SINGAPORE - Mr Esa Han Hsien Masood, 39, will be the youngest ever to lead the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) as its chief executive from Jan 1, and he knows his age could be an issue to some.
In a media interview on Tuesday (Dec 4), he acknowledged such concerns and said he hopes that he would be able to show that he can do the job despite his age.
"My age, to some, could be an issue. But I hope, through working with the various stakeholders, to try to show that I'm here to listen," said Mr Esa.
"I'm here to contribute and hopefully by being able to support the stakeholders and then be of service to them, hopefully it will not be an issue so much."
Mr Esa will take over from Mr Abdul Razak Hassan Maricar, 64, who is retiring after 43 years in the public service.
The Public Service Commission scholarship holder read Electrical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) before securing a Master's degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT as well.
Mr Esa joined Muis - which looks after the administration and interests of the Muslim community here - late last year as its deputy chief executive.
He was with the former Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS), working on policies to strengthen families, before moving to the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) where he developed strategies for Singapore's future energy needs.
Before joining Muis, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, Mr Esa was a deputy director in the corporate planning office of the Education Ministry (MOE).
He was also the director for policy at the Early Childhood Development Agency, which is the regulatory and developmental authority for the early childhood sector here.
Mr Esa, a Muslim of Malay and Chinese background and father of two, said he never thought his career would take him to Muis, but he believes in keeping an open mind.
He also believes in meaningful causes.
At MCYS, he worked on initiatives to strengthen families and mitigate the impact of problem gambling. At MOE, he was involved in coordinating reviews of education policies for the general education sector.
He said of his appointment as Muis' new chief executive: "It was not something I planned for or hoped for, but I always keep an open mind as to what I can contribute and always building my skills to contribute wherever I go.
"I think for me when the opportunity came up I thought it was very meaningful. I thought it was a good time for me to contribute back to the community."
Mr Esa said when he joined Muis, Mr Abdul Razak assigned him the religious education portfolio, which comprises six full time madrasahs as well as part-time education programmes for children, youths and adults in mosques.
He was also put in charge of the development of the mosque sector, overseeing the governance, finance, infrastructure and development for all 70 mosques here.
Mr Esa said his time in Muis has given him "a lot of opportunity" to build the networks on the ground, understand the organisation and the priorities better".
As the new chief executive, one of his top priorities is to continue building the momentum of the collaboration between the three Malay/Muslim organisations here.
They are: Muis, self-help group Mendaki, and the People's Association Malay Activity Executive Committees Council (Mesra).
This collaboration, known as M³, was highlighted by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally on Aug 19. It seeks to combine resources and volunteers among the three organisations to uplift the community.
Said Mr Esa: "Each of us have different programmes but together we can look to address specific groups or concerns, specific client groups where they can benefit from a more holistic support."
Muis is specifically looking at using M³ to support families with incarcerated parents, said Mr Esa.
"We want to support the family, we want to strengthen the delivery of counselling services to those in prison so it gives them a spiritual and moral support to help them get back to be integrated into society later on," he added.