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Rahil Ismail
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Qalam was a monthly periodic publication written in Jawi, the Arabic writing system modified for the Malay language. It was printed in Singapore between 1950 and 1969 and the magazine stayed dedicated to its beginnings of lettering in Jawi troughought its history of publication even though numerous Malay newspapers and magazines in Singapore started Romanising their text1. The editors and publishers of Qalam were so resolute in the inscription of the periodical in Jawi that even distinctive Western and European names like Isaac Newton, Oxford and Aristotle, were forcibly connoted and written in Jawi. This exclusiveness and resoluteness appealed to intelligentsia proficient in Jawi and the writers to this magazine offered alternate insights of local and international incidents to the Singapore Malay Muslim population.2 This academic writing focuses on the portrayals and perspectives of this magazine, using the Maria Hertogh incident3 as a case study.

Comprehensively, this paper will extant briefly the main narratives presented by other papers in Singapore which were in circulation in the 1950s that covered the Maria Hertogh incident for instance the Dawn and the Melayu Raya. It will then dissect the alternate and contrasting narratives presented by the Qalam magazine in reporting the Maria Hertogh incident with the hope that it will give a more nuanced perspective than the ones written in the current dominant national histories.

This analytical exercise of the Qalam magazine’s perspective on the Maria Hertogh incident will suggest that Qalam reported strategically a bottom-up narrative of the incident, facilitating in humanizing the event to gain public support in the controversy. Through careful contextual and analytical understanding and interpretation of the Islamic faith and teachings, it also attempted to balance and represent the view of the Malay Muslims with the perceptions of non-Muslims. Qalam also stressed Islamic solidarity across the political and ethnic boundaries but posited a stance that was not too radical, as they tried to navigate the position of Muslims in the process of the emergence of the new public sphere in Singapore, accepting the existing multicultural social order.

During the supposed “free for all”4 state of the Singapore press in the 1950s, Qalam can be seen as a monthly periodical which was non-reactive and detached from imprudence, a journalistic quality lost in today’s reporting in social media. Conceivably then, in the present background of religious extremism and damaging focus it has on Islam, this exercise can offer a perspective on how community-specific publications can help educate, review and redistribute the narratives of current events to help readers contextualise the events within the sensitivities of their religious principles.
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DS610.6 Muh
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Appears in Collections:Bachelor of Arts

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