Published: 20 March 2021
President of Pergas, Ustaz Mohamad Hasbi Bin Hassan
Ladies and gentlemen,
1. Assalamualaikum warohmatullahi wabarakatuh
2. And a very good morning to everyone.
3. I am heartened to see so many professionals from the religious sector, the social services and community leaders gathered today, to discuss pertinent issues facing the Malay/Muslim community in Singapore. I am honoured to join all of you here this morning and happy to see that we are working more closely together.
4. I understand that today’s conference, Muktamar Ulama, is part of Pergas’ 4-year strategic plan. Through this conference, Pergas aims to guide the community in handling contemporary issues as Muslims living in a multi-cultural, multi-religious society such as Singapore. This is definitely a commendable effort by Pergas and it is my hope that, together, we can contribute actively to this conference and the discussions that will be held later today.
5. Socio-religious issues are becoming complex. Evolving concepts of gender roles, changes in social norms and challenges associated with the impending digital tsunami require profound religious guidance. Our asatizah are increasingly expected to dispense religious guidance on matters beyond the boundaries of faith and rituals.
6. To illustrate, much effort has gone into combatting complex issues such as domestic violence.
7. In 2019, at a Symposium on Muslim Family Law organised by MUIS, I announced that training for asatizah interested in social work and counselling would be made available. Such training equips our asatizah with the necessary skills to take pre-emptive and proactive steps that prevent domestic abuse, instead of merely rectifying it. I applaud our asatizahs’ efforts to counter misguided mindsets that perpetuate gender discrimination and violence against women, which affect all races.
8. Just last month, the Ministry of Social and Family Development launched a 24-hour national helpline for the reporting of family violence and other abuse and neglect cases. The helpline is the first such national initiative dedicated to calls related to abuse and violence. With this, we hope to respond more quickly to incidents of domestic abuse and take proactive measures to protect those who are vulnerable.
9. Apart from the asatizah, our community also benefits from the presence of Muslim professionals working together towards this cause. Seeing all of you here today, I am pleased that we continue to serve our role as community leaders and help wherever we can in ending domestic violence. Let us be good role models that treat our families with respect, care and love.
10. Similarly, the desire to practise mutual respect, love and compassion inevitably leads one to swiftly condemn acts of violence. The threat of online radicalisation continues to loom large with young people especially at risk. In this regard, Singapore has had to increase its efforts to maintain peace so as not to threaten our social fabric.
11. It is worth repeating that extremism is not unique to any one race or religion. Early this year, we were shocked to hear news of a 16-year-old Singaporean detained under ISA who had planned to attack Muslims at two mosques. He was motivated by the terrorist attack on the two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15, 2019. Also, in recent weeks, we are shocked to hear about the 20-year-old Singaporean youth, who was detained under ISA, as he had planned to attack Jews at the synagogue. He was motivated by the overseas conflict in the Middle East. These incidents reminds us of the need to stay vigilant and to intensify efforts to combat extremist ideologies.
12. We are grateful that in Singapore, we have close bonds of friendship and trust among faith communities and their leaderships. We must continue to work together to engage and nurture relationships with our youth. Religious leaders have to help our population understand the true nature of terrorist ideology. The ideology of ISIS has to be countered doctrinally. That has to come from religious scholarship.
13. Indeed, the Government cannot resolve the issues of the community alone. We need to work hand in hand to co-create solutions. So essentially, the Government cannot work alone. We need to work with community leaders and religious leaders to co-create solutions, and I think we can do more. While I encourage that we continue to hold similar discussions of this nature in the future, we should also continue to seek active participation and feedback from the community. Only then will we truly be able to comprehend the gravity of the challenges facing us. When we work together, we understand the ground, and we co-create solutions together, I think this will do good to our nation.
14. In closing, I would like to congratulate Ustaz Hasbi and Pergas for convening this conference and I personally applaud the asatizah and other experts who have made time to attend this to discuss the challenges of our community. I’m very happy to see familiar faces in the community. Those of you who have been on the ground, working hard with the community, and our asatizah who have been working hard. I appreciate the work of Pergas and our asatizahs for helping at various fronts, especially with the Singapore Prison Service. I work very closely with them. Recently, Ustaz Hasbi and I visited Prisons to observe a programme done by Prisons. I could see how the inmates appreciate not only the presence of Ustaz Hasbi, but also the advice that he gave, and they look forward to meet Ustaz Hasbi. So this is what we want. We engage, we better understand the community and we co-create solutions for the betterment of Singapore. So I hope this conference will produce fruitful conversation between all parties as we work towards effective solutions.
15. Wish you a blessed day ahead. Thank you.
16. Wabillahi taufiq wal hidayah, wassalamualaikum wr wb.