Plans for all Islamic religious teachers to come under recognition scheme: Yaacob

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim at the graduation ceremony of a programme for young and aspiring Islamic religious leaders.
Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim at the graduation ceremony of a programme for young and aspiring Islamic religious leaders. PHOTO: GIN TAY FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

SINGAPORE - A 10-year-old scheme to help Muslim Singaporeans better assess and recognise qualified religious teachers will be expanded.

The Asatizah Recognition Scheme, which recognises Islamic religious teachers and scholars who meet minimum standards of qualifications to teach religious knowledge here, will reach out to all asatizah, or religious teachers.

Currently, about 80 per cent of asatizah here are under the scheme.

Those who are not in the scheme include older teachers, who may not have had structured religious education, and informally trained younger teachers.

"We must provide assurance to our community that those who provide religious guidance have the proper qualifications and training," Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said on Monday (Aug 1).

Dr Yaacob, who is Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, announced the change to the scheme at a graduation ceremony of a programme for young and aspiring Islamic religious leaders to better understand religious teachings in the context of Singapore's multiracial, multi-religious society.

He added that the Singapore Islamic scholars and religious teachers association (Pergas) and the Asatizah Recognition Board, which jointly oversee the recognition scheme, are working with the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) to expand the scheme.

Dr Yaacob said religious teachers must continue to guide the community that what is practiced in some Muslim countries may not be appropriate or relevant for Singaporeans.

"This will require both the confidence and courage to re-examine classical juristic opinions that were shaped in a different time and context," he said.

"Religious beliefs must be taught and practised in a manner that takes into account the need to expand the common space between different communities," he added.

"This is because living in a multicultural society requires all parties to be open to accommodate one another in order to find the optimal solution."