SINGAPORE - By responding with unity, resilience and compassion to disruptions brought about by Covid-19 pandemic, the Malay-Muslim community here has demonstrated how it is a community of success, said Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs.
Mr Masagos was speaking at his annual Hari Raya get-together for more than 100 community and religious leaders on Friday (June 5), which was held virtually via video-conferencing platform Zoom and featured a musical performance by singer Ramli Sarip.
The minister also announced a new wakaf, or Islamic endowment fund, to support the community.
He said challenges for Malay-Muslims here came multi-fold amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
He noted how members had to make adjustments to changes such as the closure of mosques, the disallowing of congregational prayers, the postponement of the haj pilgrimage and the inability to visit loved ones during Hari Raya celebrations.
"We made difficult adjustments to our social and religious norms to contain the spread of Covid-19, to pull our weight like everyone in our country to keep Singapore safe.
"We also pulled together community resources to provide holistic support to the vulnerable among us," said Mr Masagos, who is also Minister for the Environment and Water Resources.
"It was not easy to adapt to this uncertain situation, but I am glad that we have stayed united, compassionate and civic-minded.
"I want to put on record how proud I am in the way our community responded to the Covid-19 pandemic thus far."
During the eight-week circuit breaker period from April to June, when most Singaporeans had to stay home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the Malay-Muslim community continued to give back and support each other, said Mr Masagos.
He highlighted how Muslims donated to the Our Masjid portal to sustain mosques and their staff.
He also noted how the Singapore Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry worked with businesses, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) and other organisations to cook and distribute food for 20,000 front-liners and needy families on a daily basis.
This ground-up effort of providing these meals, called the SGUnited Buka Puasa and held during the fasting month of Ramadan, raised $3 million, he added.
On Friday, Mr Masagos announced a new endowment fund that will serve to fund the community's institutions and its programmes, as well as to help develop religious teachers here.
Dubbed the Wakaf Masyarakat Singapura (Singapore Community Wakaf), he said this fund will be managed by Muis and will help fulfil the financial needs of community members and institutions who fall through the cracks.
"I have asked Muis to set up the Singapore Community Wakaf, aimed to financially support our religious institutions, asatizah (Islamic religious teachers) development and community programmes, whose needs are not systematically funded by platforms such as the Mosque Building and Mendaki Fund (MBMF) and zakat collections," said Mr Masagos, referring to the annual Muslim alms-giving.
Traditionally, wakaf is defined as the permanent dedication by a Muslim of any property for any purpose defined by Muslim law as religious and charitable, but the concept has evolved to be similar to a trust fund, where money is invested and the returns are used to help the community.
In a fact sheet on Friday, Muis said there are currently 91 of such wakaf that it looks after, with a total asset value of more than $800 million.
The council added that in recent years, over $3 million is disbursed from these investments annually, where 85 per cent of these funds are disbursed yearly to local beneficiaries, while the remaining goes to the poor and needy overseas.
The Wakaf Masyarakat Singapura will serve to consolidate funds from some of the wakaf that Muis manages, as well as assets from mosques and contributions from society.
The Muis fact sheet said: "This consolidation exercise aims to increase the value of the community's assets through synergy and economies of scale and maximising income for all."