The Young And The Reformists
Tatler Singapore|September 2021
Meet the 2021 Gen.T honourees who are advocating change in Singapore
Karen Tee

NAZHATH FAHEEMA

Have a Chat, Change the World

Nazhath Faheema, the founder and president of hash.peace, believes that social cohesion starts with the simple act of having genuine, heartfelt dialogues with each other

Earlier this year, a video of a woman hitting a gong loudly and repeatedly while a man conducted a Hindu prayer routine went viral. While many were quick to condemn her for what appeared to be an act of intolerance, social harmony activist Nazhath Faheema has a different take.

“Any situation calls for a deeper analysis. We have a responsibility to go through that process as we cannot just be emotional about it or it becomes more divisive,” says Faheema, the founder and president of hash.peace, a youth-led advocacy group that aims to foster social harmony.

In fact, she suggests that “gong lady” might benefit most from having a friend reach out to her. This act of reaching across the aisle, one conversation at a time, lies at the heart of her advocacy. Inspired by her role as a Muslim Youth Ambassador of Peace, an initiative led by Jamiyah Singapore, she launched hash.peace in 2016. The group aims to contribute to social harmony by sparking conversations and developing relevant programmes.

It starts by talking to each other with genuine good intentions, she says. “It helps to move the needle from tolerance to understanding because you can be tolerant but still carry prejudice. To clear prejudice, you need understanding, which you achieve by talking,” says Faheema, who is currently a postgraduate student at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies pursuing a Master of Science in Asian Studies.

In a recent hash. peace-organized intra-ethnic Zoom conversation on the diversity of the Indian community, for instance, participants began discussing the origins of the term mama shop, which refers to a sundry store in Singapore. While the term is derived from the Tamil word for uncle, maa-ma, it can sometimes take on a derogatory meaning.

“People were having a human-to-human discussion on whether or not this word had an effect on them, and this allowed participants to gain a deeper understanding of each other’s perspectives,” Faheema reflects.

In her personal capacity, she discusses these topics as widely as she can, whether it is via direct messages with individuals on Facebook or via her popular TEDx talks on multiculturalism and inclusivity. She even had the chance to converse with the UK’s Prince Harry when he participated in an iftar meal at the Jamiyah Children’s Home during a visit to Singapore in 2017.

While she is optimistic that fostering dialogue can help to break down barriers, she is realistic that this process takes time—in the case of one of her Facebook exchanges as it can sometimes take months for them to reply to each other. She says, “You need patience, that is the commitment to the work. If you care about it, you have to do it.”

Her hope is that society will evolve so that issues around racial and religious harmony need not always be handled by the law. “Can we not immediately look to the government or the law and can civil society, for example, a collective body of arbitrators or experienced people in society handle them instead? We have grown as a people and have made progress in other ways but if we keep taking an adversarial stance, to me, that’s not progress.”

LIM SI PING

Designing a Tech-enabled Future

Digital designer Lim Si Ping is on a mission to improve urban life through the transformative powers of design and technology

Digital designer Lim Si Ping is a fan of science fiction, not for the escapism, but to gain insights into what the future might look like. After all, what is depicted in these shows has become reality on multiple occasions. For instance, the Star Trek communicator inspired the flip phone, while Stanley Kubrick depicted a chess-playing computer in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey even before such a supercomputer was even invented.

These days, what fires up Lim’s imagination are shows that depict the ethical impact of technology, like how DNA is manipulated in the movie Gattaca. “There are many philosophical questions to consider as we dive into this realm of technology. For instance, when programming artificial intelligence, we have to think about the consequences as well.”

A digital designer at architectural firm Gensler’s digital experience design team, Lim uses technology to create immersive environments with the architects. Based in New York City, her team is currently working on showcasing the capabilities of 5G technology for the greater good at American network operator Verizon’s next-generation Innovation Center in Boston. A case study involves demonstrating how the low latency and high bandwidth of 5G can allow doctors to deliver precise robotic-assisted healthcare procedures to underserved locations.

“I create digital experiences for people, and I hope to create awareness of social issues or for them to consider things they never thought of previously,” says Lim. For example, the 5G showcase could help to debunk misconceptions that people might have about this new technology.

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