The Yusof Ishak Mosque is a key institution for the Muslim community and also the wider Singapore family, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim said yesterday at the opening ceremony of the new mosque named after Singapore's first president.
Through its interactions with the community, the mosque will play an important part in promoting the ethos of multiculturalism and multiracialism, he added, noting that these were values the late Mr Yusof embodied as head of state.
Dr Yaacob was speaking to reporters yesterday after Mr Yusof's widow, Puan Noor Aishah, 84, opened the mosque in a ceremony witnessed by 100 guests, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Mr Yusof's three children, Madam Orchid Kamariah, 68; Dr Imran Yusof, 67; and Datin Zuriana Yusof, 64, and other family members and friends were also present.
LEGACY OF MULTIRACIALISM
In my 2014 National Day Rally, I said we would be naming a new mosque in Woodlands after our first president. Today, the Masjid Yusof Ishak welcomed the public for the first time. Was happy to join his family, the mosque management team, congregants and residents to witness Puan Noor Aishah (Mr Yusof Ishak's widow) officially open the beautiful building... As head of state, Encik Yusof Ishak united all Singaporeans. He stood for enduring values, especially multiracialism. To honour his legacy, the mosque management will be organising activities to bring people of different faiths closer.
PRIME MINISTER LEE HSIEN LOONG, in a Facebook post on the Yusof Ishak Mosque.
Puan Noor Aishah told The Straits Times: "I am very thankful to the Prime Minister and the people of Singapore."
Dr Imran, a consultant at a hospital in Brunei, said his family was honoured that the mosque was named after his father.
"My father was just trying his best to help the people of Singapore. He was very keen to spread the pillars of nation building, and the most important pillar would be unity and diversity of the people - we have to be united, however diverse we are."
This ethos of unity and inclusivity was reflected in the guest list yesterday that included Malay Muslim MPs from both sides of the House, such as Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli and Aljunied GRC MP Faisal Manap, religious leaders from other faiths, and grassroots leaders.
Mr Yusof served as Yang di-Pertuan Negara after Singapore gained self-government in 1959, and as president in 1965. He died in office in 1970.
Dr Yaacob said Mr Yusof's ethos should pervade all institutions in Singapore, including private spaces such as mosques and churches.
He added: "For me, the mosque is an important institution. All the Muslims who come here for prayer will attend classes and receive some of the services, therefore, the way we discharge those services must reflect the ethos. It is important to continue to uphold those values, not just for us, but for other Singaporeans."
Programmes like "open mosque day" for non-Muslims would help promote understanding, he said, adding that he hoped there would be more such activities in future.
Mosque chairman Ayub Johari welcomed this, saying in his speech: "This is what it means to be living in multiracial and multi-religious Singapore. It is something special, it is something meaningful and it is something we must all cherish."
This sentiment was echoed by Mr Vincent Chia, 49, from the Covenant Evangelical Free Church, who was a guest at the ceremony. He said: "We want to find partners that we can work together with to serve the community."
Yesterday was also the first time the mosque in Woodlands opened its doors to worshippers, after the prayer hall was consecrated by Mufti Mohamed Fatris Bakaram, Singapore's highest Islamic authority.
More than 5,000 people turned up for the prayer session, also led by him, despite a downpour.
Taxi driver Mohamad Hisham, 49, who was at the session, said: "People will remember (Mr Yusof) when they pray here and ask about Singapore's history."
Also present at the opening ceremony yesterday were Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan and Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung, who are MPs of Sembawang GRC, where the mosque is located.
The $18 million mosque is the 26th to be built under the Mosque Building and Mendaki Fund programme, and the 71st mosque in Singapore.