SPEECH BY MINISTER FOR SOCIAL AND FAMILY DEVELOPMENT, SECOND MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND MINISTER-IN-CHARGE OF MUSLIM AFFAIRS FOR MUIS’ WORK PLAN SEMINAR 2022 ON SATURDAY, 28 MAY 2022
“Together as One Community of Success”
Mr Mohamed Sa'at Abdul Rahman, President of MUIS
Mr Kadir Maideen, Chief Executive of MUIS
Mufti of Singapore, Ustaz Dr Nazirudin Mohd Nasir
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
1. I am pleased to be here with you this morning at Muis’ Work Plan Seminar at HomeTeamNS Khatib. After two years of having this seminar online, it is good to meet, connect and bond with one another again physically.
2. The theme for this year’s seminar is “Together as One Community of Success”. Since I took office as Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs in 2018, I have spoken on multiple occasions about building a Community of Success with the strength of character, the competence to contribute to our nation and the world, with an unwavering sense of active citizenry. The past two years have tested the mettle of our community as we confront the unprecedented challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic. I am proud of how our community supported one another during the most challenging period and found innovative ways to perform religious obligations safely and responsibly during this prolonged crisis.
3. We have endured, adapted and transformed ourselves to emerge stronger and more resilient than we were since the onset of COVID-19. This would not have been possible without the collective efforts, sacrifices and coordination by the key organisations, including Muis and various community leaders, such as yourselves. We must build on this momentum and lock in the gains that we have built over the last two years, in the face of an uncertain and changing world. We must continue to focus on reinforcing our competencies to strengthen our resilience for a successful future, particularly in three areas:
a. Our religious life,
b. Our Asatizah, and;
c. Our community’s assets
Shaping our Community’s Religious Life
4. Alhamdulillah, with the easing of Safe Management Measures, we were able to welcome Ramadan and celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri more joyously with our community, friends and families. We launched a new initiative SalamSG Movement last month to reinvigorate our religious life and bridge the programmes across our mosques with online platforms, such as Muslim.SG and SalamSG TV. I am heartened to see how our Muslim community has adopted good practices in both the physical and online spaces.
5. We must continue to draw lessons from the pandemic to improve our way of life. I am grateful that the community has adopted greater flexibility in fulfilling our spiritual needs through online and physical means. This expanded approach to the way we practice our faith and seek religious knowledge, will continue to be a mainstay as we transition towards living with COVID-19.
6. As we move forward, we can expect more challenging and complex social issues to surface at both the national and global levels. The community must develop knowledge and competencies to address these issues effectively and continue to achieve its aspirations. Nevertheless, we can take heart that through sound religious guidance from our asatizah, our community will be able to weather any storm and emerge stronger at the end.
7. A case in point was the reaction to the announcement of this year’s Syawal which differed from our neighbouring countries. Muis was quick to provide clarifications, clearly and objectively, based on data to help the community better understand the considerations behind the announcement. By and large, the community responded in a compassionate, respectful and constructive manner with many taking to social media to share Muis’ considerations behind the Syawal announcement to family and friends.
8. This is an indication of the community’s trust and confidence in Muis and its religious leadership. The incident also exemplifies the vision of the Singapore Muslim Identity (SMI) for a progressive, adaptive and inclusive practice of Islamic religious life in the context of Singapore’s multi-racial and multi-religious society.
9. Such attributes which describe the identity of Singaporean Muslims are among the many reasons why our Muslim community is seen by others around the world as a good model, despite being a minority group here. Building on this, Muis will convene an International Conference on Communities of Success (ICCOS) in September 2022. With the theme ‘Contributing Citizens, Dynamic Institutions’, it seeks to provide a platform for religious scholars, state officials and community leaders worldwide to discuss current and future issues impacting the socio – religious lives of Muslims here. As one of the outcomes of the conference, Muis will focus on developing critical bodies of knowledge that can guide Muslim-minority communities in multicultural societies to continue to thrive.
Strengthening our Asatizah Ecosystem
10. The progress made by the religious sector over the years does not happen by chance. Much of this can be attributed to our competent and cohesive asatizah fraternity who have been instrumental in providing religious leadership and stewardship to our community.
11. I am glad to see how the support for asatizah development has progressed over the years. The Career Competency Framework (CCF) launched in 2020 forms a key component of our skills upgrading programmes, followed by the Continuing Professional Education (CPE) 2.0 scheme review in 2021. Since then, our asatizah has had many opportunities to sharpen their skills and knowledge. They are also exposed to different methods of learning in the skills upgrading programmes such as innovative learning pathways and an experiential curriculum.
12. I would also like to commend our asatizah’s efforts to constantly upskill and keep pace with the changing times and nationwide efforts, to provide religious guidance and care to our community meaningfully. Earlier this year at the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF)’s Committee of Supply (COS) debates, I had announced that the year 2022 will be designated as the Year of Celebrating SG Families. We are fortunate to have a pool of dedicated asatizah who are working tirelessly to strengthen marriages and families. I am encouraged by their dedication in the Bersamamu Programme, to enhance their competencies so as to better support newlywed couples.
