Speech by Mr Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister, at Muis 40th Anniversary celebrations, 11 July 2009, 8:15 pm at Singapore Islamic Hub

11 July 2009

(In Malay)

Menteri Bertanggungjawab Bagi Ehwal Masyarakat Islam, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim
Presiden MUIS, Haji Mohd Alami Musa
Mufti, Syed Isa Semait
Tetamu terhormat, saudara saudari sekalian
1.       Saya berbesar hati dapat bersama anda meraikan ulang tahun MUIS ke-40 malam ini. Saya ucapkan berbanyak tahniah kepada MUIS di atas kejayaannya dalam mencapai mercu tanda ini dan banyak lagi pencapaian sepanjang empat dekad lalu.

2.       Saya juga gembira dapat menyaksikan acara pembukaan Hab Islam Singapura. Pembangunan baru ini merupakan kelahiran semula dua tanda tempat yang terkenal di kalangan masyarakat – Hab Islam Singapura yang lama dan Masjid Muhajirin dengan bumbung berbentuk Minangkabau. Ia akan menempatkan Masjid Muhajirin, Madrasah Al-Irsyad dan bangunan baru MUIS. Diharapkan, Hab Islam Singapura yang baru ini akan menjadi sebuah ikon masyarakat Islam di sini.

3.       Masyarakat Islam di Singapura telah mencatat kemajuan besar dalam banyak bidang. Para pemimpin masyarakat dan agama telah memberi sumbangan yang penting. MUIS khususnya telah bekerja keras untuk mendapat kepercayaan dan keyakinan masyarakat. Ia telah menjaga kepentingan masyarakat Islam yang berbagai, dan membantu masyarakat mengatasi isu-isu sukar.

4.       Kini, masyarakat Islam di Singapura menyumbang secara aktif dalam banyak aspek kehidupan negara – dalam ekonomi, kerjaya, sektor awam, serta kehidupan sosial dan budaya Singapura. Mereka sedang membentuk sebuah identiti unik sebagai sebuah masyarakat Islam yang yakin diri dan progresif. Mereka hidup harmoni dengan masyarakat lain dalam sebuah bandaraya kosmopolitan dan dinamik. Saya yakin masyarakat Islam akan terus bekerja rapat dengan MUIS dan pemerintah untuk membina kemajuan pada tahap selanjutnya dan melangkah ke hadapan untuk mencapai wawasan Identiti Muslim Singapura.

(English translation:

Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim
President MUIS, Haji Mohd Alami Musa
Mufti, Syed Isa Semait
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
1.         I am honoured to join you tonight for MUIS’ 40th Anniversary celebrations. Many congratulations to MUIS for reaching this milestone, and for its many achievements over the last four decades.

2.         I am also happy to witness the opening of the Singapore Islamic Hub. This new development is a rebirth of two well-known landmarks in the community – the old Singapore Islamic Hub and Muhajirin Mosque with the Minangkabau-styled roof. It will house the Mahajirin Mosque, Madrasah Irsyad and the new MUIS building. Hopefully, the new Singapore Islamic Hub will become an icon of the Muslim Community.

3.         The Muslim community in Singapore has made great progress in many areas. The community and religious leaders have made a significant contribution. MUIS in particular has worked hard to win over the trust and confidence of the community. It has looked after the varied interests of Singapore Muslims, and helped the community to overcome difficult issues.

4.         Today, Muslims in Singapore contribute actively in many aspects of the life of the nation – in the economy, the professions, the public sector, and the social and cultural life of Singa pore. They are forging a unique identity as a self-confident and progressive Muslim community. They live harmoniously with other communities in a dynamic, cosmopolitan city. I am confident that the community will continue to work closely with MUIS and the government, to build on the progress made and advance further to achieve the vision of a Singapore Muslim Identity.)
(In English)
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
From Early Beginnings to Integral Institution
1.            The Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS) was established as a statutory board in 1968 when the Administration of Muslim Law Act (AMLA) came into effect. MUIS sees to it that the many and varied interests of Singapore Muslims are looked after.

2.            Like Singapore’s beginnings, the early days for MUIS were challenging. At first some segments of the Muslim community were sceptical of its ability to provide religious guidance and deliver results. MUIS has worked hard overthe years to win over the trust and confidence of the community. It serves the religious needs of the Muslim community diligently, providing vital services such as haj management, halal certification, wakaf management, and zakat collection.  It is also active in religious education, to raise the community’s understanding and practice of Islam. For example, MUIS developed an Islamic education programme, called aL.I.V.E. or Learning Islamic Values Everyday, to deliver progressive, current and relevant teachings to Muslim children and youth, and imbue them with the right religious values. The programme has reached almost 6,000 Muslim children and youth, and MUIS hopes to implement it in all mosques by next year.

