As part of its efforts to build a caring and inclusive Muslim community here, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) will provide $1 million to encourage families to set up trusts for family members with special needs.
Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim announced this initiative yesterday, adding that about 100 low-and middle-income families are expected to benefit from the funds, which will cover the start-up capital for setting up trusts with the Special Needs Trust Company (SNTC).
This will help them "safeguard their loved one's welfare and financial security", he said at Muis' annual workplan seminar.
The SNTC manages trusts that continue to provide for beneficiaries with special needs after their parents or guardians die.
Now, less than 2 per cent of its trusts are by Muslim families, said Dr Yaacob. The new scheme will be financed through money from unclaimed estates of people who died without heirs.
Five study awards of up to $10,000 will also be given each year over the next three years to people pursuing studies in social work. The funds are from zakat donations, or annual almsgiving by Muslims.
VALUES THAT BIND
We are part of an increasingly diverse Singapore society. We may have differences in beliefs, practices and perspectives... but we must share a common set of values and life experiences that binds us together as Singaporeans.
MINISTER-IN-CHARGE OF MUSLIM AFFAIRS YAACOB IBRAHIM, on having a Singapore Muslim community that is more inclusive and appreciative of diversity.
"As we continue to globalise and digitalise, there will be people who will fall through the cracks, so social workers are really needed," Dr Yaacob told reporters after the event.
These schemes are in line with the Muslim community's aspirations, based on discussions with more than 600 people to mark Muis' 50th anniversary this year, he said.
Having a Singapore Muslim community that is more inclusive and appreciative of diversity was one of three themes that emerged from the discussions and feedback gathered over the past six months, said Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister for Communications and Information.
"We are part of an increasingly diverse Singapore society. We may have differences in beliefs, practices and perspectives... but we must share a common set of values and life experiences that binds us together as Singaporeans," he said.
The other themes were enhancing Islamic education to nurture discerning youth, and building a more community-centric mosque sector.
Dr Yaacob also announced that the current six mosque clusters will be reorganised into four clusters in the north, south, east and west, to make better use of the resources of the 70 mosques in Singapore.
He added that as part of Singapore's Smart Nation drive, an enhanced e-Halal portal will be launched in the third quarter of this year to make it easier for businesses to apply for halal certification.
Muis yesterday gave updates on several schemes that started last year. Over 3,600 asatizah, or religious teachers, and 240 Islamic schools have registered under the Asatizah Recognition Scheme.
A total of 31 graduates attended the first run of the Certificate of Islam in Context course last November after their Islamic studies overseas. The four-week programme provides a local context to what they learnt.
In his speech, Dr Yaacob highlighted Muis' growth over the past 50 years from a small office in Empress Place manned by only seven staff, whose primary duties were to administer zakat collection and manage mosques and endowments.
Today, it supports many other aspects of the evolving socio-religious needs of the community, such as developing religious leaders; nurturing an informed, discerning and resilient community; and promoting social cohesion with other communities, he said.
Muis will hold several events this year as part of its anniversary celebrations, including an International Religious Conference in November.