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Strengthening the core of our religious sector

Speech by Dr Maliki Osman, Senior Minister of State for Ministry of Defence & Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the Committee of Supply Debate 2019

  1. Mr Chairman, our asatizah anchor our community to values and traditions in a rapidly evolving world. Equally, our community’s social and religious needs are changing, and for our asatizah to serve the community well, they must stay relevant, and possess a strong grounding in religious knowledge and work-relevant skills.
  2. Mr Mohamed Irshad asked about support for our overseas students, and Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar asked how we can ensure that their teaching is relevant to our community when they return. Associate Professor Fatimah Lateef and Mr Saktiandi Supaat were concerned about development opportunities for our asatizah. To address all these, MUIS is increasing its support for our asatizah through their journey from being students to asatizah in three ways:
    • Firstly, MUIS increased their ground support for our overseas students through deploying Student Liaison Officers or SLOs.
    • Secondly, for returning students/graduates, MUIS will enhance its existing programme to better equip them with contextualised knowledge and skills before they embark on their careers.
    • Thirdly, to guide plans for enhancing asatizah development, I will chair the Committee on Future Asatizah or COFA which Minister Masagos announced earlier, to engage the community for its views on the desired skills of our asatizah in the future,
  3. Mr Chairman, allow me to continue in Malay, please.

    Sokongan untuk pelajar kita di luar negara – Pegawai Perhubungan Pelajar MUIS

  4. Tuan Pengerusi, pelajar yang menuntut di luar negara perlu mengharungi pelbagai cabaran termasuk menyesuaikan diri dengan kurikulum dan budaya baru. Pada masa yang sama, hubungan dengan Singapura harus terus terjalin. Oleh itu, Pejabat Kerjaya dan Kebajikan Pelajar MUIS (SCWO) telah melantik tiga orang SLO untuk mendampingi para pelajar agar mereka mengikuti perkembangan di Singapura, dan sedia bagi alam pekerjaan. Sebagai alumni yang pernah menuntut di rantau yang sama, SLO peka dengan persekitaran serta isu-isu yang dihadapi pelajar di sana. MUIS telah menempatkan seorang SLO di Kaherah dan seorang lagi di Jeddah dan mereka menyokong lebih 500 pelajar Singapura di Timur Tengah dan Afrika Utara. Seorang lagi SLO di Singapura menyokong sekitar 300 pelajar di Asia Tenggara. Ketiga-tiga SLO ini juga menyokong persatuan pelajar Singapura di luar negara, seperti persatuan PERKEMAS di Mesir, persatuan SIRAJ di Jordan, persatuan IMAM di Arab Saudi dan persatuan ASSIIUM di Malaysia.
  5. SCWO sedia mendekati para pelajar kita. Sebelum mereka berangkat, SCWO berkongsi pelbagai peluang di dalam dan luar dewan kuliah, beri maklumat laluan pendidikan dan kerjaya, dan juga memberi nasihat mengurus kewangan dan keselamatan. Apabila para pelajar ini kembali ke Singapura semasa cuti penggal, SCWO menganjurkan pelbagai aktiviti seperti bengkel mendalami pemikiran Islam kontemporari dan berbagai latihan kemahiran. Mereka juga diberi peluang bekerja sambil belajar dan mengikuti sesi bimbingan kerjaya. Setelah tamat pengajian pula, SCWO merujukkan mereka ke Pejabat Skim Pengiktirafan Asatizah (ARS) dan Akademi MUIS bagi pelbagai program peningkatan dan sesi bimbingan kerjaya. Harapan kami adalah agar para lulusan diberi bimbingan yang diperlukan untuk berjaya dalam kerjaya mereka.
  6. Salah seorang SLO kita ialah Ustaz Goh Muhammad Redhuan. Berpangkalan di Kaherah, Mesir, Ustaz Redhuan adalah “abang” kepada sekitar 300 pelajar Singapura di Timur Tengah dan Afrika Utara. Beliau menolong mereka dalam pelbagai hal termasuk pentadbiran universiti dan program pembangunan pelajar. Misalnya, Disember lalu, Ustaz Redhuan membawa 60 pelajar melawat dua saumaah, atau rumah ibadah orang Yahudi di Kaherah. Para peserta meraih banyak manfaat daripada perbincangan dengan masyarakat Yahudi di sana. Mereka mempelajari budaya dan tradisi masyarakat tersebut, dan yang paling penting, mereka memperbetulkan salah faham dan salah tanggapan yang wujud antara mereka. Pada Januari lalu pula, Ustaz Redhuan menganjurkan lawatan ke Pusat Pemantauan bagi Melawan Ekstremisme di Al-Azhar. Ustaz Redhuan juga menyokong usaha para pelajar untuk mengadakan perbincangan tentang isu-isu semasa di Singapura dan bagaimana mereka boleh menyumbang kepada pembangunan masyarakat dan negara.

