The month of Ramadan is a special time for Muslims – one where they cleanse their spirits through prayer, and also bodies by fasting during daylight hours.
And for the large group of Singapore’s migrant workers who are pious Muslims, that usually means working outdoors, toiling through the rain and shine, without so much as a drink of water throughout the day.
Knowing this, members of Singapore’s Sikh community recently held Langar, a vegetarian community kitchen at a Gurdwara (a Sikh temple), for the underappreciated migrant workers.
In a heartwarming Facebook post by Noor Mastura, she noted how her friend Mae* had gathered a group of some 30 volunteers from the Sikh community and beyond, and brought everyone together to make it a special evening for some 100 migrant workers from nearby construction sites and dormitories.
Speaking to The Pride, Noor recalled: “I arrived at Gurudwara Sahib Katong at around 4pm and there were already volunteers scuttling about preparing food like dal, chapati, and desserts for the workers’ iftar (the time when Muslims break their fast).”
While interfaith harmony is a familiar concept to most Singaporeans, there was one particular moment that tugged at Noor’s heartstrings.
At 7.14pm, the Muslim call to prayer rang loud and clear throughout the temple, stopping Noor in her tracks. As a Muslim herself, she worried that it could offend the Sikhs to have the workers hold Muslim prayers in their place of worship.
Her concerns were quickly quelled, as a temple personnel explained that it was “not at all” a problem.
Adding further to her surprise, she was touched to see that the Sikh community present had all stood up and remained completely still, showing their utmost respect for and solidarity with their Muslim guests.
She later found out that it was Mae who had brought the speakers to broadcast the call to prayer so as to ensure the workers didn’t miss the time to pray.
“I’m getting a little teary-eyed speaking about this because it was the way they (the Sikh community) manifested their respect for someone else’s religion,” Noor recalls.
The volunteers went to great lengths to ensure that the workers would feel welcome. Working together, they kept the hot chapatis coming, and even headed out to buy extra traditional tea so that the workers could have a taste of home.
In response, the workers were grateful for the hospitality, but they were not the only ones who came away from the event with fresh perspectives.
The volunteers, too, came to see these migrant workers in a new light.
She observed: “We were the ones thanking them for their hard work in building this country and they were so shy and humble.
“It made me realise that these men were not used to such kindness and that not enough is being done to show these men that we are equals.”
*We are using an alias as Noor’s friend prefers not to be identified.