SINGAPORE - Islamic religious teachers, or asatizah, can now be trained to identity symptoms of family violence and take steps to help stop domestic abuse in order to counter misguided mindsets in the community.
At a Symposium on Muslim Family Law on Monday (Oct 7), organised by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development and Education Faishal Ibrahim also announced that training for asatizah interested in social work and counselling will be be available.
"Our asatizah have been strongly supporting efforts to counter unhelpful and misguided mindsets that perpetuate gender discrimination and violence against women," he said.
"These mindsets often lead to abuse, such as domestic violence and marital rape."
The training that asatizah will receive to spot signs of domestic violence will complement community efforts to counter such mindsets.
Existing efforts include public education through weekly Friday sermons at mosques around the island.
Asatizah will be trained to not just find signs of domestic abuse, but to also take "pre-emptive and proactive steps" to stop it from happening, said Dr Faishal.
The training, which is a collaboration between Muis and the Ministry of Social and Family Development, will see asatizah go through a six-hour programme that is being carried out by partners of Muis like Casa Raudha Women Home, which is a shelter for women and children.
Since it was started in July, three sessions have been conducted, and 300 asatizah have been trained. More sessions are planned for the rest of the year.
In February, Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli said in Parliament that there are now more than 4,000 teachers accredited under the Asatizah Recognition Scheme, the national accreditation scheme for Islamic religious teachers in Singapore.
Dr Faishal said that to help the asatizah better serve vulnerable families, Muis is also looking to help those who are interested in social work and counselling to equip themselves with skills related to the field. No further details on this were available.
On Monday, Dr Faishal also called for professionals to come together to help support couples in the community.
"Apart from the asatizah, we need professionals from different sectors to work together, namely those in the area of social work, education, and legal practitioners. We hope to be able to provide a continuum of guidance and support for couples at every stage - before marriage, during marriage, when they become new parents, the early childhood years of their child, and beyond," he said.
"I believe that this will be possible if we work together and leverage on each other's expertise and strengths," he added.
The Symposium on Muslim Family Law will run until Tuesday and will see 120 participants discuss the importance for the Muslim religious leadership in providing relevant religious guidance, as well as initiatives by legal institutions to keep Muslim family law in Singapore current.