Important to strengthen social cohesion: Yaacob

Flight attendant Noor Mastura (far left), 26, invited guests of other faiths into her home yesterday to experience Hari Raya Aidilfitri festivities and share a meal with her family members. She hosted copywriter Sumalatha Navanesan, 26, a Hindu; adve
Flight attendant Noor Mastura (left), 26, invited guests of other faiths into her home yesterday to experience Hari Raya Aidilfitri festivities and share a meal with her family members. She hosted copywriter Sumalatha Navanesan, 26, a Hindu; advertising account executive Elijah Matthew, 28, a Christian; and student Parvitar Singh, 19, a Sikh, as part of an initiative she co-organised called SG Muslims for Eid. It matches guests who want to learn more about Muslim customs with hosts willing to welcome them into their homes. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

This will preserve social harmony and prevent religious extremism from taking hold in Singapore

Singapore's Muslim community must continue to develop the kind of Islam that embraces Muslims and non-Muslims alike, said Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim yesterday.

This will preserve the social harmony their forebears have built and keep religious extremism from taking hold, he added.

Speaking to reporters after Aidilfitri prayers at the Ar-Raudhah Mosque in Bukit Batok, he said promoting integration is especially important in the face of the shocking terror attacks in several countries carried out by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria during the holy month of Ramadan.

The attacks took place in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Bangladesh, Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Turning to Singapore, he said: "We have a role to play to preserve the multicultural nature of our society. How we practise Islam here must suit the context."

Earlier, Mufti Mohamed Fatris Bakaram made the same point. Delivering his Aidilfitri sermon at the mosque to a 4,000-strong congregation, he encouraged Muslims to practise their religion with confidence and humility.

Recounting how early Muslim communities had interacted widely with people of different religions and races, he said Muslims today should similarly be confident in their interactions with others.

He added that they should not isolate themselves for fear of diluting their beliefs.

"The more they learnt and understood their religion, the more confident they were that their religion and their faith would not be easily watered down simply by participating and contributing to the larger society," he said in the sermon that was read out in all 69 mosques in Singapore on Hari Raya.

Dr Fatris also urged Muslims to be open to dialogue and discussion, adding that they should not label others as blasphemous just because they hold different opinions.

He called on people to avoid "religious teachers" who propagate such extremist teachings, adding that Muslims with a deep understanding of their religion can practise it "within the context of the environment he or she is in, without compromising his or her religious obligations".

Singapore's Muslims have done so in a secular country, he said, and have also exhibited confidence despite being a minority group.

He pointed to how the Muslim community had organised events in the past month for non-Muslims to learn about fasting. "These efforts reflect the confidence of the Singapore Muslim community in contributing to global efforts in establishing and maintaining peace," he said.

This tradition of building bridges was alive at the Al-Taqua Mosque in Bedok yesterday, where Muslims and non-Muslims came together to mark the end of the fasting month.

Mayor of South East District Maliki Osman said on the sidelines of the event: "We must come together... to make sure that the interracial and inter-religious harmony that we have is something that we hold on to for as long as we can."

•Additional reporting by Linette Lai

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2016, with the headline 'Develop Islam that embraces all people: Yaacob'. Print Edition | Subscribe