For more than 20 years, two Muslim religious teachers, Ustaz Mohamad Hasbi Hassan and Ustaz Ali Haji Mohamed, have worked hard to rehabilitate Singaporeans who were radicalised.
They include those involved in the plans by terror group Jemaah Islamiah (JI) to bomb several embassies and high commissions here in 2001.
Ustaz Ali, 71, and Ustaz Hasbi, 58, worked with the authorities to understand what motivated the JI terrorists and debunk their deviant beliefs. This formed the foundation for the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG), which both religious teachers started in 2003.
The RRG, which they now co-chair, trains religious teachers to counsel those who have been influenced or misguided by radical teachings. It has performed more than 1,500 counselling sessions since its inception and has conducted workshops on countering extremist ideology in schools and mosques.
Yesterday, the two men were among the seven individuals who were honoured by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis). They were presented the Muis50 Distinguished Awards during the annual Muis Awards ceremony.
The Muis50 Distinguished Awards were given out in conjunction with the council's 50th anniversary and recognise Muslims who have contributed to Muis and the wider community in the last 50 years.
MUIS AWARD RECIPIENTS
JASA CEMERLANG (OUTSTANDING) AWARD
• Ustazah Sukarti Asmoin
JASA BAKTI (SERVICE) AWARD
• Haji Abu Bakar Omar
• Ms Faridah Eryani Pairin
• Ustazah Harinah Abdul Latiff
• Haji Mohamed Mohd Salleh Patail
• Haji Noordin Abdul Sukor
• Dr Shaik Ahmad Buhari
• Ustazah Sumah Fadalee
MUIS50 DISTINGUISHED AWARD
• Haji Shafawi Ahmad
• Ustaz Pasuni Maulan
• Haji Sallim Abdul Kadir
• Haji Abdul Rahim Abdul Jalil
• Ustaz Ali Haji Mohamed
• Ustaz Mohamad Hasbi Hassan
• Almarhum Syed Abdullah Haroon Aljunied (Posthumous)
MUIS50 INSPIRING YOUTH AWARD
• Mr Abbas Ali Mohamed Irshad
• Mr Mohksin Mohd Rashid
• Ustaz Muhammad Zahid Mohd Zin
• Ustaz Muhammad Tarmizi Abdul Wahid
• Ms Nur Khairiana Mohamad Malek
In his opening address, Muis chief executive Abdul Razak Maricar said: "As we look back at the past 50 years, Muis is conferring seven of these individuals with the Muis50 Distinguished Award.
"We deeply appreciate and value their service and sacrifices and are truly inspired by their sense of dedication to our institutions and to our community."
When asked how he felt about the award, Ustaz Ali said he was heartened that Muis recognised the RRG's efforts and that it underscored the importance of working together within the community.
"At the RRG, we work closely with community members to help those who might have strayed and brought trouble to the community and the country. I am thankful that the RRG has the opportunity to work together with them," he added.
In a press release issued yesterday, Muis said the seven award recipients each received $3,000 but all have pledged the amount to charity.
The council added that it has matched and topped up these contributions, bringing the total to be donated to five charities to $50,000.
The charities are: Ain Society's Serenity Cancer Centre, Casa Raudha Women Home, Club Heal, Rainbow Centre and the Association for Persons with Special Needs. Each will receive $10,000.
Held at the Fairmont Singapore and Swissotel The Stamford, yesterday's award ceremony was attended by President Halimah Yacob, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs and Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli and Mufti Fatris Bakaram.
Muis also presented Madam Halimah with a cheque of $100,000 for the President's Challenge. The amount was contributed by the community.
Several other awards were presented by Muis yesterday, including the Jasa Cemerlang Award, which honours lifelong achievements and contributions to Muslims in Singapore.
Religious leader and Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Association vice-president Ustazah Sukarti Asmoin, 64, the sole recipient of the award, said: "What I do now is how I can best contribute and I would like to do more of it."