Parliament: Network of young religious teachers to be expanded, says Yaacob Ibrahim

The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore will grow its network of young asatizah, or religious teachers, and continue to get these teachers up to speed in digital media and counselling to counter youth radicalism.
The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore will grow its network of young asatizah, or religious teachers, and continue to get these teachers up to speed in digital media and counselling to counter youth radicalism.PHOTO: BH FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore's Malay/Muslim community is concerned about the spread of extremist ideology, and will take steps to tackle them, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim said in Parliament on Thursday (March 8).

Dr Yaacob said the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) will grow its network of young asatizah, or religious teachers, and continue to get these teachers up to speed in digital media and counselling to counter youth radicalism.

He was responding to Mr Zainal Sapari (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC), who had asked what could be done to protect youth from radical ideology, during the debate on the budget of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, which oversees Muslim affairs.

Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister for Communications and Information, noted that extremist ideology spread on social media and acts of terror by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have set Muslims against non-Muslims in many societies. Others have also been misled by religious preachers espousing exclusivist beliefs and practices.

He told the House: "This is surely the road to alienation, marginalisation and ruin. In Singapore, we must stand united against such ideologues and ideologies, and against Islamophobia."

Dr Yaacob also said that 11 teachers have been selected for Muis' asatizah youth network (AYN) based on their online presence and influence.

The AYN will play a more pro-active role in guiding the community on social media, he added, noting it had produced an online video series after attending a workshop on effective counter-narrative and digital engagements conducted by Google Singapore last year.

 
 
 

The network of asatizah will be expanded to 30 teachers by the end of this year, The Straits Times understands.

Dr Yaacob also gave an update on Singapore's plan to develop an Islamic college in Singapore, in response to queries from Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar (Ang Mo Kio GRC) and Dr Fatimah Lateef (Marine Parade GRC).

He said that along with Muis officials, he has been visiting institutions of higher learning in Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Turkey, as well as those in multi-religious countries such as the United States and Canada, to study different models of tertiary Islamic education.

Dr Yaacob said: "An Islamic college in Singapore would adapt appropriate features from overseas institutions, so that we will, in time, produce Islamic teachers and scholars who balance a deep learning of the Islamic sciences with broad-based skills and knowledge, and more importantly are rooted in the belief and practice of Islam in Singapore's multi-religious and multi-racial context."