Mr Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim: To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development and Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs how have the different age groups in the Malay/Muslim community responded and adapted to meet the community's religious needs in light of the COVID-19 restrictions.
Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs & Minister for Social and Family Development:
- As part of the national fight against COVID-19, the Malay/Muslim community, alongside other faith communities, has made important adjustments to their religious life. Both the young and old within the community recognise the need to adopt safe management measures in our religious activities, whilst coming forward to help those who are more vulnerable and in need.
- Our mosques are central to the religious life of the community. Our religious leaders have worked closely with healthcare professionals through the Malay/Muslim COVID-19 Working Group to proactively provide guidance on how we can adapt our religious practices to be COVID-safe.
a. Mosques closed before the Circuit Breaker. Especially during Ramadan, families in the same household gathered to perform their prayers together.
b. The religious leadership, in consultation with MOH, made the early decision to defer this year’s Haj pilgrimage to the following year for the health and wellbeing of our pilgrims, while also protecting the wider community in Singapore from the risk of infection.
c. As the public health situation improved, we have progressively resumed Friday congregational prayers and worship services in a safe manner since the start of Phase Two. As of 25 September, 40 mosques have been cleared to provide 100 spaces for Friday congregational prayers. In addition to this, funeral prayers have also been allowed to be conducted at designated mosques, with the necessary safety measures in place. We will gradually allow more mosques to expand their worship services when they are ready, and the level of community transmission remains low.
d. I thank the community for their understanding on the limited prayer spaces and their cooperation with the mosques’ safe management measures. Muis will take into account the community’s feedback as it enhances the booking system for Friday prayer spaces.
- Muis has also worked closely with the mosques and asatizah to introduce new ways to support the community’s religious needs. Let me share some examples.
a. SalamSG TV web-based channel provides religious and lifestyle content to the Muslim public. It has programmes for different age groups, from storytelling for children to Quran recitation guides for adults. During Ramadan, the programmes on SalamSG TV have received a total of 630,000 unique views.
b. We added online components to aLIVE (Living Islamic Values Everyday) classes for children and ADIL (Adult Islamic Learning) for adults. 9 in 10 of parents surveyed agreed that their children enjoyed the home-based learning (HBL) component of the aLIVE programme. Muis has also provided a two-month 50% fee subsidy for aLIVE students who cannot afford the full fees. Muslim adults attending ADIL have welcomed the online courses and some even requested for more courses.
c. We introduced more digital religious content to engage the youth and others in the community through videos and podcasts on the MuslimSG mobile app and various social media platforms.
- Many in the community have also reached out to those who are less digital-savvy, such as elderly family members. We heard stories of how children assist their parents in making donations to the OurMasjid.sg crowdfunding platform to sustain mosque operations, while others set up IT systems at home so that their grandparents are able to attend home-based Quran recitation classes via video-conferencing platforms. These efforts allow the elderly to continue their religious practices even while they heed advice from our asatizah and medical experts to stay at home.
- Our community has also demonstrated a spirit of compassion and charity to support others in need.
a. Zakat contributions remain strong this year, with 96% of contributions made through digital transactions and cheques.
b. On Hari Raya Haji, the Rahmatan Lil Alamin Foundation, in collaboration with Muis, Free Food for All and New Life Stories, delivered meals to almost 6,000 migrant workers staying in Factory-Converted Dormitories. This brought comfort to the migrant workers away from home during this significant religious occasion.
- Our collective response during this pandemic has shown that we are a resilient and adaptive Muslim Community of Success. As Singapore steels itself for a long fight against COVID-19, I am confident that our community will continue to adapt and support each other, so that we can safely preserve our religious life and emerge stronger from this pandemic with fellow Singaporeans.