New course for Singapore Islamic teachers

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim speaking with graduates from the Al-Azhar University, in Cairo, on Sunday. He said Singapore needed strong religious leaders who "possess an expansive worldview".
Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim speaking with graduates from the Al-Azhar University, in Cairo, on Sunday. He said Singapore needed strong religious leaders who "possess an expansive worldview".PHOTO: MUIS

The research and education arm of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) has launched a new course that aims to help Islamic teachers read religious texts in the context of Singapore's multi-religious society. Titled Islam in Context, it will be offered by the Muis Academy from this month.

It is an abridged version of an existing course - Islamic Thought in Contemporary Plural Societies - offered by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS).

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim announced this in Cairo on Sunday at a graduation ceremony for 26 Singaporean students at Egypt's renowned Al-Azhar University.

The new course will offer modules that deal with issues such as nurturing inclusiveness, and the need to contextualise Islamic traditions and how to apply them in Singapore's plural society. "We want our graduates to be kept abreast of current and emerging socio-religious trends and to equip them with tools to contextualise the knowledge acquired," said Dr Yaacob in a speech.

The four-week course will be a prerequisite for religious teachers to get accreditation under the compulsory Asatizah Recognition Scheme.

Dr Yaacob, who is Minister for Communications and Information, noted that Singapore is "faced with the triple threat - of extremist ideology, segregationist beliefs and practices, and Islamophobia", and strong religious leaders are needed.

These are asatizah "who possess an expansive worldview, who are able to hold their own against the varied demands of today, while holding strong to their Islamic tenets and beliefs", he said, adding it was critical that they also have the skills to share their knowledge on social media. They also cannot allow preachers with extremist ideologies to "hijack and tarnish the good name of Islam as the religion of peace".

"Instead, we must be confident as a Muslim and uphold the values and attributes of our Singapore Muslim identity, and the principles of multiracialism and meritocracy which are essential to our nation," he said.

Dr Yaacob also called on Al-Azhar president Mohamed Hossein Abdel Aziz El Mahrasawy and Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayyeb. He travels to Jordan this week, where he will visit higher learning institutions and meet Singaporean students.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2017, with the headline 'New course for Singapore Islamic teachers'. Print Edition | Subscribe