SPEECH BY MR MASAGOS ZULKIFLI, MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER RESOURCES AND MINISTER-IN-CHARGE OF MUSLIM AFFAIRS AT MUIS’ WORK PLAN SEMINAR ON SATURDAY, 30 MARCH 2019

Haji Mohd Alami Musa, President of Muis

Esa Masood, Chief Executive of Muis

Mufti of Singapore, Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

Assalamualaikum Wr. Wb.

Introduction

It gives me great pleasure to be here with you this morning at Muis’ 2019 Work Plan Seminar.

This year’s seminar coincides with the Singapore Bicentennial celebrations, which commemorates the founding of modern Singapore. Together with other Singaporeans, we can be proud that we have contributed significantly to our nation building efforts. We have remained anchored to our religious values of compassion, mutual respect and peace while at the same time, contributing to Singapore’s rapid change and development over these many decades.

Today allow me to outline the key focus areas of Muis over the next three years, from 2019 to 2021.This strategic plan, known as the 6th Muis 3-year plan, was developed through extensive community consultations including the Muis50 Conversations and the Mosque Convention in 2018.

The strategic plan is based on three guiding principles: First, Continuity – so that we can build on and enhance areas of strength, second Collaboration –to work with the wider community and stakeholders and third, Transformation – to stay ahead of challenges by embarking on new and transformative approaches to address emerging needs of the community.

Guiding the Community in a Changing World

Such a forward looking approach is essential because our community agencies and institutions need to be prepared not just for today, but for the changing needs of the community and factors that will impact the community in the future.

In developing its strategic plan, Muis considered many important driving forces. These include disruptions arising from technological advancements, the changing economic landscape and the changing complexion of the Singapore society. The introduction of robots, artificial intelligence and pervasive digitalisation will change the way we live, work, study and play. Technology would result in the loss of some jobs, but also create new jobs which we can’t think about today.

Our community’s socio-religious needs are also constantly changing, as we age, we welcome diverse immigrants into our community, and adapt to changing times. The way people seek knowledge on Islam has also transformed, where some may find it more convenient to seek knowledge from preachers based thousands of kilometres away via the internet, rather than approaching the asatizah at their neighbourhood mosque. While some may consider these challenges, with proper planning, these can also provide opportunities to rally and uplift the community.

In the next lap, Muis will need to navigate the community’s evolving needs and expectations, and build a Muslim Community of Success, one that not only thrives and participates in a multi-cultural and secular society, but also gives back and contributes to the wider society.

Muis Strategic Plan for 2019 – 2021

Allow me to now outline 4 key focus areas of Muis’ Strategic plan. These have been developed based on many feedback that all of you have given in the earlier consultations:

  • First: Strengthening support and development of our Asatizah – to ensure that even as the community progresses, we remain firmly rooted and guided by our religious values and principles;
  • Second: Strengthening Social Cohesion – to ensure our community thrives in a multi-cultural and secular state that upholds meritocracy;
  • Third: Rallying support to the under-served in the community – this will involve harnessing and mobilising resources in the community to help those in need; and finally
  • Fourth: Strengthening our religious institutions – ensuring our religious institutions enhance their capabilities to serve the community well.

STRENGTHENING SUPPORT AND DEVELOPMENT OF OUR ASATIZAH

Our asatizah play a vital role in shaping the community’s socio-religious life.They provide us with moral and religious guidance, and anchor us in this modern world. Therefore, it is important to invest in the way we train and develop our asatizah.

Earlier this month, I met with Singaporean Muslim students pursuing higher Islamic education in Cairo and Amman, and asked them to share their thoughts with me. These future asatizah are optimistic and eager to contribute back to the community within the religious sector and beyond.

This is why we intend to introduce the Post-Graduate Certificate in Islam in Contemporary Societies (PCICS) for our returning religious graduates who wish to teach Islam in Singapore. It will help those who received Islamic education overseas to better appreciate Singapore’s socio-religious context and to equip them with more work-relevant skillsets.

But if we wish to develop the best asatizah, we must begin with our full-time madrasahs. Over the years, Muis has provided madrasahs with funding, introduced curriculum enhancements and developed initiatives to train our teachers. Today, the International Baccalaureate is available to madrasah students in Madrasah Aljunied, Madrasah Al Arabiah has a new campus, and Madrasah Wak Tanjong will be receiving more resources under the Comprehensive Assistance Package.

Muis also rewards students who do well in madrasahs through the Progress Fund Madrasah Assistance Scheme (PROMAS) Performance Awards and the Madrasah Student Awards, to encourage students to focus on their studies. Muis will also continue to provide support to children from low-income families in the Madrasahs. Between 2016 and 2018, Muis gave out $1.1M in financial assistance under PROMAS.

STRENGTHENING SOCIAL COHESION

Muis’ second focus area for the next 3 years will be in strengthening social cohesion. All Singaporeans, including Muslims, are able to practice our religion freely and live and work harmoniously alongside fellow Singaporeans regardless of race or religion. This is a privilege not many minority religious communities around the world enjoy.

