Indian-Muslims support scheme to register religious teachers

The Indian-Muslim community will back a scheme that endorses Islamic religious teachers, the leader of a prominent self-help group said yesterday.

All Islamic religious teachers must register in the Asatizah Recognition Scheme (ARS) from Jan 1 next year.

Speaking at the Singapore Kadayanallur Muslim League's 75th-anniversary dinner, president Naseer Ghani said: "SKML assures everyone it will play its part in supporting Muis and ensuring that our children receive religious education only from ARS-accredited teachers."

At his National Day Rally in August, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke of the need to strengthen the scheme, which started in 2005 and is now voluntary.

About 80 per cent of asatizah here, or about 1,800, are on its register.

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim, who looks after Muslim affairs and attended the dinner, told reporters it is "assuring" to receive support for the scheme. "These are the kinds of efforts we want to see from groups who are prepared to bring in teachers from other parts of the world to meet their own particular needs."

As with Malay-Muslim teachers, the accreditation board will look at the qualifications of the teachers as well as their curriculum.

It also wants teachers to continually upgrade themselves and renew their certification every three years, Dr Yaacob said.

He added that teachers who speak only Tamil need not worry as the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) will work with them.

"Language is just a medium, the most important thing is content," he said.

SKML currently runs two part-time madrasahs in Al-Amin and Mujahidin mosques, and there are at least 42 Indian-Muslim religious teachers here.

Last night, PM Lee - the dinner's guest of honour - gave out 13 awards to volunteers who have contributed to the Indian-Muslim community.

Senior education officer A. R. Mashuthoo Rahiman, 67, took home both the outstanding community service and long service awards for encouraging appreciation of the Tamil language, among other things.

To make Tamil - a language he described as "poetic, classic and a little complicated" - less daunting for students, he used a variety of methods to keep lessons fresh, such as getting students to act in skits, playing movie clips and using computer programs.

He said of the recognition: "It gives me full satisfaction, having worked hard to spread the love for the Tamil language and culture for the last 40 years."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 23, 2016, with the headline 'Indian-Muslims support scheme to register religious teachers'. Print Edition | Subscribe