Latitude allowed in Islam for the bigger picture

I am aggrieved that the issue of Singapore Muslims in the navy has been reduced to the lack of halal-certified kitchens on Singapore naval ships ("'Define better what secularism means'"; Tuesday).

But if this is a red herring, the Muslim community has itself to blame if it keeps harping on halal kitchens on warships.

It is time Muslims reminded themselves that Islamically acceptable meals need not come from halal kitchens complete with a halal logo - all of which will not be available in battle conditions, anyway.

Muslims who want to serve in the navy should understand the essential dietary requirement of their religion, as well as the latitude allowed to them by their religion in less than ideal conditions.

It would not be the first time we sort out our religious requirement for the nation's overall interest.

Among others, we abandoned the unpredictable moon-sighting method for astronomical calculations in determining Hari Raya in the 1970s and revised our views towards organ transplantation in the 1980s.

All this was because our Islamic scholars know what is immutable and what is pliable in Islam to cater to changing needs and circumstances, without compromising core teachings.

With the red herring out of the way, perhaps we can have an honest dialogue concerning Muslims in "sensitive areas in the public sector" or the perceived "loyalty issue", as highlighted by Mr Mohammad Alami Musa, who heads the Studies in Inter-Religious Relations in Plural Societies Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, at the conference on integrating Muslim minorities in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious community.

Osman Sidek

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 21, 2016, with the headline 'Latitude allowed in Islam for the bigger picture'. Print Edition | Subscribe