Find ways for madrasahs to work with other schools

In the wake of recent senseless attacks on innocent lives in Belgium and Pakistan, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam's timely reminder could not have come at a more appropriate time ("Stop anti-Muslim views from taking root: Shanmugam"; yesterday).

I agree with Mr Shanmugam that it should be the responsibility of the remaining 85 per cent of Singapore's population who are non-Muslim to extend our hands to our fellow Muslim Singaporeans. I have no doubt that they are against violent acts committed in the name of Islam.

Students in secular schools get the chance to mix with those of other races and religions on a regular basis. However, students in madrasahs, or Islamic religious schools, may get less of a chance to do so, especially if they start such education at a young age.

These are formative years, and it is important to set the right foundation for how they deal with others in the future.

We must find ways to integrate madrasah students more with national schools and other communities.

The suggestion by Madrasah Al-Arabiah Secondary 3 student Kasyful Azim to include madrasah schools in more national sports and academic competitions is good.

However, we have to ensure that such interaction doesn't become too competitive such that the aims of integration and interaction are overshadowed by the desire to win.

Another way to integrate madrasah students with those of other races could be to get them to attend mathematics, English or science classes in secular schools nearby.

This could be a good way for students from both types of schools to mingle and build inter-racial and inter-religious rapport.

Having to travel to another school for some lessons may be a little inconvenient for madrasah students, but, in the long run, such an arrangement could be for the betterment of the whole society.

Such an arrangement must stem from a mutual agreement between both the Ministry of Education and madrasahs, and should not be forced upon any side.

Rajasegaran Ramasamy

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 01, 2016, with the headline 'Find ways for madrasahs to work with other schools'. Print Edition | Subscribe