Singapore Budget 2015: New mosque to be built in Tampines North

SINGAPORE - A new mosque will be built in Tampines North to serve those living in the area and in neighbouring Pasir Ris to meet an expected rise in demand as more new homes are completed.

Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim made this announcement on Thursday, during the debate on the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth's budget, adding that the mosque would also cater to those working in industrial estates in the vicinity.

Tampines North, which covers about one-fifth of Tampines, is expected to have 21,000 new homes.

"Our mosques are a central focal point in our community's religious life. We are committed to ensure that our mosques provide a safe and nurturing space conducive to worship and religious education," said Dr Yaacob.

The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) has been ramping up the number of prayer spaces islandwide to meet increased demand. Three new mosques will be ready in the next two years, adding 13,000 more prayer spaces: the Al-Islah Mosque in Punggol is slated for completion this year, while Maarof Mosque in Jurong and Yusof Ishak Mosque in Woodlands will be up in 2016.

Meanwhile the first phase of the Mosque Upgrading Project will come to a close when upgrading works for Al-Ansar Mosque in Bedok wind up this April, said Dr Yaacob. The upgraded mosque will be able to accommodate 4,500 congregants - up from 3,500.

But, he said: "We recognise that some mosques still face overcrowding issues on Fridays."

Efforts are therefore underway to meet the increased demand for prayer spaces in eastern Singapore from 2015 and beyond.

Darul Ghufran Mosque in Tampines will also be upgraded in 2016 to add 1,000 more prayer spaces and improve its Islamic learning facilities, said Dr Yaacob. Muis is also looking at ways to make better use of the space at Al-Istighfar Mosque in Pasir Ris.

To a request from Mr Zainal Sapari (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) for an update on zakat figures for 2014, Dr Yaacob said zakat collection continues its steady rise, hitting about $32 million at the end of last year. In 2010, it collected $22.8 million.

More have started donating electronically too, said Dr Yaacob, and will soon be able to give through DBS ATMs and Internet banking.

Muis has broadened the qualifying criteria for recipients of zakat, or tithes, raising the monthly per capita income cap from $300 to $350. From this year on, 1,000 more recipients will stand to benefit.

Adult Muslims are religiously obliged to give 2.5 per cent of their wealth as zakat.

"The culture of giving is what makes us strong and what brings us together as a community," Dr Yaacob said.

asyiqins@sph.com.sg