Muslim, Jewish leaders gather to underscore strong bonds between their communities

The Jewish-Muslim Friendship and Solidarity gathering at the Raffles Town Club on March 15, 2021. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR
Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Maliki Osman (centre) speaking with Chief Rabbi Mordechai Abergel (left) and Imam Habib Hassan Al-Attas, at Raffles Town Club on March 15, 2021. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

SINGAPORE - Two years ago, around 100 Muslims, Jews and members of other faiths gathered for iftar, or a breaking of fast meal during Ramadan, at the Maghain Aboth Synagogue in Waterloo Street. They could not gather last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Groups from various mosques have also visited the synagogue to learn more about Judaism.

Such continuous engagement between the Jewish and Muslim communities in Singapore will ensure their harmonious and respectful relationship stays strong, leaders of both faiths said on Monday (March 15), as they called on their communities to keep up these ongoing efforts.

They were at a Jewish-Muslim Friendship and Solidarity gathering at Raffles Town Club, organised by several Muslim groups to underscore the strong bonds and harmony between both communities.

The event comes in the wake of last week's announcement that the authorities had detained a 20-year-old Singaporean under the Internal Security Act for planning to stab Jews at the Maghain Aboth Synagogue.

On Monday, Islamic Religious Council of Singapore president Mohammad Alami Musa expressed the Muslim community's solidarity with the Jewish community and said the incident should not weaken the bonds between the two groups, but should instead strengthen them.

He held up the importance of dialogues that allow community members to better understand each other's religion, noting that Jews and Muslims share a common Abrahamic heritage.

Similarly, Chief Rabbi of Singapore Mordechai Abergel pointed out that it is through talking and engaging with one another that members of both communities can gain knowledge and achieve mutual understanding that will lead to deep friendships between them.

"If we share this knowledge, if we build a relationship that is predicated upon the sharing and exchanging of ideas, (this) then becomes the way for us to develop these bonds of friendship," he said.

"And I think then we begin to have a completely different relationship with (one) another."

Monday's event was attended by 27 community leaders representing 20 Malay/Muslim groups, 10 leaders of the Jewish community, as well as Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Maliki Osman.

It was organised by a collective of Malay/Muslim groups, the Muslim Kidney Action Association and inter-faith group Roses of Peace.

It comes after Mufti Nazirudin Mohd Nasir visited Rabbi Abergel at the synagogue last week to reaffirm the bonds of friendship and unity. The Jewish Welfare Board had also said the isolated incident should not be allowed to affect the strong friendship and trust between the Jewish and Muslim communities.

The detained man had been self-radicalised by online material. His arrest came shortly after a 16-year-old self-radicalised Singaporean student, who was also radicalised online, was detained in December for planning to kill Muslims at two mosques on the anniversary of the 2019 Christchurch terror attacks, which would have been on Monday.

In a speech, Dr Maliki pledged that the Government will continue to ensure that extremist content which threatens Singapore's common space and social harmony does not proliferate online. Given the Internet's nature, it will not be possible to eradicate all such content, he said, calling for a whole-of-society approach to counter extremist views found online.

This has to involve religious organisations, schools, parents and peers, added Dr Maliki, who is also Second Minister for Education and Foreign Affairs.

"Singapore has thrived as a multicultural nation because of our steadfast efforts to foster mutual trust and understanding, which allows us to find strength in our diversity," he said. "We must never let divisive forces pull us apart."

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