Building ties at briyani charity cookout

Racial and religious harmony are fundamental building blocks for Singapore's future, a point stressed by President Tony Tan Keng Yam yesterday at an event where different segments of society came together to do their bit for the less well-off.

As part of The President's Challenge Charity Briyani, all the 69 mosques here sold a total of nearly 5,000 packets of the saffron-coloured rice dish.

Each pack cost $10, and organisers aim to raise $100,000 in total, including donations from corporate sponsors and a Friday collection in mosques on May 27.

The briyani - made with 900kg of rice - was prepared by Mr Alla'udin Mohamed, 63, chairman of Khalid Mosque in Joo Chiat, along with almost 80 volunteers, including six Bangladeshi workers.

The food was then sent to other mosques for collection.

At the event, Dr Tan and his wife, Mrs Mary Tan, added finishing touches of rose water and cashew nuts, among other ingredients, to a pot of briyani, and helped to stir another pot of the fragrant dish.

He said: "I think (an event like this) strengthens our Singapore society and builds a network of trust, which is so important today, if you see the events going on around the world."

The President's Challenge is an annual campaign with events that raise funds for charity.

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim, who was also at the event organised in collaboration with the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), added: "The fact that we have people from different backgrounds, different races, different nationalities coming together shows the significance of the event."

In the light of recent experiences, "we have to show the rest of the world that Singapore can stand tall together, with people of other backgrounds and other races, to do something that is good for everyone", he added.

Last week, the Ministry of Home Affairs said eight Bangladeshi workers who were planning to stage terror attacks back home had been detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) last month.

This marked the first ISA detentions involving a terror cell of foreign workers.

Also present at yesterday's event were beneficiaries, both Muslim and non-Muslim, from the Ren Ci Nursing Home and Ain Society.

The Charity Briyani is now in its 16th year.

Mr Alla'udin, who has cooked in each edition, first learnt to prepare briyani at Khalid Mosque when he was in his 20s, watching as it was being prepared.

This year, the food preparations started on Friday afternoon.

Said Mr Alla'udin of the event, which has seen more corporate partners joining over the years: "We are very lucky.

"We have non-Muslim partners to come together with us and celebrate our cause for the nation.

"We are breaking all walls, rebuilding bridges."

This article was first published on May 8, 2016.
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