Muslims saying Friday prayers in the heat of CNY Day 1 is what S'pore is all about

Takes an outsider to help us see and appreciate what we have better.

Jeanette Tan | February 17, 2018, 02:27 PM

We all know this, and often take it for granted: Singapore can be a unicorn in a world filled with instability.

And sometimes, reminders of this from the authorities can get a bit grating and propagandistic.

But once in a while, it takes an authentic experience from a newcomer to our country to truly hit home.

Take that of Jon Paul Dante, for instance.

He's an American from Boston who has since May 2013 been the Section Principal Trumpet at the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.

According to his website, he also teaches at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music.

Dante took to Facebook on Friday, Feb. 16, the first day of the Lunar New Year, with a reflective post and a powerful photo of a group of Muslims carrying out their Friday afternoon prayers.

Here's the photo:

Photo via Jon Dante's Facebook post

Based on geotags we looked at on Instagram, it appears to be taken near the Darul Makmur Mosque in Yishun.

In this photo, you can see more than 100 Muslim men (look closely behind the tree cover, you can see more of them) seated in rows on what look like prayer mats spread out on a running track nearby.

According to Dante's description, these folks were praying below "apartments where joyous Chinese New Year celebrations are taking place throughout Singapore".


And this is a common sight -- frequently, especially in the vicinity of mosques, one will find folks spilling out to the outside area to participate in Friday prayers, even in town:

Photo by Jeanette Tan

But as we said, sometimes, it takes an outsider's perspective to show us the things that really matter.

Here's the text of his reflection, in case you can't see the Facebook post below:

"Malay Muslims at Friday prayer time just below apartments where joyous Chinese New Year celebrations are taking place throughout Singapore.

Once again, I have conflicting emotions of humility and immense gratitude for where I am so lucky to be living in the world right now, versus a deep feeling of disgust and heartbreak for the country from which I am from.

After all, America is supposed to be a country of immigrants; multiracial and multicultural where everyone is living in harmony.

America is supposed to support freedom of religion.

America is supposed to be the place where, with hard work, you can make your dreams come true.

America is supposed to be the place where mutual respect and compassion for one another is fundamental.

America is supposed to be where the government is supposed to be elected for the people by the people.

America is where anyone from anywhere is supposed to feel safe.

America is where I grew up being taught to love my brothers and sisters regardless of race, color or Creed.

America was where I was taught to say 'please' & 'thank you'

America was a place where people held doors for one another, and young people were taught to respect their elders.

Sadly, it doesn't appear to be any of these things anymore.

But yet, here I am in Singapore, exactly half a world away from America, experiencing all of these things on a daily basis. Everyday, Singapore is putting on a racial & religious integration masterclass for the whole world to see.

Singapore. A country only 446 square miles (1/4 the size of Rhode Island) with nearly 6 million people of all ethnicities and religions living and working peacefully side by side. And with zero gun and drug crime due to zero tolerance enforcement policies and mandatory death penalties for first offenders.

In Singapore, a place that I ended up living in nearly completely by accident, I am honestly living my dreams, both on and offstage.

I believe I may be the luckiest man on earth.

Thank you Singapore. ❤"

Speaking to Mothership, Dante said he was blown away by the impact his reflection has made, and feels humbled and joyful that it resonates with the number of people that it has.

"I'm heartbroken to say this, but if I could trade my American passport for a Singaporean passport, I would do it in a heartbeat."

Here's his Facebook post:

Naise. And thank you, Jon.

Top photo via Jon Dante's Facebook post