SPEECH BY DR YAACOB IBRAHIM, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION, MINISTER-IN-CHARGE OF CYBER SECURITY AND MINISTER-IN-CHARGE OF MUSLIM AFFAIRS AT MUIS WORK PLAN SEMINAR ON SATURDAY, 7 APRIL 2018

 

Haji Mohd Alami Musa, President of Muis

Haji Abdul Razak Hassan Maricar, Chief Executive of Muis

Mufti of Singapore, Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

Assalamualaikum Wr. Wb.

1 I am glad to be here with you this morning at Muis’ Work Plan Seminar, or WPS 2018. The annual WPS is an important platform for Muis to share with our community the efforts they have made to serve Singapore and Singaporeans Muslims better. Each WPS is unique, but linking them together tells of a broader journey – a journey of continuous progress that Muis has committed to take with, and for our community. That is why this year’s WPS is special. It marks the first 50 years of Muis’ journey, and provides an opportunity to reflect upon Muis’ contributions in building a Community of Excellence. More importantly, WPS 2018 seeks to express appreciation for our community’s strong support – your strong support – throughout the years.

STRIVING WITH CONFIDENCE, SERVING WITH COMPASSION

2       Muis started small in 1968 at an office at Empress Palace manned by only seven staff. Its primary duties then were to administer zakat collection, as well as manage mosques and wakaf institutions. Today, Muis has expanded both its functions and staff strength to support the evolving socio-religious needs of our community. This includes developing the current and future generations of our religious leaders, nurturing an informed and discerning community, strengthening our community’s resilience against harmful influences and adversity, and promoting social cohesion with other communities. The spirit of growth and progress that has imbued Muis’ work is embodied in the theme of its 50th anniversary – “Striving with Confidence, Serving with Compassion”.

3 Over the last six months, as part of the Muis50 Conversations, 21 sessions involving over 600 Muis stakeholders and community partners from a wide range of sectors, were held to discuss their aspirations for the future of our community. These discussions focused on three topics, namely, a diverse religious life, a strong Islamic education, and the future role of our mosques. Views and ideas from the wider public were also solicited through an online Muis50 Conversations portal.

4 Allow me to share with you some preliminary findings from these Conversations. First, many participants called for a Singapore Muslim community that is more inclusive and appreciative of diversity. This is an important point, because we are part of an increasingly diverse Singapore society. We may have differences in beliefs, practices and perspectives about life, but we must share a common set of values and life experiences that binds us together as Singaporeans. Some have also suggested for more ground-up initiatives to community building, with more information sharing and safe spaces to develop ideas and solutions that help to address these differences.

5 Second, we received strong feedback to strengthen Islamic education in Singapore, with the aim of nurturing discerning and future-ready Muslim youth. These are young people who can leverage on digital technologies to amplify their positive influence.These are also young people who seek answers to deepen their roots in the Islamic faith, and avoid being misled by extremist and divisive teachings.

6 Third, there were passionate discussions about building a more community-centric mosque sector, through greater sharing of resources within the sector, and harnessing synergy in mosque services and programmes. Participants also felt that there was scope for mosques to strengthen community outreach efforts, including to the less fortunate, through stronger collaboration with the private and public sectors.

7 Muis will study these ideas carefully as it prepares a report on Muis50 Conversations to guide the next lap of Muis’ journey. This report will be shared with our community in the last quarter of 2018. I would also like to thank all participants for contributing their ideas, time and effort towards this endeavour, and outline three key areas on which we can move forward together: firstly, Living a Confident and Progressive Religious Life; secondly, Building a Caring and Inclusive Community; and thirdly, Developing Dynamic and Resilient Institutions.