The Singapore Muslim Community must continue to lead with values that promote harmonious living in our diverse society. These include religious resilience, practising inclusiveness, being contributive citizens, being adaptive and progressive. For our young, the aLIVE programmes at our mosques have been instrumental in inculcating the right Islamic values in our youths, with the enrolment in aLIVE growing from 16,223 to 21,000 over the last 5 years. Over the next few years, Muis will strengthen and improve professional development training for teachers across aLIVE centres, and continue to improve and enhance the quality of the aLIVE programme.

RALLYING SUPPORT FOR THE UNDER-SERVED

The third focus of Muis’ work will be rallying support for the under-served community segments in society. Zakat is a key institution that enables this, where contributions from the better-off in the community are channelled by Muis through our 23 social-development led mosques to beneficiaries within the community. 6,774 Singaporeans benefit from zakat collected by Muis. In 2018, Muis disbursed $16.5 million[1] to zakat beneficiaries, and this has seen a steady increase over the past decade.Moving forward, the Empowerment Partnership Scheme (EPS) will be enhanced to better meet the needs of zakat beneficiaries, while leveraging community networks to provide more opportunities for the community to contribute towards empowering the low income group.

Muis will also be looking at how the resources in the community can be mobilised to support the elderly, especially those who are living alone. At the same time, Muis also recognises that our seniors have a wealth of experience, and can continue to make significant contributions to the community. Thus, Muis will explore how we can engage our seniors better in community activities. An example would be our current Mosque Befriending scheme where senior volunteers are actively deployed as befrienders to expand the social support circle of zakat beneficiaries.

STRENGTHENING OUR RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS

Our religious institutions, such as the mosques, madrasahs and even Muis itself, are important nodes for the community to access religious guidance, assistance and in promoting the Singapore Muslim Identity. Therefore, it is vital that these religious institutions are led well, governed well, coordinated well and supported well.

Last year, Muis reviewed how the mosques clusters were organised to enable closer collaboration with Social Service Offices (SSOs) and other community organisations. This has resulted in more coordinated assistance for zakat beneficiaries in the four Enhanced Mosque Clusters (EMCs). Moving forward, Muis will further enhance collaboration, productivity and resource-optimisation across the mosques through the One Mosque Sector initiative. Muis will guide and support mosques to ensure good financial governance is maintained. Mosque leaders will also be better supported through leadership and development training so that they can better serve the needs of their congregants.

Muis will ensure that services to the community become more accessible at via mosques and madrasahs. Some of these efforts include digitalising current services which include e-payment for zakat and online donations as well as enhancing the Muslim.SG app, where one can refer to questions asked frequently to the Office of the Mufti.

BUILDING A STRONGER MUIS

Even as Muis works to strengthen the various religious institutions, it must also strengthen itself in order to deliver its plans to over the next 3 years. I am glad that Muis has been strengthening its leadership ranks in a few ways:

  • First, by drawing on talent from the wider public service to bring in leaders with policy, operational and specialist skills. Aside from the CE, Esa Masood who came from the public service, Muis has also seen the appointment of a new Deputy CE, Mr Fahmi Aliman from the armed forces, and Ms Shahla Iqbal as its first in-house legal director, who was previously from the Attorney-General’s Chambers.
  • Second, by grooming and developing talented officers to hold leadership positions, especially in core religious leadership roles. Through the award of post-graduate scholarships and development of officers through post-graduate courses, Muis has developed a pipeline of religious leaders, including the current Mufti.

With the increasing complexity and scope of Muis’ work, it is important for Muis to both be attractive to talent, as well as to groom talent from within. A robust leadership renewal plan is hence vital for Muis to remain dynamic and vibrant. In this regard, I am pleased to announce that Muis will create two Deputy Mufti positions to support the current Mufti. The role and scope of Mufti’s work has increased, as we step up our support for the community. The Deputy Muftis will support Mufti in providing the necessary religious guidance on important initiatives for the community.

Dr Nazirudin Nasir, currently the Senior Director for Religious Policy and Development, will be appointed as Deputy Mufti from 1 May 2019. Dr Nazirudin first joined Muis in 2002 after graduating from Al-Azhar University in Islamic Jurispudence.He has been with the Office of the Mufti since 2006 and obtained his PhD in Theology from the University of Oxford on a Muis scholarship. Dr Nazirudin has played a central role in the development of religious policy in Muis, including fatwa development and asatizah training. I am confident that as Deputy Mufti, Dr Nazirudin will be able to better support Mufti in providing religious leadership to the community.

The second Deputy Mufti position will be filled at a later date.

CLOSING REMARKS

In conclusion, for our Malay/Muslim community to remain strong and be a community of success that we can be proud of, we must:

  • Invest in the development of our religious leaders;
  • Emphasise and cherish social cohesion;
  • Rally the better-off in the community to help the vulnerable; and
  • Strengthen our religious institutions to serve the community.

This will be at the heart of Muis’ work over the next few years, so that insya’Allah, we will continue to be “a gracious Muslim community of excellence that inspires and radiates blessings to all.” Over the last 50 years, Muis has grown as an institution in serving and supporting the community. The book that will be launched, titled “Striving with Confidence, Serving with Compassion”, looks back on the past 50 years through the lens of Muis’ leaders, stakeholders, clients and beneficiaries. It has been a long, but rewarding journey, but more importantly, we should continue to build on what we have achieved, and work together towards a better future for a confident, successful community.

Wassalamualaikum Wr. Wb



[1] In the form of direct cash assistance

 

Last updated on 25/7/2019