Rebut radical ideas, Yaacob urges grads of top Muslim university

Dr Yaacob with the Egyptian Ambassador to Singapore Fatma F. Galal and the Singaporean graduates of the Al-Azhar University yesterday. Dr Yaacob urged the graduates to practise what they learnt within the context of how Islam is practised in Singapor
Dr Yaacob with the Egyptian Ambassador to Singapore Fatma F. Galal and the Singaporean graduates of the Al-Azhar University yesterday. Dr Yaacob urged the graduates to practise what they learnt within the context of how Islam is practised in Singapore.ST PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim said yesterday that Singaporean graduates of the renowned Muslim Al-Azhar University in Egypt can fight extremism here by rebutting radical ideology.

"That is needed, for someone to come out, specifically breaking down these radical arguments and why they are wrong, in which areas they are wrong," he said.

Speaking on the sidelines of a graduation ceremony held at the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) for the 29 graduates of the Class of 2015, he added that violence is rejected by all communities, not just Muslim communities.

"Those arguments need not be religious. They can be sociological or psychological," he noted.

He urged the graduates to practise what they learnt within the context of how Islam is practised in Singapore.

Al-Azhar does not have a graduation ceremony itself and one is usually held by the Singapore student body and embassy there for its Singapore students or when they return home.

Besides dealing with the specific challenges of terrorism and extremism, the graduates can continue to build resilience in the community and emphasise the Singapore Muslim identity, and ensure they understand exactly what Islam is about.

He said they are assets as they continue to develop and upgrade themselves, especially in relation to the needs of the community.

Among the graduates was Ms Nurshilah Abdul Wahid, now a youth counsellor at the Institute of Technical Education College Central, who mentors students, especially Malay and Muslim students, to learn and seize opportunities.

The 25-year-old said of her decision to study at the university: "I love the Arab language, and it was my late grandfather's wish to see me graduate from an Islamic university." She said she would preach moderation to fight extremism.

Muis chief executive Abdul Razak Maricar told the graduates in his speech that the spirit of resilience and perseverance they showed in completing their courses despite the geopolitical situation in the Middle East must continue.

Regarding the issue of religious resources for foreign workers, Dr Yaacob said they may turn to Muis or any mosque to receive guidance.

Members of the foreign labour community who are leading others should engage with Muis to ensure that what they are teaching is aligned to the way Islam is practised in Singapore, he noted.

"Most of the foreign workers who congregate in our mosques, they do so because of peaceful reasons. They want to practise Islam, they want to help, they want to contribute," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 29, 2016, with the headline 'Rebut radical ideas, Yaacob urges grads of top Muslim university'. Print Edition | Subscribe