13. One of them is Ustaz Muhammad Ma’az Sallim, a Naib Kadi and Head of Community Engagement at Al – Istighfar Mosque. Through the Community of Practice for Naib Kadis in the Bersamamu Programme, Ustaz Ma’az participated in interactive learning activities and exchanged insights with other practitioners. The knowledge gained from the sharing enhanced Ustaz Ma’az’s support to families in managing and resolving conflicts as well as advise on other marital affairs.
14. Much has been done to professionalise our asatizah fraternity through the Asatizah Workforce Development Plan (AWDP), which was developed based on recommendations of the Committee on Future Asatizah (COFA). While we press on with our efforts to develop our asatizah, we will also need to ensure that the religious sector remains attractive, vibrant and competitive so that we can attract and retain the best talents.
15. Hence, it is important to ensure that our asatizah are fairly remunerated for the work they do. I am pleased to update that Muis will work with madrasahs and mosques to implement a Common Salary Guideline (CSG) for our asatizah in the coming years. This is a formidable undertaking which requires rigorous job evaluation and benchmarking with the relevant sectors. The salary adjustments will be underpinned by a robust performance-based system to ensure that our asatizah are fairly compensated based on the skills, competency and value that they bring to their jobs.
Mobilise and Galvanise Community Assets for Socio-Religious Development
16. Two weeks ago at my Hari Raya Get-Together, I announced the expansion of Muis’ Sheikh Syed Isa Semait scholarship for madrasah students who have excelled in their studies, to pursue undergraduate degrees at prestigious Islamic universities around the world. I further emphasised that we need a sustainable revenue stream to support these initiatives in the development of our asatizah, institutions and community programmes.
17. One of the ways will be through the Singapore Community Wakaf (WMS). The support from the community and key institutions are important. Hence, Muis is creating a digital platform by end of 2022 to equip our community with the knowledge and skills on wealth and legacy planning. We want our community to be able to take care of their personal and family needs first, and that any excess wealth can be channelled to the greater good of the community through contributions to the WMS.
18. At the institutional level, Muis plans to mobilise the available funds in the mosque sector to seed the WMS corpus. This includes piloting an investment plan to provide better returns to surplus mosque funds. More details will be made available soon. I invite our Mosques to lend their support in this pilot so that we can strengthen our institutional resilience and financial sustainability.
19. The initiatives that I have outlined in my speech this morning is part of Muis’ 7th Three Year Plan, or 7M3YP for short. The 7M3YP has been developed in consultation with key partners, stakeholders and segments of the community, such as yourselves to ensure inclusivity and representation of various perspectives.
20. Tuan-tuan dan puan-puan, sedang kita melangkah ke hadapan untuk hidup bersama COVID-19, kita mesti terus membina kemahiran masyarakat agar berdaya bingkas demi mengharungi cabaran baru dan mencapai kejayaan bersama. Ini terutamanya dalam tiga bidang:
21. Kita boleh menjangkakan isu-isu sosial akan lebih mencabar dan rumit. Maka itu, kita perlu gigih menimba ilmu dan kemahiran untuk menanganginya secara berkesan. Sekaligus, menghidupkan visi Identiti Islam Singapura (SMI) ke arah kehidupan beragama yang progresif, inklusif dan bersesuaian dengan konteks di Singapura. Demi mencapai visi ini, masyarakat mesti dibimbing asatizah yang berkemahiran dan berwibawa. Lantas, perlu bagi kita menyokong pembangunan mereka. Antara lain, dengan memastikan gaji asatizah sejajar dengan sumbangan mereka. Untuk itu, Muis akan bekerjasama institusi-institusi madrasah dan masjid bagi melaksanakan sebuah Garis Panduan Gaji Umum Asatizah atau Common Salary Guideline (CSG). Penyelarasan gaji itu akan berlandaskan sistem berdasarkan prestasi asatizah di tempat kerja mereka. Dengan ini, kita mahu sektor keagamaan kita kekal menarik, berdaya saing dan mampu menjamin masa depan yang lebih cerah untuk barisan asatizah kita. Dalam hal ini, Wakaf Masyarakat Singapura (WMS) akan menjadi sumber penting bagi mendanai inisatif CSG itu dan usaha seumpamanya. Oleh itu, saya menyeru mereka yang mampu untuk menyumbang kepada WMS apabila ia dilancarkan kelak.
22. Ladies and gentlemen, the future will continue to test our resolve in many ways. The multi-faceted and complex nature of the emerging issues will require us to build competencies to strengthen our resilience as we work together to deliver integrated solutions. No single agency or individual can solve all of the community’s problems – we have to come together as one. I urge everyone to continue to pool your talents, strengths and resources to journey together, as One Community of Success.
23. Thank you. Wabillahi-Taufiq Walhidayah Wassalamualaikum Wr. Wb.