    Mempersiapkan Lulusan Jurusan Agama dengan Kemahiran Pekerjaan dan Ilmu untuk Berkhidmat kepada Masyarakat Kita

  7. Dr Intan bertanya bagaimana kita mempersiapkan lulusan jurusan agama dengan kemahiran pekerjaan dan ilmu untuk berkhidmat kepada masyarakat Kita. Sejak 2017, lulusan jurusan agama dari luar negara harus menjalani program empat minggu, “Sijil Pengajian Islam Mengikut Konteks” (ICON) anjuran Akademi MUIS, sebelum mereka boleh menerima pengiktirafan ARS. Sepanjang dua tahun ICON diadakan, para peserta memberi maklum balas bahawa program itu amat berguna, tetapi, boleh diperluaskan lagi untuk merangkumi kemahiran pekerjaan yang lain. Tambahan lagi, ramai asatizah sudahpun berkhidmat di luar sektor agama, seperti kaunseling dan khidmat konsultan. Oleh itu, mulai 2020, MUIS akan memperkenalkan program selama setahun, iaitu program “Sijil Pos Siswazah Islam dalam Masyarakat Kontemporari” (PCICS) atau Postgraduate Certificate in Islam in Contemporary Societies. PCICS akan menggantikan ICON. Modul-modul dalam PCICS akan memberi para peserta pemahaman yang lebih mendalam tentang konteks geo-politik dan sosio-agama kita, serta cara-cara sesuai bagi mengamalkan Islam dalam masyarakat Singapura yang majmuk, untuk mempersiapkan mereka membimbing masyarakat Islam dalam perihal agama. PCICS juga membekalkan asatizah iaitu dengan kemahiran dan ilmu yang relevan untuk alam pekerjaan, seperti dalam bidang kerja sosial, kaunseling, kemahiran digital dan keusahawanan. Ini bakal membuka lebih banyak peluang kepada mereka. Selepas tamat PCICS, para lulusan akan menerima pengiktirafan ARS.

    Pembentukan Jawatankuasa Asatizah Masa Depan (COFA)

  8. Tuan Pengerusi, sepanjang minggu ini, Anggota Dewan ini mengingatkan kita bagaimana dunia dan ekonomi terus berubah-ubah. Tekanan-tekanan geopolitik pula turut membawa tuntutan baru terhadap rakyat kita. Begitu juga dengan landskap agama dan norma masyarakat kita. Masyarakat Islam Singapura harus menyesuaikan diri dengan peredaran masa, dalam kehidupan profesional serta sosio-agama kita. Begitu juga dengan golongan asatizah. Inilah sebabnya kita menubuhkan Jawatan Kuasa Masa Depan atau COFA – Community on Future Asatizah. COFA ditubuhkan demi memahami dengan lebih baik keperluan masyarakat kita yang berubah, menghadapi tren-tren yang akan membentuk masyarakat kita, dan mendengar maklum balas masyarakat untuk mempersiapkan asatizah masa depan.
  9. Saya akan mempengurusikan COFA. Anggota-anggota COFA terdiri daripada mereka yang tampil berkhidmat kepada masyarakat, termasuk pemimpin agama dan masyarakat, asatizah mapan mahupun yang lebih muda, serta individu dan akademik yang pakar dalam bidang kerja sosial serta pendidikan dan latihan berterusan. Dalam beberapa bulan mendatang, anggota COFA akan mendekati segenap lapisan masyarakat, dan dapatkan maklum balas daripada pihak berkepentingan seperti pelajar madrasah serta ibu bapa mereka, serta majikan, golongan asatizah dan masyarakat umum.
  10. A/P Fatimah dan Dr Intan bertanyakan tentang perkembangan Kolej Islam Singapura (SIC). Usaha COFA adalah langkah penting dalam menjayakan kolej ini, kerana kami dapat memahami dengan lebih mendalam harapan masyarakat kita terhadap asatizah masa depan. Melalui siri perbincangan ini, MUIS boleh melakar pelan pembangunan asatizah secara holistik, dari madrasah ke universiti, dan juga laluan kerjaya mereka. MUIS boleh mengenal pasti kemahiran yang asatizah perlukan untuk berkhidmat kepada masyarakat secara berkesan, dan melakarkan pelbagai laluan kerjaya di dalam dan luar sektor agama. Hasil daripada siri perbincangan ini juga akan membentuk asas yang kukuh untuk menubuhkan SIC.
  11. Melalui COFA, kita boleh bekerjasama lebih rapat dengan masyarakat, untuk membentuk pelan mencapai tiga matlamat utama: 
    • Pertama, melahirkan asatizah yang terlatih untuk memenuhi keperluan masyarakat Islam Singapura yang kian berubah, serta menyumbang kepada masyarakat Singapura secara am;
    • Kedua, memastikan lulusan jurusan agama kita boleh meraih pekerjaan baik dalam sektor agama dan sektor-sektor lain; serta
    • Ketiga, melahirkan dan mempersiapkan barisan golongan pelapis pemimpin agama termasuk menjadi ulama dan pemimpin agama yang ulung.

