Published: 31 May 2016
Ustaz Ali Haji Mohd and Ustaz Mohd Hasbi Hassan,
Co-Chairmen of Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG),
Mr Abdul Razak Maricar, CE MUIS
Previous Mufti of Singapore, Ustaz Syed Isa Semait, and friends
1 Good afternoon. Thank you for inviting me to join the RRG's 12th Annual Retreat. The last time I joined you for this retreat was in 2008. I am happy to be here again.
RRG's contribution to the Muslim community in Singapore
2 Much has changed in the past 8 years since 2008. Threats have evolved and new challenges have emerged but RRG continues to play an important role in strengthening and supporting the Muslim community in Singapore, and safeguarding the community against religious radicalisation and extremism.
Realising the Singapore Muslim Identity
3 Singapore is the most religiously diverse country in the world, yet different racial and religious communities live in peace and harmony. We enjoy mutual trust and respect.
4 The Muslim community in Singapore, in particular, has much to be proud of. You are well-integrated in our multi-racial and multi-religious society and a successful model and inspiration to the modern world. You are known for your moderate respectful worldview and practices.
5 Muslims in Singapore understand what it means to practice Islam in the Singapore context. You believe that being a good Muslim also means being a good citizen, one that is loyal to the nation, loves Singapore and cares for fellow-Singaporeans. You understand that one can practice Islam faithfully and sincerely, and also be well-adjusted as a contributing member of a multi-religious society and secular state. You reject exclusivism and extremism, and instead respect, appreciate and build strong friendships with persons of different faiths and beliefs. In short, you live out the principles of what the local Muslim community calls the "Singapore Muslim Identity".
Radicalisation influences in Singapore
6 However, while a large majority of Muslims in Singapore are peace-loving and understand what it means to practice Islam in a multi-cultural context, a very small minority may be led astray by radical, extremist influences.
7 In fact, the threats and challenges of radicalisation are greater than ever before. We see developments globally and in the region, such as rising religious conservatism and exclusivism, especially in our region. For example, in some places there are teachings that Muslims cannot wish others "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Deepavali". There is rising Islamophobia in many parts of the world, where Muslim communities feel isolated, marginalized and become vulnerable to radical influences. The propaganda of ISIS and other extremist groups are highly attractive and sophisticated, and promotes hatred and violence, under the guise of religion.
8 We cannot assume that Singapore is immune from such influences. Since last year, many self-radicalised individuals have been arrested under the ISA. For example, a 19-year-old in Singapore intended to assassinate the President and Prime Minister. He wanted to turn Singapore into an Islamic state under ISIS.
RRG's role in countering radicalisation
9 Amidst these challenges, RRG stands at the centre of the community's efforts against radicalisation. Since 2002, RRG has been our steadfast partner, committed to its mission. I am confident that RRG will rise to the challenges and achieve its mission.
10 RRG has a lot to be proud of. It is well-respected locally and abroad. It has attained wide recognition among many countries. Many overseas visitors, including Prime Ministers and respected religious leaders actively seek to visit RRG's Resource and Counselling Centre.
11 RRG's counter-radicalisation manual is something that now specifically addresses the ideology of ISIS. I think it is important to keep at it, keep refining it, and make it something our young people will find attractive and can go towards. And your innovations, like your helpline that was launched last year, with trained counsellors and volunteers on the phone. These are the ways in which we need to go, to climb and improve the way in which services are delivered. We heard about your website, which has been revamped, and this mobile application – we are really going high-tech – this application which allows members of the public quick and easy access, and provides clarifications on religious and doctrinal issues.
12 I look forward to more good things to come.
13 In conclusion, thank you for your hard work over the last year. RRG is serving on a purely voluntary basis but it has surpassed all expectations and earned the respect of Singaporeans.
14 You have my assurance that my Ministry, MHA, stands behind you, ready to assist you with what you need to fulfil your mission. I wish you all Ramadhan Al- Mubarak.
15 Wishing you success and meaning in your work. Terima Kasih.