11 honoured for their contributions to S'pore's Muslim community

(from left) Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim, Muis president Mohammad Alami Musa, President Halimah Yacob and award recipients Yusoff Mohamed, Hasan Kutus Meerasahib, Abdul Jabar Mustaffa and Juriah Yatim (with back to camera) at t
(from left) Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim, Muis president Mohammad Alami Musa, President Halimah Yacob and award recipients Yusoff Mohamed, Hasan Kutus Meerasahib, Abdul Jabar Mustaffa and Juriah Yatim (with back to camera) at the Istana yesterday.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Ustaz Ali Mohamed, 71, has encountered many challenges in his decades of volunteering, from rehabilitating radicalised individuals to counselling drug offenders.

But he considers his hardest challenge to be formulating fatwas, which he has been doing as part of the Fatwa Committee - a group of senior Islamic scholars who make religious rulings in Singapore.

"There have been fatwas from overseas about scientific and medical advances, but we cannot blindly adopt them. We must look at our context while deciding what guidance to provide," he said.

The co-president of the Religious Rehabilitation Group was involved in landmark fatwas like the 2007 ruling that Muslims can be included in the Human Organ Transplant Act, which allows for organ donation after death unless people opt out.

Yesterday, he was given the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore's (Muis) Outstanding Award for his lifelong achievements and contributions to Singapore's Muslim community. The awards fete those who have made a difference in fields such as education, community service or Islamic teachings.

Ten welfare organisation leaders and mosque management board members also received Service Awards for their exemplary long service to the community.

All 11 received their awards from President Halimah Yacob at a ceremony in the Istana.

Muis chief executive Abdul Razak Maricar praised the recipients for helping to bond the community, and promoting social harmony. In his speech, he also highlighted the community's spirit of giving, citing a sustained increase in zakat, an annual tithe given by Muslims to the needy: $18.4 million was given out last year, 16 per cent more than in 2015.

"This is indeed a manifestation of the deep-set values which form the core of the Singapore Muslim identity; ever willing to strengthen the community and contribute to the nation and beyond," he said.

He presented President Halimah with a cheque for $100,000, raised by the Muslim community for this year's President's Challenge fund-raising drive for the disadvantaged.

Another award recipient was Dr Radiah Salim, who started the Club Heal voluntary welfare organisation in 2012 to help people with mental illness and support their families.

Said Dr Radiah, 54: "We want to remove the stigma against mental health once and for all. It hinders people from seeking help early, which makes recovery harder."

Ustaz Ali said of his work in countering radicalisation: "Islam is not a religion of hatred or violence... We have to play an important part to show that it is a small group who are radicalised...We cannot stop. My work is not done."

Charissa Yong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 15, 2017, with the headline '11 honoured for their contributions to S'pore's Muslim community'. Print Edition | Subscribe