LIVING A CONFIDENT & PROGRESSIVE RELIGIOUS LIFE

8 Muis supports our community in leading a confident religious life, inspired by the values of being Religiously resilient, Inclusive, Contributive, Adaptive, and Progressive, or RICAP in short. These values are infused in various programmes and platforms, including our khutbahs, or Friday sermons. During a recent Friday prayer session held at the Tuas South Recreation Centre, I met some Bangladeshi foreign workers who shared with me that they found our khutbahs helpful in guiding them to live in a multi-religious society such as Singapore.

9 Other initiatives, such the Distinguished Visitors Programme, or DVP, and the Certificate of Islam in Context programme, aim to develop our Islamic scholars and asatizah, or religious teachers, so that they can effectively address the wide range of contemporary and complex socio-religious issues. Last year, we were indeed honoured to have one of the world’s most influential Islamic scholars, Shaykh Abdallah bin Bayyah, President for the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, as our guest for the DVP. His lecture on “Faith, Compassion and Human Dignity” was attended by 650 people and live-streamed to 22,000 viewers from as far as USA, Australia and Saudi Arabia.

10 Today, I am pleased to share that as part of Muis50 celebrations, Muis is partnering the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies to organise an International Religious Conference in November 2018. With the theme, “Religious Values in Plural Societies”, the Conference aims to discuss the universal values of compassion inherent in all religions, for the common good of all who live in plural and multi-cultural societies like Singapore. More details on this Conference will be released in due course.

BUILDING A CARING AND INCLUSIVE COMMUNITY

11 Beyond providing strong religious guidance, Muis also works with the community to reach out and do good, regardless of race or religion. Through the annual Sentuhan Ramadan, or Touch of Ramadan campaign, our mosques and their volunteers organise community service initiatives, such as distributing food to the needy, cleaning their homes, and raising funds for the less fortunate. It is heartening to note that our youths, including those from other faiths, continue to show strong participation in the Sentuhan Ramadan campaign.

12 Our mosques continue to radiate blessings to others beyond the month of Ramadan, and this includes organising and celebrating events with our non-Muslim friends. Recently, one of them received criticism for the way their volunteers celebrated Chinese New Year with senior citizens from nearby homes. They have taken these comments constructively and pledged to do better, in a more tactful way, in future. Mufti of Singapore, Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram also gave them encouragement, because caring for the underprivileged, regardless of race or religion, is a key value of Islam.

13 Today, we are fortunate to be able to enjoy good relations with other communities in Singapore, but we must never forget that forging a strong and cohesive society will always be a work in progress. There will be challenges along the way.Sometimes mistakes are made.But we should not be disheartened, and certainly we should not stop trying. We must use these experiences as learning opportunities to do even better in our collective effort to make our Singapore a more caring and inclusive Home that we can all be proud of.

14 Muis believes in inculcating these values from a young age. In 2017, it introduced the Tabung Rahmah initiative to encourage children to help their less fortunate peers, regardless of race or religion. Alhamdulillah, Tabung Rahmah has reached out to more than 7,000 children and raised $150,000 in community donations. Proceeds from Tabung Rahmah contribute to the Straits Times Pocket Money Fund, which in turn provides pocket money to school-going children from low-income families.

15 Our goodwill efforts also extend beyond our local shores. Since 2009, the Rahmatan Lil Alamin Foundation, or RLAF, has raised and disbursed close to $5.5 million in mosque-based and community donations, to help more than 20 countries. Many of our youths have also participated in these RLAF projects. In 2017 alone, close to 500 young people took part in 17 RLAF humanitarian and community service projects.

16 To support those with the passion and aptitude to do more for helping others, Muis will launch a new Muis Social Work Study Award. Muis is partnering Lembaga Biasiswa Kenangan Maulud, or LBKM, to give out five Muis Social Work Study Awards each year, over the next three years. Each Award is worth up to $10,000, and will support deserving students and working adults who are pursuing this area of study. We hope these Awards will inspire them to carry on their good work and most importantly contribute back to the community and nation.

