Religious teachers' influence comes with responsibility: Halimah Yacob

Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) vice-chairman Mohamed Ali (left) showing President Halimah Yacob and her husband, Mr Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee, around the RRG resource and counselling centre at the Khadijah Mosque during their visit yesterday.
Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) vice-chairman Mohamed Ali (left) showing President Halimah Yacob and her husband, Mr Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee, around the RRG resource and counselling centre at the Khadijah Mosque during their visit yesterday.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

They must lead based on true Islamic teachings, help guide community towards progress

Asatizahs or religious teachers have a certain standing and influence in the community, and that comes with a responsibility to ensure they lead their followers based on the true teachings of Islam, said President Halimah Yacob.

And these teachers, she added, can also be a positive influence in helping to guide the Malay community towards achieving progress, and living peacefully with others.

Said Madam Halimah: "Any view that promotes violence is wrong; what more if it is done in the name of religion and trying to appeal to the spiritual and emotional needs of people to achieve certain objectives."

Madam Halimah made the remarks in a speech during a visit yesterday to the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) resource and counselling centre at the Khadijah Mosque in Geylang Road. She lauded the decision of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) to cancel the accreditation of a former religious teacher or ustaz who propagated beliefs that were wrong in Islam, and "incompatible with Singapore's multi-racial and multi-religious context".

Freelance religious teacher Murad Mohd Said, 46, and one of his students, technician Razali Abas, 56, were issued with restriction orders under the Internal Security Act. Murad was propagating divisive racial beliefs, and Razali demonstrated militant tendencies after being exposed to Murad's teachings.

Madam Halimah said the fight against terrorism on the ideological front needs to remain strong and unwavering.

She said: "We must not be complacent. This could be the calm before the storm. The threat of self-radicalisation persists, especially through the Internet, and the authorities continue to detect people influenced by extremist rhetoric."

  • >90

  • Number of terrorism-related detainees who have been rehabilitated, released from detention and re-integrated into society.

 
 
 
 

She added that extremist groups continue to be active and are recruiting supporters, and that Singapore must remain vigilant at all times because this is a long-term challenge, and one that is global as well as domestic. In this respect, the RRG has played a critical role in combating terrorism and extremism in Singapore, she said.

The centre is open to members of the public who wish to seek clarification on radical ideologies and violent extremism, and provides counselling services as well.

Said Madam Halimah: "Today, as I went through the exhibits, I was reminded of how the critical role of the RRG in combating terrorism and extremism in Singapore has evolved and strengthened over the years, and how much we have benefited from your good work."

The RRG has also helped individuals in the early stages of radicalisation get back on the correct path, she said, adding that it also educates the wider public, making society more resilient against extremist ideologies.

Individuals like Murad and Razali usually undergo rehabilitation and counselling at places like the RRG, to steer them away from radical ideologies and extremist tendencies.

More than 90 terrorism-related detainees, including many who were part of terrorist groups like Jemaah Islamiah, have been rehabilitated, released from detention and re-integrated into society, said Madam Halimah.

But she added that there is still more to be done to counter the spread of wrong ideologies and terrorism by extremists.

She said: "The fight against terrorism on the ideological front must continue to remain strong and unwavering.

"We must not let dangerous ideas fester or allow them to gnaw at our social fabric. If any such views were to surface, we should nip them in the bud."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2019, with the headline 'Halimah: Religious teachers' influence comes with responsibility'. Print Edition | Subscribe