Helpers sought for Muslim rehab initiative

Senior Parliamentary Secretary Amrin Amin (right) and Muis chief executive Esa Masood at the fast-breaking event at En-Naeem Mosque.
Senior Parliamentary Secretary Amrin Amin (right) and Muis chief executive Esa Masood at the fast-breaking event at En-Naeem Mosque. ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

More befrienders needed for scheme that helps reintegrate ex-offenders into society

A new initiative by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) aims to get more people on board to help rehabilitate and reintegrate Muslim former offenders into society.

Based out of En-Naeem Mosque in Hougang, the Family and Inmates Through-care Assistance Haven (Fitrah) programme provides services such as religious counselling.

It is a collaborative effort by the three M³ organisations - Muis, Mendaki and the People's Association Malay Activity Executive Committees Council - together with the Home Affairs Ministry and the Singapore Prisons Service.

Launched last November, Fitrah - which currently has 155 religious counsellors - aims to also have 150 community befrienders by the end of this year.

As part of efforts to help the families of former offenders as well as those who are currently incarcerated, these befrienders will conduct home visits, identify the needs of the families and refer them to the relevant agencies for social assistance if necessary.

These efforts will begin with families in the Taman Jurong area, said a Muis spokesman. "Mosques will provide facilities for counselling and the training of volunteers in collaboration with the Singapore Prison Service," he added.

LENDING A HAND

The outside world is just too much and foreign to them. We want to close that door, and ask them, what can we do for you?

MR WAYNE ABDULLAH, a befriender and business owner who has hired a number of former offenders in the past, noting that the easy way out for former inmates is often to go back to crime.

Last month, 30 volunteers from the Al-Mukminin, Assyakirin and Maarof mosques, as well as Mendaki and grassroots organisations, underwent Yellow Ribbon Community Project training, conducted by the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association.

Speaking to the media at a fast-breaking event held yesterday by the Fitrah office for about 150 family members of inmates and former offenders at En-Naeem Mosque, Fitrah's programme manager, Ustaz Syahrin Mohd Salleh, said Fitrah's focus so far has been on helping those who are currently imprisoned.

"For ex-offenders, these community befrienders can act as new friends, so they will not feel alone as they try to reintegrate into society," he said.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin, who also attended the fast-breaking event, said he hoped initiatives like Fitrah could end the cycle of crime such as drug offences in the Malay/Muslim community.

Having more volunteers will also strengthen Fitrah's efforts in rehabilitating former offenders and reduce their chances of recidivism, said Ustaz Achik Ithnin, a religious counsellor and former prisons officer.

One befriender, Mr Wayne Abdullah, is a business owner who has hired a number of former offenders in the past. The 44-year-old - whose wife, IT security specialist Anna Marie Abdullah, 49, is also volunteering with Fitrah as a counsellor - said former offenders often face challenges in acclimatising to society after several years in prison.

"The outside world is just too much and foreign to them," he said, noting the easy way out is often for them to go back into crime.

"We want to close that door, and ask them, what can we do for you?"

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 13, 2019, with the headline 'Helpers sought for Muslim rehab initiative'. Print Edition | Subscribe