SINGAPORE - Mosques in Singapore are built and upgraded using funds contributed by Muslims here, and this ensures the Muslim community cannot be easily influenced by foreigners, said Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman on Monday (Oct 7).
He cited this as he spoke about the unique way in which Islam is practised in Singapore, saying the Muslim community charts its own path while respecting the country's multi-religious context, even as it adheres closely to the underpinnings of Islam.
"The community recognises the importance of practising one's religion in a way that is respectful towards those who may profess a different belief," he said in Parliament during the debate on the the amendments to the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act (MRHA) .
It is in this spirit that the community and the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) supports the MHRA changes that will allow the Government to act swiftly against threats to religious harmony and curb foreign influence on religious organisations, he added.
In fact, Dr Maliki said, the practices of the mosques and religious institutions under Muis are already aligned to the amendments, like the setting up of the Mosque Building Fund.
The money in the fund comes from the monthly contributions of each working Muslim in Singapore, and is used to build and upgrade the 75 mosques in the country.
This allows the Muslim community to be self-reliant, said Dr Maliki, adding: "We are able to address our own needs without becoming susceptible to manipulation by foreign parties for their own agendas and risking the peace and harmony we have enjoyed as a society."
He also stressed the importance of guarding the common space for people of all races and religions, in response to Workers' Party's Mr Faisal Manap (Aljunied GRC) who had said religious tolerance can be achieved without any followers of a religion having to sacrifice their values and faith.
Mr Faisal cited the experience of his father's friend, whose daughter was allowed to wear a headscarf and loose-fitting clothing in a public secondary school in Melbourne.
"They do not practise tolerance by asking followers of a religion to compromise their faith or to be less Islamic for the sake of integration," he said.
Dr Maliki, in his response, said schools in Singapore are critical common spaces where a shared identity and experience can be nurtured in children of all races and religions.
"Here in Singapore, we must determine what works best for our unique multi-religious context," he added.
He also said that while religion is a deeply personal matter, the Muslim community recognises the role that laws play in allowing the different communities to co-exist in harmony.
"The law sets the tone for the norms that we treasure and uphold as a society, and in the case of the MRHA, the laws are the ultimate safeguard for religious harmony," he added.