Multiracial lunch on Prophet's birthday

Multiracial lunch on Prophet's birthday
Lines for the food started forming as early as 9am. Those who attended tucked into chicken briyani, Malay kuih and banana.

MORE than a half a century ago, as a small boy, Mr Anwardeen Sulaimen went with his father to watch the procession to mark Prophet Muhammad's birthday.

But instead of watching a peaceful ceremony, the religious occasion in 1964 turned into one of Singapore's worst riots and left 23 people dead and 454 injured.

"The Malays and Chinese starting fighting and cars parked along the roads were overturned," said Mr Anwardeen, 59, a vegetable seller.

Yesterday, he was able to celebrate the occasion with a happy meal, eating alongside his friends of other faiths at Geylang Serai.

Six thousand people turned up for the annual event, organised by the Pasar Geylang Serai Merchants' Association, aimed at promoting inter-ethnic understanding and religious harmony.

The event, which is into its 13th year, was attended not just by Muslims but also Chinese and Indians of other faiths.

Lines for the food started forming as early as 9am. People tucked into chicken briyani, Malay kuih and banana, a meal that was sponsored by stallholders at the market.

Manpower and Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin and Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Zaqy Mohamad also attended the lunch to celebrate with the community.

Marine Parade resident Willie Why Kam Lai, 77, gathered about 20 of his friends to attend the lunch together.

"After the riots that year, our Government really put in effort to ensure it doesn't happen again. My neighbours are Malays and I can speak Malay," said Mr Why.

"When I organise karaoke sessions for my friends, I would also invite my Malay friends and make sure there are Malay songs."

The lunch was part of a three-day event which cost about $27,000 and is part of the SG50 celebrations, said Mr Rahmat Sawie, 61, secretary of Pasar Geylang Serai Merchants' Association.

This article was first published on Apr 13, 2015.
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