SINGAPORE - 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 included those involved in the plans by terror group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) to bomb several embassies and high commissions 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.
On Saturday (Oct 6), 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 recognises Muslims who have contributed to Muis and the wider community in the last 50 years.
In his opening address, Muis chief executive Abdul Razak Maricar said: "As we look back at the past fifty 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 that 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 bring trouble to the community and to the country. I am thankful that the RRG gets the opportunity to work together with them," he said.
In a press release issued on Saturday, Muis said that 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 five charities are: Ain Society's Serenity Cancer Centre, CasaRaudha 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, Saturday'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.
Besides the Muis50 Distinguished Award, three other awards were given out at the ceremony.
Another special 50th anniversary award, the Muis50 Inspiring Youth Award, lauded five individuals for their "impactful contributions in the socio-religious field".
The Jasa Cemerlang and Jasa Bakti awards were the two other awards handed out. These have been presented by Muis every year since the inaugural awards ceremony in 1990.
Seven individuals received the Jasa Bakti awards for their long service to the community.
Religious leader and vice-president of Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Association (PERGAS) Ustazah Sukarti Asmoin, 64, was the sole recipient of the Jasa Cemerlang award, which honours lifelong achievements and contributions to Muslims in Singapore.
Said Ustazah Sukarti: "I would like to do more and I would like to contribute to the community more. What I do now is how I can best contribute, and I would like to do more of it."