Clarification on Singapore Bangladeshi Society (SBS) Memo17 April 2023
1. Yesterday, a circular from the Singapore Bangladeshi Society (SBS) to the Bangladeshi Muslim transient worker (MTW) community generated a lot of disappointment and even anger at how these MTWs were being restricted to their dorms for Hari Raya prayers. That is definitely not the case, and this note provides a fuller picture of the arrangements that Muis, mosques and our partners have been making to provide congregants, both local and foreign, with a comfortable and safe prayer experience.
2. The MTW community is a valued member of the Muslim community in Singapore. They have never been segregated from our community or our mosques. Many are regular mosque-goers and volunteers. Throughout these years, including this Ramadan, you would have seen many volunteering at mosques, distributing bubur, breaking their fast and filling the mosques for tarawih prayers. Their support as volunteers is regarded as crucial by many mosques. This relationship can undoubtedly be improved further but it is generally positive. It also isn’t a recent thing. Many of our mosques have classes in Bengali and will organise Hari Raya prayers with a Bengali sermon this week to cater to our MTWs. Muis and our mosques will continue to plan for and accommodate their needs.
3. As we plan for Hari Raya prayers this week, the safety and comfort of our congregants, both local and foreign, are topmost in our minds. As we shared in the media last week, mosques remain the focus for these prayers and are open to all. Up to 3 prayer sessions will be provided there to cope with the expected demand.
4. But even with 240,000 spaces on offer in our mosques, we have planned for additional capacity to ensure congregants do not miss out on their Hari Raya prayers due to lack of space. We have more than tripled the number of prayer spaces in dorms, which the SBS letter was highlighting to the MTWs. We have also introduced over 20 supplementary venues for an additional 10,000 spaces in our housing estates islandwide. In short, we are providing these additional spaces to both local residents and MTWs alike, and each will have an imam (prayer leader) who will deliver the sermon and lead the prayers.
5. In summary, our approach to this year’s Hari Raya prayers is to offer a range of choices to our congregants, across locations and times, so that they can perform their prayers in comfort and safety. We have been sharing these through the media, our social media platforms and engagements with partners like SBS and directly with MTWs. Our MTWs will have access to our mosques and additional congregations in the dorms and recreational centres. As with everyone else, we encourage them to make their prayer plans early and take advantage of lower-demand locations and sessions.
6. We truly appreciate that our community shares our appreciation and concern for our MTW brothers, and are grateful for the community’s feedback and suggestions, many of which are already in place. We regret that the wording of the SBS circular did not provide the full scope of arrangements made for our MTWs and hope that this note clarifies.
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