Islamic religious leaders have helped Malay Muslims forge a progressive identity while being respectful to Singapore's local context, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Maliki Osman said yesterday.
He lauded their efforts in steering the community through sensitive issues, and said maintaining religious harmony requires the effort of everyone, including Malay Muslims. That is why the role of Malay-Muslim religious leaders is crucial, he said.
"The essence of leadership is the ability to make sound and well-considered decisions, even if they are unpopular and are difficult to be accepted by some segments, but should be done in the interest of the larger community and society," he added.
Speaking in Parliament during the debate on the President's Address, Dr Maliki, who is also Second Minister for Education and Foreign Affairs, touched on how the Covid-19 pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges for Malay Muslims.
He spoke about how Islamic religious leaders have had to make tough decisions to help stop the virus' spread, such as suspending Friday prayers in mosques and deferring this year's haj pilgrimage. He said he was grateful that the religious leaders acted early.
He also urged the Malay-Muslim community to help its more vulnerable members level up, and pledged that the Government will continue doing the same.
To that end, one such effort is the Uplift programme by the Education and Social and Family Development ministries, he said. Under the programme, a coordinator works with disadvantaged students and their families to link them up with community programmes and resources, including social workers and social service agencies, he added.
The Government, Dr Maliki said, will continue to strengthen such partnerships across different agencies and the community so that it can continue to provide support for disadvantaged families.
He added that it is understandable some families are unable to tackle long-term issues like education, upskilling and financial planning as they usually live from pay cheque to pay cheque and would rather focus on more immediate concerns. He was concerned about such families, and called on the community to come together to improve the circumstances of these families.
He said: "If we rally together as a community, we can help relieve some of these pressures for fellow members of our community and citizens - to stabilise them and work together to chart a brighter future for their children."