SINGAPORE -Learning about each others' customs is an important ongoing process and the inaugural Syariah Law Forum on Saturday (May 13) goes a long way in fostering a culture of open sharing, said Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob.
Addressing some 170 guests at the event held at the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Bukit Timah Campus, she added: "Our country takes a unique approach by creating mechanisms that look after the rights of Malays and Muslims while at the same time, ensuring the rights of all minorities.
"In doing so, Singapore avoids undermining the meritocratic processes that underpin its governance."
These mechanisms include the Presidential Council for Minority Rights, and the creation of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), the Registry of Muslim Marriages and the Syariah Court.
"Singapore hence seeks to balance the need to progress on a meritocratic base that has ensured and engendered its success thus far, while making sure the interests of racial-religious minorities are protected," said Madam Halimah.
She noted that Syariah law operates in Singapore by governing Muslim family and personal law related issues in areas such as divorce and inheritance.
She added that events like the Syariah Law Forum serve as a platform for open sharing on the functions underpinning Singapore and the philosophy coursing through it, within the context of racial and religious interests.
"We are living in a time of uncertainty and unpredictability, where user-generated news and information spread so quickly. Due to this, misunderstandings and misconceptions can flare up very quickly and degenerate into conflicts just as swiftly," said Madam Halimah.
A book titled Navigating Muslim Law in Singapore by 16 NUS Law students was also launched at the event on Saturday.
By next month, the 65-page book will be made available at NUS' C J Koh Law Library at the Bukit Timah Campus and the National Library.
Five hundred copies will be printed and members of the public also get them for free at mosques and social service centres.
The book aims to benefit those who are interested in learning more about Muslim law.
This includes law students, lawyers, aggrieved litigants-in-person and anyone else who wish to find out more about the matter.
Ms Sheiffa Safi Shirbeeni, 22, who is one of the 16 students, said they organised the forum as a platform for people to learn more about Syariah and correct misconceptions about the law.
Stressing that 14 members of her team are non-Muslims, the second-year student added: "We believe anyone can benefit from an understanding of what Syariah is, and how it is really applied in Singapore."