Budget debate: New campus for Muis postgraduate course to upskill religious teachers

The Singapore Islamic Hub, which houses Muis' headquarters. Muis will be setting up a new campus to support the development of young religious teachers. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) will be setting up a new physical campus for a postgraduate course that it has been running to upskill religious teachers here.

The five-storey campus, which will be in Bencoolen Street, will open its doors to students from the Postgraduate Certificate in Islam in Contemporary Societies (PCICS) at the end of this year.

Mr Masagos Zulkifli, who is Minister for Social and Family Development, and Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, said on Thursday (March 10) that the campus is designed to support the development of Singapore's young religious teachers, also known as asatizah.

"This new campus will include various learning facilities, including its own library, and is expected to be completed by the end of this year," he said.

It will be able to accommodate about 300 staff and students at any one time and will feature facilities such as collaborative spaces for students and co-working spaces for staff.

The PCICS by Muis was first announced in 2019 as an enhanced mandatory programme for aspiring asatizah to be recognised under the Asatizah Recognition Scheme.

The full-time one-year programme provides on-the-job training and exposure to increase employability, and aims to equip graduates with knowledge and skills to serve in the religious sector here.

The new campus will allow Muis to build local expertise and expand its networks with local and foreign scholars and academic institutions, which will be a key step towards the long-term plan to develop the Singapore Islamic College.

The college, first announced six years ago, aims to train a new generation of religious teachers who understand Singapore’s multiracial, multi-religious context. 

Speaking during the debate on the budget of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, Mr Masagos also announced that Muis will be organising an international conference to engage Muslim communities that have made impactful contributions to their nation and wider society.

The International Conference on Communities of Success, which was first announced in 2021, will be held in the third quarter of this year.

Noting that Muis has organised two seminars last year in the lead-up to the conference, the minister said that this event, which will feature overseas delegates, will bring together religious scholars to develop critical bodies of knowledge that can guide Muslim-minority communities in multicultural societies.

"With the theme 'Contributing Citizens, Dynamic Institutions', it will focus on how enlightened and contextualised religious guidance, coupled with institutional support, can empower Muslims to live as dignified citizens and contribute to the nation's development," he said.

The long-term needs of the religious sector will need to be funded somehow, and Mr Masagos said the Government plans to encourage the wakaf culture in the community.

A wakaf is traditionally defined as the permanent dedication by a Muslim of any property for any purpose defined by Muslim law as religious and charitable. The concept has now evolved to be similar to a trust fund, where money is invested and the returns used to help the community.

He said Muis has formed working groups, comprising council officers and industry experts, to implement action plans for such funds from the community.

These groups build on the efforts and direction of an advisory panel, which last year provided to Muis its recommendations on strategies to support religious institutions, asatizah development and community programmes.

Mr Masagos said such plans include engaging religious institutions here to pool assets together and invest their reserves, as well as encouraging the community's participation through public education initiatives on wealth and estate planning.

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