the areas where many beggars have been seen.

Said Mr Din, who was dressed in a black baju kurung and casual shoes: "I've been having problems with my family, so I came here to meet friends and ask for help."

He looked like any devotee making his way to Sultan Mosque for the evening prayer.

But when we met him that day, the Singaporean, who said he is in his 50s and jobless, was outside the mosque approaching tourists, asking them for money and then moving on.

Mr Din refused to say how much he makes a day from begging.

"I am here just to find extra money, as I have no source of income right now. I know what I am doing is wrong, but I need to feed myself."

Dr Ameen Talib, founder of the Kampong Glam Business Association, said these beggars are a common sight during the Ramadan period "because Muslims tend to be generous during this time".

"As such, many people come here to beg and for some, it becomes a worthwhile venture," added the 51-year-old, a former accountancy professor at the National University of Singapore who set up Cafe Le Claire @ Al Majlis in Arab Street in 2001.

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