Muslim groups to develop curriculum on global affairs

Jamiyah officials at the meeting included (from left) religious outreach department vice-chairman Rafiuddin Ismail, vice-president H.M. Saleem, president Mohd Hasbi Abu Bakar, vice-president Mohamed Yunos Mohamed Shariff and vice-president Isa Hassan
Jamiyah officials at the meeting included (from left) religious outreach department vice-chairman Rafiuddin Ismail, vice-president H.M. Saleem, president Mohd Hasbi Abu Bakar, vice-president Mohamed Yunos Mohamed Shariff and vice-president Isa Hassan. Facing them are Muis senior director of madrasahs Razak Lazim (in blue) and Muhammadiyah president Shaik Hussain Shaik Yacob. -- ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Move will standardise way youth are taught Islamic values of peace, harmony

Young Muslims have asked about calls for jihad by the Sunni extremist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and how they should respond to them, a Malay-Muslim organisation's leader recounted yesterday.

"We have students who also ask about Muslims who are oppressed in certain states and how they should help," said Mr Mohamed Nassir Abdul Sukkur, director of Simply Islam, a centre for Islamic studies.

"I told them these calls for jihad were not valid for a multitude of reasons, but questions like this are why we need to develop a curriculum to guide teachers and students on how to reinforce the basic teachings of Islam," he said.

Mr Mohamed Nassir's disclosure is an example of why five Malay-Muslim groups have decided to jointly develop a plan to educate young people about global current affairs in accordance with Islamic teachings.

The planned curriculum will focus on teaching "values of peace and harmony" to children and should be ready next year, Dr Mohd Hasbi Abu Bakar, president of the Jamiyah welfare group, said.

"We are fortunate to live in a country where peace and harmony... flourish. We should be vigilant at all times to keep this atmosphere of trust, peace and harmony," he added.

The curriculum's details have yet to be finalised. But it will be drawn up by a steering committee comprising leaders from welfare organisations Jamiyah, Muhammadiyah and the Indian Muslim Social Service Association, as well as two private Islamic education groups - Andalus Corporation and Simply Islam.

The curriculum is meant for Islamic classes that are usually conducted by mosques and private Islamic education providers on weekends around the island. Having the curriculum should enhance and standardise the way Islamic values of peaceful coexistence and non-violence are taught in private Islamic schools, Mr Mohamed Nassir said.

Mr Razak Lazim, senior director of madrasahs at the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), said the curriculum will also complement the way that mosques teach these values.

At a meeting at Jamiyah's headquarters in Geylang yesterday, where the need for a curriculum was discussed, Muslim community leaders also expressed their concern about Muslim youth here being influenced by social media.

They are "exposed to all kinds of messages" on social media, including misinterpretations of Islamic values, said Mr Mohamed Yunos Mohamed Shariff, who is a vice-president of Jamiyah. That is why developing a curriculum is important, especially for young Muslims who do not regularly attend structured Islamic classes.

If the community does not act to educate these young people, he said that "they might be misled by what they learn from their guru, 'Sheikh (Arabic for esteemed scholar) Google' and other online search engines". They will not have anyone to refer to when asking how to interpret Islamic values. That is what we are afraid of."

charyong@sph.com.sg