17 The ethos of rahmah, or compassion, encourages us to embrace inclusivity and care for all members of society, including those with special needs. For example, Masjid Al-Islah recently conducted a forum entitled “Digital Dunyaa” to raise awareness about the challenges and opportunities facing Muslims online. You and I stand to benefit from Digital Dunyaa, but so do those with hearing impairments. The online space can be an attractive platform for them, because it enables them to communicate with others without facing any prejudice. To help them, Masjid Al-Islah translated Digital Dunyaa into sign language and is working to upskill its staff and volunteers to better serve this segment.Masjid Al-Islah’s good work in supporting those with hearing impairments is indeed commendable.

18 Another area of importance is providing for persons with special needs, after their family members pass on. Low and middle income families who wish to provide continuous financial support for their family members with special needs can set up trusts under the Special Needs Trust Company, or SNTC. The Fatwa Committee has decided that these trusts do not form part of the family estate, and are therefore not subject to faraidh, or Islamic inheritance law. However, less than 2% of trusts in SNTC have been set up by Muslim families. Today, I am happy to announce that Muis will set aside $1 million to encourage more eligible Muslim families to set up trusts with the SNTC, in order to safeguard their loved one’s welfare and financial security. Muis will finance this scheme through funds that were paid to Baitulmal from unclaimed estates. By supporting the start-up capital for setting up trusts with SNTC, Muis expects about 100 families to benefit from this new initiative.

19 The community and Muis have made significant contributions at the national and global stage. To share more about these contributions with the wider society, Muis will organise Muis Community Fest – a three-day community event in September this year at Our Tampines Hub. Muis Community Fest will feature interactive exhibits of Muis’ services, an “Educators Forum”, a youth seminar, a “Mosque Family Fiesta” and a live talk with our honourable Mufti. The event will be open to everyone, so I encourage you to take part in it, bring your family along, and have a fun time while learning something new.

BUILDING DYNAMIC AND RESILIENT INSTITUTIONS

20 Our mosques play an important role in shaping the community’s socio-religious life. In 2008, our mosques were organised into six Enhanced Mosque Clusters, or EMCs, to harness their collective strengths and resources, and create economies of scale. Muis empowered our mosques with oversight over zakat matters and related assistance schemes so that they could provide those in need with convenient, timely, and holistic support.

21 Our social assistance landscape has evolved in the last 10 years. To ensure that the EMC system keeps up with the needs of their congregants, Muis will reorganise the current six EMCs into four clusters – the North, South, East, and West clusters. This revised cluster configuration will take into account all existing and planned mosques, and regroup them for a better balance and optimisation of their resources. For example, mosques in the new North, East, and West clusters will run programmes that cater to congregants from the heartlands, whereas mosques in the South cluster, which are mostly within the city area, will cater to the working population there. More details on the new EMC will be shared at the 2018 Mosque Convention, which will be held in September this year, as part of the Muis Community Fest.

22 Singapore is also ramping up efforts in pursuit of our vision of becoming a Smart Nation. Likewise, Muis is harnessing digital technology to better serve the community. Many of you might have already accessed the recently revamped Muis website. Muis had conducted user experience and interface studies to redesign the website, to make it easier for us to access information and services. Importantly, users can now also access most of the services on their smartphones, anywhere, anytime.

23 Muis has also been working to digitalise other areas of their work to better serve the community. For example, our Muis Befrienders have a dedicated app which helps them in planning and managing their home visits. Our asatizah have a dedicated online portal for registration and training under the ARS. To amplify its outreach, Muis has also been supporting the good work of the Asatizah Youth Network in disseminating counter-radicalisation content on social media.

24 For businesses, Muis will launch an enhanced e-Halal portal in the third quarter of 2018 to better streamline and facilitate applications for Halal certification. The portal will build on an earlier collaboration between Muis and several public agencies, as part the Public Service Division’s Digital Accelerator programme.