3.            The Mosque Building programme stands out as one of the most successful programmes administered by MUIS. Then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew proposed the Mosque Building Fund (MBF) when he saw the difficulties faced by the community in raising funds to build a new mosque in Toa Payoh. Since its launch in 1975, the MBF has proven an effective way to mobilise the resources of the community to build modern mosques.

4.            Over the years, the MBF has successfully built 23 mosques all over Singapore, the latest addition being the Al-Mawaddah Mosque in Sengkang New Town. The programme has cost more than $100 million, with every cent raised by the Muslim community. These beautiful and functional mosques have become vibrant centres of activity, and are a proud achievement of our Muslim community.

5.            MUIS has not only ministered to the religious needs of Muslims, but has also taken the lead on difficult issues. One example is the inclusion of Muslims under the Human Organ Transplant Act (HOTA). At first many Muslims had reservations over the opt-out rules. The Government recognised these religious concerns, and did not include Muslims under HOTA. Over time, Muslims saw how HOTA operated, and how lives were saved. After much deliberation, Mufti and the Fatwa Committee concluded that including Muslims under HOTA should be authorised as saving lives was paramount in Islam. The fatwas were updated and MUIS, through many dialogues and interactions, clarified any misconceptions and concerns that the community had about the Act.  The inclusion of Muslims under HOTA was a milestone in the progress of the Muslim community.

6.            Another equally sensitive and difficult issue arose after the discovery of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) in Singapore after 9-11. MUIS took a firm stand against terrorism, as did the Muslim community. It helped the government to reassure Muslims in Singapore that security action was not targeted at the community or Islam. It supported the Religious Rehabilitation Group which provided religious counselling for JI detainees and their families. MUIS also acted to inoculate Muslims in Singapore from radical and extreme ideologies.  It introduced the Asatizah Recognition Scheme and started a register for asatizah, to help the community engage bona fide asatizah.  MUIS has also reached out to Muslim youths pursuing religious studies abroad. These youths are encouraged to attend pre-departure programmes which sensitise them to the dangers of extremist influences abroad.  Through these and the efforts of other community and religious leaders, we have strengthened our racial and religious harmony, and emerged stronger and more cohesive from this episode.

7.            Because of its continuing efforts over the years, and because it had tackled community challenges head-on, MUIS has established itself as an integral institution in the Singapore Muslim community. Today, it plays a key role in helping Muslims in Singapore to become good Muslims, and to contribute as good citizens.

Fostering a Progressive, Self-Confident Muslim Community

8.            Muslims in Singapore are doing well. The community is making good progress in all fields, and gaining in confidence. It is reaching out to the other communities and integrating well into Singapore society.

9.            Even overseas visitors see this. Many come to admire the modern and handsome mosques that we have built, and to learn how Muslims in Singapore are thriving and contributing in our multi-racial, multi-religious nation.  Two months ago, I met the Grand Mufti of Syria, Sheikh Dr Ahmad Bader Eddin Hassoun, who was here as a MUIS Distinguished Visitor. He told me that racial and religious diversity was a great treasure for a nation-state, and that he was deeply impressed with how we have embraced our diversity. I replied to the Grand Mufti that we must remember that this harmony we enjoy in Singapore is unique and precious, and work hard to preserve it.

10.        Therefore I fully support the community’s efforts to promote inter-community understanding and cohesion. MUIS’ Harmony Centre is one such endeavour, dedicated to inter-faith dialogue and engagement. This evening, we will launch the Rahmatan Lil’Alamin Foundation, a further effort to spread the Muslim community’s message of peace and an inclusive spirit of shared blessings for all. These efforts help to cement our racial and religious cohesion for future generations.

11.        MUIS is where it is today because of the efforts of its leaders – pioneers like Haji Ismail Mohd Said and Haji Buang Siraj who were followed by leaders in the 80s and 90s like Haji Ridzwan Dzafir, Haji Zainul Abidin Rasheed, Haji Maarof Salleh and Haji Shafawi Ahmad. Working with the government and other communities, these leaders have guided the Muslim community forward. Tonight let me thank our Muslim community leaders and volunteers, past and present, for your many contributions and sacrifices.

12.        If MUIS is to remain successful, then it must continue to have the community’s support. The community rightly expects much of MUIS, but it must work together with MUIS to fulfil these aspirations. By working together the Muslim community will continue to progress and gain in self-confidence, and contribute to the development of our nation.