Yaacob Ibrahim: Informal Religious Groups Formed By Foreign Workers Should Work With Mosques, MUIS

Informal religious groups formed by foreign workers here should step forward to engage with mosques and the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) so that they could better tap the resources available, said Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs, yesterday.

In light of the arrests of 27 radicalised Bangladeshi workers in Singapore, the spotlight has turned on radicalised teachings that could easily be spread through informal religious study groups conducted by the foreign workers themselves, as mosques here lack the resources and manpower to reach out to them.

TODAY had earlier reported that mosques in the Little India and Bugis areas that are frequently visited by the foreign workers do not have religious classes that specifically catered to them.

“We know that some of the foreign groups in Singapore do have their own members of their community who are actually guiding them,” said Dr Yaacob, who is also the Minister for Communications and Information.

“The most important thing is that whoever is playing that role, please engage MUIS, because we want to make sure that whatever they are teaching is aligned with our teachings, with the way we practise Islam here in Singapore,” he said on the sidelines of a graduation ceremony for students from Egypt’s Al-Azhar University at the Muis Academy.

Dr Yaacob said there is a need for some graduates to stand up and publicly rebut the radical ideologies which some members of the community may have. “(What) is needed (is) for someone to come out specifically to break down someone’s radical arguments and why they are wrong and (in) which areas they are wrong and then hope that they can also find the errors of the radical ideologies, not (only) from a religious perspective, but (also) from a humanistic sociological analysis,” he said.

Meanwhile, speaking in Parliament yesterday, Associate Professor Fatimah Lateef (Marine Parade GRC) asked if the Government is able to do more in terms of educational publicity in reaching out to religious groups which may not be formally organised.

“Some of them may inadvertently not realise that they’re being taught some of (these) variants of the (religion),” she added.

In response, Dr Yaacob said the Asatizah Recognition Scheme (ARS) — which was set up to enhance the standing of religious teachers here and serves as a reliable source of reference for the Singapore Muslim Community — is in place for religious teachers.

He urged members of the community to refer to the list on the MUIS website to find the appropriate religious teachers for their classes.

“So, we are not against informal groups … but the most important thing is they select the teachers from the ARS and if they can do that, I think it would be good.”

Meanwhile, Mr Alex Yam (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC) asked if there is a protocol or standard operating procedure for the approval of visit passes for overseas religious leaders.

He cited a recent incident where a visit by a “particular preacher”, which he did not name, was denied by the authorities here.

Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam said the protocol is “very straightforward and transparent”. For example, if the preacher’s teachings are “contrary to our values”, he will be denied entry to Singapore, Mr Shanmugam added.

Dr Yaacob, speaking to the media at the Muis Academy, said he believes more could be done to integrate the foreign workers into the fabric of society here. “We must continue to engage the foreign community here to make sure the resources within the Malay-Muslim community are also available to them,” he said.


Source: www.todayonline.com

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