Crazy Smart Asia: Noor Mastura—Empowering Communities to Make Change
Social activist Noor Mastura says that the power to change the world is within us all. What’s most surprising about the Singaporean is that unshakable optimism.
Mastura overcame a tumultuous upbringing, battling hunger and homelessness, and grew up determined to do what she could to ensure that no one suffers the same fate. In 2013, she started her first nonprofit, Back2Basics, delivering free groceries to Singapore’s underprivileged families and homebound older people.
Two years later Mastura, a devout Muslim, co-founded Interfaith Youth Circle to encourage dialogue and understanding between religions at a time when Isis and the threat of terrorism was driving mistrust and animosity between communities.
See also: Noor Mastura: From Living On The Breadline To Singaporean Of The Year
Today, Noor is an award-winning activist and community organiser who has taken it upon herself to create the world that she wishes to see. That’s Noor’s entire ethos: “You can’t change the world, but you can change one person’s entire world.”
In this fourth episode of Crazy Smart Asia, which chronicles the unexpected stories of Asia's disruptors, Mastura shares her “handbook for activism” with Gen.T editor Lee Williamson, and discusses everything from suicide to feminism within Islam along the way.
On Changing the world
“Winning is not changing the world. When you make a difference for one person, that’s one person’s whole world changed. So you can change the world—one world at a time.”
"We are literally the driving force. It's because of us that goodness that exists, and because of us that evil exists as well. So it really is up to us to change things and drive forward. That power of humanity, or even the power of absolute evil, it literally is within us."
On dialogue between religions
“One of the things I really love about scriptural reasoning is the fact that it focuses on the differences. Because we all know that no one fights over things we have things in common. Scriptural reasoning is all about disagreeing better— not even 'agree to disagree', but disagreeing better.”
On Feminism within islam
"Where feminism is concerned, the majority of the content is Western, what suits Western feminism. For people who have very conservative backgrounds, but at the same time deserve equal rights, you need to have a different narrative when you're trying to reach out to them because they can't relate.
"For example, if you're talking to Muslim women and you tell them, ‘Guys, free the nipple!' If that's what you're selling as feminism, you're not going to get anywhere. So we need to have different conversations, but really the goal is still the same: giving women the agency to choose."
On knowing your "why"
"There will always be people who doubt your intentions. Just be aware of that. Be firm in your intention and your why. You can’t expect anything more."
Listen to all released episodes and subscribe using your preferred podcast platform on the Crazy Smart Asia hub page.