    Penutup

  12. Tuan Pengerusi, hari ini, lebih 4,000 asatizah memainkan peranan penting dalam membimbing masyarakat Islam Singapura. Kita mempunyai visi kukuh bagi sektor agama yang membuka lebih banyak peluang kepada asatizah untuk memenuhi keperluan masyarakat kita, serta masyarakat yang lebih luas. Dan memandangkan persekitaran yang kompleks dan kiah berubah, asatizah kita harus kekal relevan. Saya yakin usaha COFA akan membimbing MUIS sedang ia memulakan pelbagai usaha penting untuk mengukuhkan sektor agama kita.
  13. Mr Chairman, today, we have over 4,000 asatizah that play a critical role in guiding the Singapore Muslim community in being part of a cohesive and multi-racial society. Looking to the future, we have a vision of a strong and vibrant religious sector that provides more opportunities for our asatizah to serve the needs of our community as well as the broader society. Our asatizah must continue to stay relevant given the complex and ever changing environement that they are operating in. I am confident that COFA’s engagements with the community will guide MUIS as it embarks on important initiatives to strengthen our religious sector. Thank you.

English Translation of Malay Speech

Support for our overseas students – MUIS’ Student Liaison Officers

  1. Studying overseas is not easy. Besides adapting to the curriculum, students need to adapt to the local culture and systems. We also have to ensure their ties to Singapore remain strong. As such, for aspiring asatizah studying overseas, MUIS’ Student Career and Welfare Office (SCWO) has deployed three SLOs, who mentor them, help them in their education process and keep them abreast of Singapore’s developments, and prepare them for future careers. As alumni of the universities in their regions, these SLOs are familiar with the environment and common issues our students face. We have two SLOs based in Cairo and Jeddah supporting over 500 Singaporean students in the Middle East and North Africa, and one SLO based in Singapore supporting about 300 of our students in Southeast Asia. These SLOs also support the overseas Singaporean student welfare groups, such as The Singaporean Students Welfare Assembly (PERKEMAS) in Cairo, Singapore Students’ Association in Jordan (SIRAJ), the Association of Singapore Students in Saudi Arabia (IMAM) and Association of Singapore Students in the International Islamic University Malaysia (ASSIIUM) in Malaysia.
  2. The SCWO engages our students at each stage of their educational journey. Before the students leave, SCWO engages them through its pre-departure programme, where they learn about extra curriculum opportunities, education and career pathways, and general information such as finances and personal safety when they are overseas. When students return to Singapore for their annual summer vacation, SCWO engages them through various activities such as workshops on contemporary Islamic thought, skills to improve their employability, internships and career coaching sessions. Upon graduation, the SCWO refers them to the Asatizah Recognition Scheme (ARS) Office and MUIS Academy for developmental programmes, and continues to offer them career coaching sessions. What we want is that with their qualifications, they receive the guidance that they require in order to be successful in their careers.
  3. One of our SLOs is Goh Muhammad Redhuan, based in Cairo, Egypt. Redhuan looks after about 300 Singaporean students in the Middle East and North-African region. He has supported them in university administration matters and initiated developmental programmes. For example, in December 2018, Redhuan organized a learning journey for 60 students in Cairo to visit two synagogues there. The students had a fruitful discussion with Cairo’s Jewish community, learning about the culture and traditions of the Arab Jew community, and dispelling their prior misconceptions. In January this year, he arranged for a visit to the reputed Al-Azhar Observatory for Countering Extremism. With Redhuan’s support, the students have also organised dialogues on current issues in Singapore, and discussed possible ways for them to contribute to the progress of the community and the nation upon their return to Singapore.

