Singapore's top Muslim religious leader yesterday stated categorically that Muslims must reject values that are at odds with the country's multireligious society.
In a speech to about 200 Islamic religious leaders, or asatizah, at a Hari Raya Puasa gathering, Mufti Fatris Bakaram said his office and the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) adopt "an open and inclusive approach to diversity within the Singaporean Muslim community".
He also laid down out-of-bounds (OB) markers for Muslims here, stressing three clear forms of absolutist, exclusivist thinking that must be rejected.
One, Muslims should not denounce other Muslims who hold competing or different worldviews, or consider them non-believers.
Two, Muslims must reject views that say they cannot interact and have good relations with fellow Singaporeans of different faiths.
Three, Muslims must reject the view that they cannot live as a Muslim in a multiracial, multi-faith state such as Singapore. They must also unequivocally reject any view that promotes violence against others and threatens safety here.
"Such notions are extremely problematic and go against the essence of Islam, which can be practised in any environment and time," Dr Fatris said in Malay. A summary of his remarks was given to the media.
He called on religious teachers to be firm against those who went against these "OB markers", as such views were "destructive".
Dr Fatris cited the example of parties with tendencies towards the ideologies of extremist terror groups such as ISIS, that breed the mindset that anything "not Islamic" must be removed from all aspects of life, and "call for a return to a romanticised notion of the caliphate".
"These groups are poisoning the minds of the younger generation, who are in a quest for identity and an anchor in today's troubled times," he said.
Dr Fatris added that while there is a need to keep abreast of developments in overseas Muslim communities, their practices cannot be applied in a "cut and paste" approach.
Instead, religious teachers here must impart Islamic values in a manner that is suited to Singapore's local context and environment.
He also warned against factionalism among religious leaders as such friction could be passed on to followers who see them as role models. He called on the leaders to build confidence within the community to excel in a multireligious society and contribute to the wider society.
In this regard, the Asatizah Recognition Scheme - started in 2005 to better train religious teachers - must continue to be enhanced, he said. One of the gathering's participants, Ms Siti Nur Alaniah Abdul Wahid, a resource developer at Madrasah Irsyad Zuhri, agreed with Dr Fatris' message and said religious teachers should reflect on it.
"The values reiterated by the Mufti, such as maturity in dealing with current issues, must be propagated. We also need to be wary of negative influences and promote values that are progressive and well suited for Singapore," she added.