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Encyclopedia > 1964 Race Riots
The start of the July riot on Prophet Muhammad's birthday, that would later injure hundreds and kill 23 people.
The start of the July riot on Prophet Muhammad's birthday, that would later injure hundreds and kill 23 people.

The 1964 Race Riots were a series of riots that took place in Singapore during two separate periods in July and September between Chinese and Malays groups. The first incident occurred on 21 July during a Malay procession that marked Prophet Muhammad's birthday. In total, the violence killed 36 people and injured another 556. About 3,000 people were arrested. The riots are also known as the Prophet Muhammad Birthday Riots, 1964 Racial Riots, and 1964 Sino-Malay Riots. At that time, Singapore was a state in the Federation of Malaysia. This image has been released into the public domain by the copyright holder, its copyright has expired, or it is ineligible for copyright. ... This image has been released into the public domain by the copyright holder, its copyright has expired, or it is ineligible for copyright. ... For other people named Muhammad, see Muhammad (disambiguation). ... Riots occur when crowds of people have gathered and are committing crimes or acts of violence usually due to a perceived grievance or out of dissent. ... Malays (Dutch, Malayo, ultimately from Malay: Melayu) are a diverse group of people inhabiting the Malay archipelago and Malay peninsula in Southeast Asia. ... July 21 is the 202nd day (203rd in leap years) of the year in the Gregorian Calendar, with 163 days remaining. ... For other people named Muhammad, see Muhammad (disambiguation). ... The Federation of Malaysia is a country in Southeast Asia. ...


July riots

On 21 July, 1964, about 25,000 Malays gathered at Padang, Singapore to celebrate the Prophet Muhammad's birthday. After the speeches, the procession went on to Geylang. Along the way, a group that was dispersed was asked to rejoin the procession by a policeman. Instead of obeying the orders, the group attacked the policeman. This incident led to a race riot after the group of Malays attacked Chinese passers-by and spectators. The riots were reported to have started at about 5:00 pm between Kallang and Geylang Serai. A curfew was declared at 9.30 pm to restore orders, but in the first day of riot, 4 people were killed and 178 injured. [1] An aerial view of Singapore, showing the Padang on the right, surrounded by Singapore Parliament building, new and old Supreme Court building and Swissôtel The Stamford. ... For other people named Muhammad, see Muhammad (disambiguation). ... Kallang is a neighbourhood located in the southeastern part of Singapore. ...

After the curfew was lifted at 6 am the next morning, the conflict grew even more tense, and another curfew was imposed - only lifted for short periods for people to buy food. The curfew was completely lifted on 2 August, 11 days after the start of the riots. After the riots, goodwill committees were set up made up of community leaders from the various racial groups. The main job of these leaders was to help restore harmony and peace between the Malays and the Chinese by addressing the concerns of the residents. About 23 people lost their lives and 450 people were injured during the July riots. There was significant damage to property and vehicles. About 2,500 people were arrested, including 600 secret society members and 256 people arrested for possession of dangerous weapons. The rest were arrested for violating the curfew. August 2 is the 214th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (215th in leap years), with 151 days remaining. ...


Different reasons have been cited for causing the riots. Malaysia Deputy Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak blamed Indonesian and Communist provocateurs. Tun Abdul Razak bin Dato Hussein (1922-1976) was the second Prime Minister of Malaysia, ruling from 1970 to 1976. ...

On the other hand, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and several other foreign observers attributed the riots as the result of agitation by Syed Jaffar Albar and other elements of the ultra-nationalist faction in UMNO. According to the Australian Deputy High Commissoner, W.B. Pritchett: Lee Kuan Yew (Chinese: 李光耀; Pinyin: Lǐ Guāngyào; born September 16, 1923; also spelt Lee Kwan-Yew) was the first Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore from 1959 to 1990. ... The United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), Pertubuhan Kebangsaan Melayu Bersatu in Malay, is the largest political party in Malaysia and a founding member of the Barisan Nasional coalition, which has ruled the country uninterrupted since independence. ...