    Preparing returning religious graduates with work-relevant skills and knowledge to serve our community

  4. Dr Intan asked how we are preparing our returning religious graduates with work-relevant skills and knowledge to serve ur community. Since 2017, graduates from overseas Islamic colleges have had to attend a compulsory four-week programme organised by the MUIS Academy, titled “Islam in Context” (ICON), before they can be accredited under the ARS. The objective of ICON is to help overseas graduates who wish to teach Islam in Singapore familiarise themselves with the Singaporean context. Over the past two years of running ICON, MUIS has received feedback from ICON participants that not only has the programme been useful, but that the scope of the programme could be widened to include more work-relevant skillsets. This acknowledges that our asatizah today serve in many domains beyond the religious sector, including counselling and consultancy services. Thus, starting in 2020, MUIS will introduce an enhanced programme for returning graduates, which will replace ICON. This programme will be named the Postgrad Certificate in Islam in Contemporary Societies programme (PCICS), and will cover more content than ICON. The PCICS will offer modules that deepen our returning graduates’ understanding of our geo-political and socio-religious context and how Islam can be practised effectively in our multi-racial and multi religious society. This is important to prepare them for their role in providing religious guidance to the community. The PCICS will also equip participants with work-relevant knowledge and skillsets, such as in social work and counselling, digital literacy as well as entrepreneurship, to open up more opportunities for them. Graduates of the PCICS will also be recognised under the ARS.

    Formation of the Committee on Future Asatizah (COFA)

  5. Mr Chairman, over the past week, Members of this House reminded us of the various ways in which the world around us is changing. Geopolitical forces are evolving and shifting, the economy and its demands on Singaporeans are changing. Likewise, our religious landscape and social norms are also evolving. Singaporean Muslims need to adapt with the times, in their professional and socio-religious lives. To be able to provide effective guidance and socio-religious support, our asatizah too, must adapt and be ready for the future. This is why we formed the COFA, so that we can gain a better understanding of the evolving needs of the Singapore Muslim Community, react to the trends that will shape the community’s future, and hear ground-up feedback on how we can prepare our next generation of asatizah.
  6. I will chair the COFA committee. COFA comprises members who have come forward to volunteer their services to the community. They include senior and younger asatizah, leaders from the madrasah sector, community leaders, Muslim professionals, and individuals and academics with expertise in social work and continuing education and training. Over the course of the next few months, members of COFA will engage the public, and gather feedback from key stakeholders like our religious students and their parents, employers, the asatizah fraternity and the wider community.
  7. Associate Professor Fatimah and Dr Intan asked for an update on the development of a Singapore Islamic College (SIC). The COFA’s work is a critical step towards the college, because it will deepen our understanding of what the community desires of our future asatizah. Through these engagements, MUIS will be able to chart the holistic development of our asatizah, from the madrasahs to the universities, and into their employment. MUIS will also be able to map out the skillsets that our asatizah will require to serve our community effectively, and develop pathways for careers within and beyond the religious sector. These findings will provide us with a strong foundation for establishing the SIC in the future.
  8. Through COFA, we will be able to work more closely with the community, to develop the 3 key plans are:
    • Firstly, producing asatizah who are trained to meet the evolving needs of the Singapore Muslim community and contribute to the wider Singapore society;
    • Secondly, facilitating employment of our religious graduates in good jobs in the religious sector and beyond; and
    • Thirdly, cultivating and retaining a strong pipeline of leaders for the religious sector.


    Conclusion

  9. Today, we have over 4,000 asatizah that play a critical role in guiding the Singapore Muslim community in being part of a cohesive and multi-racial society. Looking to the future, we have a vision of a strong and vibrant religious sector that provides more opportunities for our asatizah to serve the needs of our community as well as the broader society. Our asatizah must continue to stay relevant given the complex and ever changing environement that they are operating in. I am confident that COFA’s engagements with the community will guide MUIS as it embarks on important initiatives to strengthen our religious sector. Thank you.

 

Speeches Community 2019
Last updated on 08 March 2019