The acts of radicals who kill and maim in the name of Islam have fuelled a negative narrative of the religion, but there are ways for the community and individual believers to respond positively, said President Halimah Yacob.
Speaking at a Ramadan charity iftar (breaking of the fast) yesterday organised by Berita Harian, where she and her husband joined others in serving porridge to beneficiaries, President Halimah said the sharing of a meal with the less fortunate is in line "with the true spirit of Islam which encourages its adherents to always care for the community".
She added that it is common in Singapore to find people of different faiths breaking fast together, which strengthens bonds between communities and deepens understanding of Islam as a benevolent and compassionate religion.
Similarly, there is much that individual Muslims can do in their daily lives to counter the negative narrative and to develop trust and confidence from other communities, said the President.
"When people have pleasant experiences with us and find Muslims to be responsible, hard-working, trustworthy and caring, they will view Islam positively," she added.
Held at Wisma Geylang Serai - the new Malay-Muslim social, cultural and heritage hub opened earlier this month - the iftar was attended by more than 150 beneficiaries of various races and religions.
The event also saw Berita Harian, the Malay language daily of Singapore Press Holdings, raise $30,000 for the President's Challenge, of which $20,000 was donated by property and logistics solutions firm MES Group.
Recounting her interactions with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University, Dr Ahmed Al Tayyeb, when he visited Singapore recently, President Halimah said he expressed his strong regret over the use of Islam by deviants to commit bloodshed that had fuelled perceptions of Islam as a violent and destructive religion.
"According to the Grand Imam, Al-Azhar wants to do its part to change this narrative by cooperating with Muslims and non-Muslims alike to promote the correct perceptions of Islam," she added.