"...there can be no doubt that UMNO was solely responsible for the riots. Its members ran the communal campaign or allowed it to happen."[2]

The riots occurred during the period when the PAP-UMNO relations were severely strained after the People's Action Party challenged the UMNO in Malaysia federal election in March 1964 with the campaign slogan of Malaysian Malaysia. The sometimes tumultous relationship between the Peoples Action Party (PAP) and United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which were, and still are, the ruling parties respectively of Singapore and Malaysia, has impacted the recent history of both states. ... Party logo with a symbol of red lightning that signifies action. ... The sometimes tumultous relationship between the Peoples Action Party and United Malays National Organisation, which were, and still are, the ruling parties respectively of Singapore and Malaysia, has impacted the recent history of both States. ...

In addition, the involvement of Chinese secret societies in the riots also increased the level of violence. Secret societies in Singapore (Chinese: lø, Pinyin: gMngs+) are generally Chinese in origin. ...

September riots

A second race riot occurred just a month after the first on 3 September. This time, a Malay trishaw-rider was found murdered at Geylang Serai and his attackers were believed to be a group of Chinese. The race riot ensued in the neighbourhoods of Geylang, Joo Chiat and Siglap, and another curfew was imposed. In this incident, 13 people lost their lives and 106 people were injured. Under the presence of troops and the imposing of curfews, these tensions eventually eased after a few days. 480 people were arrested. A velotaxi, also known as a pedicab, cycle rickshaw or trishaw (from tricycle rickshaw), is a human-powered vehicle for hire, usually with one or two seats for carrying passengers in addition to the driver. ... Geylang Road Geylang is a neighbourhood in the city-state of Singapore east of the Central Area, Singapores central business district. ... Siglap Town is a neighborhood in the eastern part of Singapore established in 1955, consisting primarily of low-rise residential properties. ...

Both Malaysia and Singapore have attributed the September riots to Indonesian provocateurs. It was the Konfrontasi period and 30 Indonesian paratroopers had landed in Labis, Johor on 2 September. The Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation was an intermittent war over the future of the island of Borneo, between British-backed Malaysia and Indonesia in 1962-1966. ... Labis is the second largest town in the district of Segamat, Johor, Malaysia, with the population of about 20,000 people. ...


Leaders in Malaysia and Singapore were surprised by the rapid escalation of racial violence and both sides made frequent appeals for calm. The riots exposed serious racial tension and the fear of further violence contributed to Singapore's secession from the Federation of Malaysia in 1965, when both sides were unable to resolve their disputes.

During the riots, large number of arrests were made under the Internal Security Act (ISA), for those involved in subversion and rioters who were members of secret societies. This helped to contain the violence, especially during the September riots. ISA remains in force in both countries and is used to counter potential threats of communalism or racial and religious violence. In the wake of World War II, a number of countries around the world introduced legislation that severely curtailed the rights of known or suspected communists. ... Subversion (also known as svn, for that is the name of its command-line tool) is a version control system designed specifically to replace CVS, which is considered to have many deficiencies. ...

Notes and references

  1. Lai Ah Eng (2004). Beyond rituals and riots : ethnic pluralism and social cohesion in Singapore, Eastern Universities Press, ISBN 9812102728
  2. Lau, Albert (2000). A Moment of Anguish: Singapore in Malaysia and the Politics of Disengagement, Times Academic Press, ISBN 9812101349

See also

The May 13 Incident is a term for the Chinese-Malay race riots in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on May 13, 1969 which left at least 184 people dead. ...

External links

  • Racial Innovation - A Case Study
  • In placid Singapore, civil disobedience simmers

  Results from FactBites:
Riot at AllExperts (788 words)
Riots have historically speaking occurred due to poor working or living conditions, government oppression, efforts at taxation or conscription, conflicts between races or religions, or even the outcome of a sporting event.
Riots on the other hand are characterized by radical physical aggression, such as property damage, arson, looting, assault and murder.
Riots have become major news generators, including Aboriginal riots in response to the violent death of an Aboriginal boy, and most recently a major anti-middle eastern appearance riot (although to simply pass that off as the sole cause for the riot is foolish).
  More results at FactBites »



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