SINGAPORE - A new postgraduate Islamic studies programme will soon be offered here for overseas Islamic studies graduates returning to Singapore.
Set up by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), the programme will equip Singaporean students with the relevant knowledge and skills to serve in both the religious and secular sectors, while being grounded in Islamic teachings and values.
The Postgraduate Certificate in Islam in Contemporary Societies (PCICS) is a one-year full-time programme that aims to help returning religious graduates readjust and contextualise what they have learnt overseas to local social and political contexts.
The programme is especially relevant for aspiring Islamic leaders in Singapore, also known as asatizah.
Religious graduates hoping to serve as an asatizah in Singapore will be required to hold the PCICS, as it is now part of the requirements for registration under Tier 1 of the Asatizah Recognition Scheme (ARS) in Singapore.
The PCICS was introduced on Wednesday (July 24) by Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli at the inaugural Islamic Higher Education Workshop organised by Muis at the Royal Plaza on Scotts.
"When our graduates return to Singapore, they are coming from contexts where Muslims are the majority, and Islam is taught to them for that context," he said.
"Our special context in Singapore is that we are the minority. There is a need for our returning graduates to be reoriented to how and what is effective for our society in Singapore; not just for the Muslims, but also for us to live with the rest of Singaporeans."
As part of the journey towards developing a Singapore Islamic College, the PCICS was set up to "explore new approaches and pedagogies in teaching and learning Islam, which would be scaffolded into the future Singapore Islamic College", Mr Masagos said.
No date has been confirmed for the launch of the local Islamic College.
Dr Nazirudin Mohd Nasir, Deputy Mufti of Singapore, told The Straits Times that many Singaporeans who wish to further their Islamic studies often choose to go overseas to do so.
Students usually attend colleges in predominantly Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia or Jordan.
Mr Masagos called on local asatizah to be increasingly proactive and involved in society beyond the religious sector.
To equip them to do so, students on the PCICS will read a selection of modules offered by the Muis Academy and by local and foreign universities.
Modules selected will cover a range of social sciences, vocational skills as well as Islamic studies so that students gain a "more rounded education", Mr Masagos said.
Potential modules could include Islam in Singapore, Understanding our Social World, Religion in Contemporary Societies, as well as introductory modules on counselling, social work and psychology.
The National University of Singapore and the Singapore University of Social Sciences are partnering Muis in the programme.
Foreign universities Al-Azhar University from Egypt and the University of Jordan will share their expertise in teaching traditional Islamic studies and Arabic.
PCICS students will also have opportunities to take up internships, projects and workshops so that they can develop on-the-job work-ready skills for their future roles in religious and secular sectors.
Mr Masagos said: "Our asatizah must be rooted to sound Islamic values, and always be open to explore and embrace new ideas."
He added that they must also continuously acquire "new and relevant competencies so that they remain relevant in this ever-changing landscape".
"And finally, our asatizah must be active and contributing citizens - proactively involving themselves in our wider social setting, and building strong ties across diverse groups to forge deep mutual trust and understanding."
Enrolment begins in January 2020, and the programme will be offered from April 2020 onwards.
Its first cohort will be about 60 students strong, but is set to steadily increase each year to about 100 to 120 students.