Islamic teachers have until March 31 to get endorsement

A scheme to endorse qualified Islamic teachers will become mandatory from Sunday, a move to ensure the Muslim community knows who to turn to for credible religious advice.

A register of these teachers will be available online at www.ars.sg

Religious teachers who have yet to register under the Asatizah Recognition Scheme (ARS) will have up to March 31 to do so.

Those who are unable to immediately meet the scheme's academic requirements - which include a diploma in Islamic studies from a recognised institution - will have a longer grace period, until 2020.

Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) chief executive Abdul Razak Maricar said yesterday that making the scheme mandatory will assure the Muslim community that it is getting reliable religious guidance.

IMPORTANT SAFEGUARD

This is particularly important in today's context, in which there's a need to present contextualised teachings, and guard against extreme and exclusivist teachings, and problematic teachers.

MUIS CHIEF EXECUTIVE ABDUL RAZAK MARICAR, on making the scheme mandatory to ensure Muslims get reliable religious guidance.

"This is particularly important in today's context, in which there's a need to present contextualised teachings, and guard against extreme and exclusivist teachings, and problematic teachers," he added at a media briefing.

The scheme was started in 2005 as a voluntary one, at the suggestion of Islamic scholars and religious teachers here.

Earlier this year, Muslim community leaders urged for it to be made compulsory, a call welcomed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during his National Day Rally.

Since then, about 100 more Islamic teachers have joined the scheme. In all, about 2,500, or more than 80 per cent, of those providing Islamic instruction, including reading the Quran, have signed up.

Muis' director of religious policy and development, Dr Nazirudin Nasir, said: "The reference point for Islamic learning should be through individuals who are registered, because they have gone through the training and are continually assisted to raise their professionalism."

Teachers under the scheme are required to attend courses to boost their skills, from pedagogy to understanding how Islam should be practised in a multicultural society like Singapore.

All Islamic education centres and providers will be required to register with Muis as well, to ensure they employ only teachers endorsed under the scheme.

A BOOST FOR TEACHERS

This move is for the good of the community here. It's not to put pressure on teachers but to help them. After all, this scheme is the request and hope of these teachers themselves.

'' USTAZ ALI MOHAMED, a veteran religious scholar.

They have one year to comply.

Muis will counsel errant teachers and centre operators if they fail to comply with the rules. Those who are recalcitrant may have their recognition status suspended. The centres may be shut down.

Pointing to how community leaders and Islamic teachers here had asked for the scheme to be made mandatory, Ustaz Ali Mohamed, a veteran religious scholar, said: "This move is for the good of the community here.

"It's not to put pressure on teachers but to help them. After all, this scheme is the request and hope of these teachers themselves."

•For more information about the scheme, visit www.ars.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 30, 2016, with the headline 'Islamic teachers have until March 31 to get endorsement'. Print Edition | Subscribe