25 Let me say a few words in Malay.

26 Saudara-saudari sekalian, apa yang saya bentangkan tadi ialah antara langkah-langkah yang akan diambil Muis tahun ini untuk membentuk sebuah masyarakat Islam Singapura yang cemerlang, berjiwa ihsan dan membawa rahmah kepada sesama insan. Melalui pelbagai program dan inisiatif Muis, masyarakat kita akan lebih mampu menjalani kehidupan sosio-agama dengan yakin serta progresif. Selain itu, Muis mengajak kita untuk menjadi sebuah masyarakat yang penyayang dengan menghulurkan bantuan kepada golongan yang memerlukan, tidak kira kaum atau agama. Muis juga akan memberi sokongan kepada institusi-institusi masyakarat yang kita semua sayangi seperti masjid-masjid, madrasah serta para asatizah untuk memperkukuhkan keupayaan mereka seiring dengan keperluan masyarakat kita yang kian berubah.

27 Tahun ini, adalah tahun yang istimewa buat Muis. Seiring dengan tema sambutan jubli emasnya, “Semarak Langkah, Berjiwa Rahmah”, langkah-langkah ini amat penting untuk memupuk sebuah masyarakat yang bersatu-padu, berdaya tahan serta berjiwa rahmah. Masyarakat seperti inilah yang akan bersedia berdepan dengan apa sahaja cabaran secara bijak dan berhemah. Namun, untuk kita mencapai matlamat ini, kita harus terus bersatu hati dan berganding bahu.

28 Oleh itu, saya menggesa masyarakat Islam supaya terus menyokong Muis dan para pemimpin masyarakat kita. Kemajuan demi kemajuan yang diraih Muis selama 5 dekad ini, tidak mungkin tercapai tanpa sokongan padu dan juga kepercayaan yang diberikan oleh segenap lapisan masyarakat.

29 Dengan rendah diri dan seikhlas hati, saya mengambil kesempatan ini untuk mengucapkan terima kasih yang tidak terhingga kepada anda semua khususnya para kakitangan dan sukarelawan kita yang terus mencurahkan bakti tanpa mengira penat dan lelah. Cabaran yang dihadapi Muis dan institusi kita ada kalanya begitu hebat dan mencabar. Tetapi azam murni dan muafakat kita ternyata telah membawa berkat untuk kita semua, Alhamdulillah.

Ikat tali berlipat-lipat

Tali disimpan di dalam peti

Kita berbakti untuk masyarakat

InsyaAllah, Allah akan memberkati.

CLOSING REMARK

30     Ladies and gentlemen, 50 years ago, Muis was born amidst a period of great uncertainty and a community uncertain of its place in a new nation. Muis undertook the slow but painstaking process of winning the trust of our community through the work that it does and continues to do. Muis’ work has grown only because it continues to listen and understand the needs of our community, and balance that with the needs of an emerging nation. However, in the 50 years of existence, Muis’ guiding principle has never changed – it is to guide and shape a progressive religious life consistent with living in a multiracial, multi-religious and secularly-governed nation. While we can point to the constellation of 70 mosques around the island, 6 vibrant full-time madrasahs that have been able to adapt to the modern world, religious education curriculum that is progressive and vibrant, and soon an Islamic college here Insya’Allah, in Singapore, we must never forget that it is on the backs of thousands of volunteers and leaders that have made all these possible. Our work is far from over. We are much stronger now than 50 years ago. We should take pride in our achievements, but we must remain humble and continue to strive with compassion.

31     It is my hope for Muis to always remain committed to “Strive with Confidence, and Serve with Compassion”. Likewise, I hope that our community will support Muis and the good work of all who work in our socio-religious institutions, including our mosques and our madrasahs. On behalf of Muis, I thank you for walking this journey with us. May we, our community and our nation continue to progress and thrive for the next 50 years and ever more, Insya’Allah.

32     Wabillahi Taufiq Walhidayah Wassalamualaikum Wr. Wb

Last updated on 09/4/2018