Parliament: More than 4,000 accredited Islamic religious teachers in Singapore

Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli stressed that the Asatizah Recognition Scheme upholds high standards and those found to be unfit to be asatizah would be struck off the scheme. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The number of Islamic religious teachers accredited under a national scheme has risen to more than 4,000, up from 3,000 in 2017.

Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli gave the updated figure in Parliament on Tuesday (Feb 12) , as he stressed that those who fail to meet the high standards of the Asatizah Recognition Scheme (ARS) would be struck off its register.

The ARS, which became compulsory from 2017, requires religious teachers to abide by an ethical code which includes not encouraging extremism or violence, or not denigrating other racial and religious groups.

Mr Masagos was replying to Nominated MP Abbas Ali Mohamed Irshad, who had asked what safeguards there were to ensure religious teachers here do not hold radical views.

Mr Masagos cited the case of former freelance religious teacher Murad Mohd Said, who was placed on a Restriction Order under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in December last year. He is the first accredited religious teacher to be issued with an order under the ISA.

Murad was struck off the ARS in May last year for his segregationist ideologies.

Mr Masagos, reiterating a point he made on Monday, said this was how the ARS should work. "It monitors and takes action to bar those whose views are inimical to social cohesion from preaching," he said.

Mr Abbas also asked if there are ways to renew the ARS accreditation, and if there is an independent oversight body to review the ARS accreditation.

Mr Masagos said the Asatizah Recognition Board, which consists of senior and respected asatizah in the community, oversees the scheme and is supported by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis).

He said both the board and council take ARS registration seriously, and that processes are in place to ensure only responsible asatizah are accredited.

Each asatizah would also be required to renew their registration every three years, Mr Masagos added.

Replying to Mr Zainal Sapari (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC), the minister said the process for a teacher to be accredited again once removed from the ARS is not an easy one as only extreme cases are struck off.

"It is not easy for the asatizah to lose his accreditation, he must have been very egregious to have lost it and, therefore, the process of getting him on board should not be too easy either," said Mr Masagos.

He added that the Asatizah Recognition Board and Muis will look into such cases to ensure these teachers do not fall back into their old problematic ways.

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