SINGAPORE – Plans to build new mosques, including one in Tampines North, will be deferred in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) will instead prioritise the upgrading of existing mosques, said Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli on Saturday (May 8).
This decision comes after Muis carried out a review of its Mosque Upgrading Programme to ensure greater prudence in spending community funds, said the minister, who was speaking at Muis’ annual workplan seminar that was held virtually this year.
Over the past five years, $60 million from the Mosque Building and Mendaki Fund – a community fund contributed to by Muslim workers – has been used to build two new mosques and upgrade 11 existing ones.
But Mr Masagos noted that the livelihood of many workers has been affected by the pandemic.
“We expect the recovery from the crisis to take some time, and the coming years will continue to be challenging for the community,” he said.
The minister said plans to build new mosques will be reviewed when the economy recovers.
Meanwhile, ongoing works to upgrade the Bencoolen, Malabar and Khalid Mosques are expected to be completed by the end of 2022.
Muis will also upgrade four mosques – Darul Makmur, Alkaff Kampung Melayu, Ar-Raudhah and Darussalam – over the next five years.
It will secure longer leases for two others, which are currently on temporary occupation licences: Tentera Mosque and Ahmad Ibrahim Mosque. The council also plans to upgrade them.
The mosques will be fitted with better accessibility solutions, such as lifts and ramps, with new designs that adopt greener and sustainable practices.
On Saturday, Mr Masagos also shared plans for Muis to provide more religious guidance on the observance of halal food requirements in Singapore, as well as strengthen its halal certification process.
He said observing a halal diet is an important part of a Muslim’s religious commitments, but warned the community not to go overboard.
“In some countries, halal practices have been extended to non-consumable products like refrigerators, slippers, diapers and pet food,” he said.
“These trends are usually motivated by business rather than religious imperatives, and reduce the common space that Muslims share with the rest of the society.”
Muis is also planning to hold an international conference, which aims to deepen engagement and collaboration between religious scholars, state officials and community leaders on how to build successful Muslim minority communities.
Other upcoming initiatives include an enhanced Continuing Professional Education framework that builds on Muis’ existing programme for asatizah (religious teachers).
Among other things, the learning pathways and experiential curriculum will be customised to meet the various needs of asatizah. For example, asatizah who want to specialise in teaching children can opt for courses focused on pedagogy and on-the-job training.
On Saturday, Mr Masagos expressed his appreciation for the support that Muis, the asatizah fraternity and the various Malay/Muslim organisations have given in relation to the ongoing deliberation by the Government on allowing nurses to wear the tudung with their uniform.
“This is just one example of how, as societies evolve, we must be prepared to make changes while always holding on to our values and preserving our social cohesion as a nation, ” he said.
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