Closing Remarks by Mufti, Dr Nazirudin Mohd Nasir at Harmony Centre Virtual Hari Raya with Interfaith Network


Dear faith and community leaders and friends,

Good evening and Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri or Eid Mubarak.

2 In our part of the world, it is also customary to seek forgiveness from family and friends during Hari Raya with the expression “Maaf Zahir Batin” – the seen and unseen wrongdoings and shortcomings. I wish to take this opportunity to seek your forgiveness too – we have not been able to extend our normal hospitality with the Hari Raya cookies and food and especially in my first Hari Raya with friends as Mufti. I hope we will be able to do so next Hari Raya.

3 As you too have experienced with your festivities, we have celebrated major festivities in significantly different ways – Ramadan and Hari Raya. Today is a clear example. It takes a lot to adjust and make swift changes to the way we lead our lives and practice our religions. Our biggest worry and fear was the impact on our togetherness, unity and cohesion because we all have had to keep to our homes and restrict our social interactions. We are therefore very thankful our deepest fears did not materialise. On the contrary, I think we have grown closer to each other, and we appreciate each other better. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. I trust that you wanted to be here today because you cherish the friendships and you want to ensure we remain connected and look out for each other. Thank you.

4 A few years ago, I had a conversation with my former doctoral supervisor, a well-respected scholar in his field, a senior member of his community and a nice gentleman. He visited me in Singapore after I completed my Phd and was amazed to witness the functionings of our society although he knew a lot about us already. At the time, his home country was going through some turmoil (it usually does in terms of ethnic and religious relations). The global situation too was not great either because of rampant terrorism due to ISIS. He remarked (and this were his exact words) “Singapore is an oasis of calm in a crazy world.” We are now seeing fissures and cracks in ethnic and religious relations in some parts of the world.

5 In some cases, the relations are perched precariously on a cliff edge. In my personal view, to have to fight and shout out loud that Black Lives Matter is an unfathomable tragedy in this day and age. All lives matter, period. When ISIS emerged in 2014 with their heinous ideology propagating hate, we fought tooth and nail to reject and denounce not just violence, but any theology or ideology that justify hurt on the basis of religion. As faith communities, we truly cherish harmony, respect and compassionate living. These worrying global developments only reinforce the fact that positive and constructive race and religious relations will always be a work in progress, not a destination. Every positive step we make puts us ahead, but every conflict or crisis, extends our journey and destination further. It should be our mission to not make it totally out of reach.

6 It is therefore absolutely critical that leaders lead by example. I am indeed very grateful for your exemplary leadership. Your warm friendship across faith and community lines is also truly inspirational. You have been so supportive of the Harmony Centre, and some of you have been with the Harmony Centre since its inception over 10 years ago. Harmony Centre will not be what it is today without your support. I trust that you will continue to support the new team led by Ustazah Liyana as she strives to bring Harmony Centre to greater heights. I wish to congratulate her, and also to express our deepest appreciation once again to Ustaz Ali for his passion, commitment and dedication to interfaith work in Singapore.

7 But we surely cannot let him go completely. Ustaz Ali has an important role as a member of the new Panel of Muslim Interfaith Leaders, as mentioned earlier by Mr Esa. I will personally support the work of this Panel, together with Deputy Mufti Dr Hannan, in providing advice as well in promoting greater interfaith engagement. The Panel will also be the Muslim faces for social cohesion, as we strive to strengthen the interfaith DNA within our community. I also look forward to more of my fellow asatizah such as Ustaz Muslim, Ustaz Khairul Anwar and Dr Leyakat, who are already deeply involved in interfaith work, to join us in the Panel the future.

8 Thank you once again for joining us in this little Zoom online Hari Raya event. I hope that we will be able to see each other again in person in get-together. But we can and should always keep close even without face to face meetings. As the Malay saying goes, “jauh di mata, dekat di hati”. Thank you and God bless.