An independant Malay-Muslim panel has recommended that an in-depth study be done on discriminatory practices at workplaces in Singapore.

It has also called for resources in the community to be streamlined to make it easier for people to get help.

For instance, a website with information on national and community-level aid schemes can be set up, said the group in a report on ways to uplift the community.

The report, released to the media yesterday, also recommended programmes for needy families, especially in pre-school education as "it is critical... (that children) have the necessary foundation when they start Primary 1".

These are among the key recommendations made by the 13-member panel, Suara Musyawarah, formed last October to gather feedback on the thoughts, concerns and aspirations of the Malay-Muslim community.

The report, however, is to be a "conversation starter", not a prescriptive guide to resolving all issues facing the community, said Suara Musyawarah's chairman Sallim Abdul Kadir.

About 500 people of various ages and income groups gave their views and ideas during 35 focus group sessions held over six months, until May this year.

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim, who was given the report on Sunday, said it found the community has the desire to move forward.

Dr Yaacob will give his response to the report at a Hari Raya Aidilfitri gathering with MPs and community leaders on Aug 23.

Yesterday, Mr Sallim said the discussions show the Malay-Muslim community has a strong sense of belonging to Singapore, and a desire among the needy to get a job, improve their skills and give their children a better life.

"They are not looking for handouts," said the panel's vice-chair Saleemah Ismail.

The report noted that some issues, like discrimination or perceived discrimination, are not unique to the Malay-Muslim community.

It said some gave accounts of discrimination when applying for jobs. For instance, some employers said they preferred non-Malays and there were accounts of women workers being told they could not wear the tudung (headscarf).

Such cases should be reviewed, and if justified, investigated further and acted on, said the report.

"Maybe there are valid reasons. So let's be open in public as far as we can so that people can move on," Mr Sallim said.

It also suggested a more in-depth study to find the best way to weed out discrimination at work.

The report also suggested that the Community Leaders Forum pool data resources of its partners and provide linkages to national agencies and other groups for information exchange and to help needy Malay-Muslim families.

The forum, set up in 2003, brings together more than 100 partners including Malay-Muslim organisations and family service centres.

As for pre-school education, it found that the home environment of many poor families did not encourage studying and that the parents, with little education, were unable to coach their children.

"There is a lot of willingness to help and a willingness to be helped. Perhaps what we need to focus on is the level of outreach so that those who need the help get it," said the committee's vice-chairman Alwi Abdul Hafiz.