Important to educate student community in NUS about Islam, says Muslim Society President
By Tettyana Jasli
Feb. 11 2011
Speaking at the Muslim Society’s exhibition to mark Islamic Awareness Week 2011, National University of Singapore Muslim Society President Muhammad Al-Baqir Buang said that it is important to educate the student community in NUS about Islam.
“I think as the (Muslim Society) in NUS with the students who will be the next future leaders it’s important for us to educate them and to tell them that…even though we practise our religion we try to reach out to other people, we try to bridge the gap, try to be friends with others and that’s what Islam promotes,” said the third-year Real Estate undergraduate.
This is what the NUS Muslim Society aims to achieve with its annual Islamic Awareness Week, Baqir added.
Held from Feb. 7 to 11, this year’s Islamic Awareness Week includes an interactive sound and visual exhibition at the Central Library walkway as well as talks on Islamic Economics, Islamic and Western notions of success and the issue of integration.
The interactive exhibition gives students the opportunity to listen to English translations of the Qur’an and Islamic prayer calls on MP3 players and watch movies and documentaries about Islam.
Commenting on the recent remarks made by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew in his recently published book Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going about the Muslim community in Singapore, Baqir said that MM Lee’s comments seemed to be setting up a dichotomy between religions and Islam, when this was not the case.
“By putting that other religions can integrate other than Islam he actually put a dichotomy between the different religions and the different races…so it’s not really promoting (a) multiracial community in Singapore,” he said.
In the book, MM Lee had said “Muslims socially do not cause any trouble, but they are distinct and separate.”
But Baqir noted that many Muslims, including the youth have tried to integrate in many ways and pointed out that there were ample examples of interracial communication between different races and religions.
Said first-year Arts and Social Sciences undergraduate Nur Safiah Alias, “As Muslims, we know that we are living in a multi-racial, multi-religious society and it is also a responsibility to integrate, to make peace and…live harmoniously with other people.”
Islam teaches that the neighbour is someone that must be treated with high respect and it is regardless of the religion or the race, she added.
Muslim organisations and leaders in Singapore have expressed their disappointment in MM Lee’s comments about the Muslim community in his book.
Local association of Muslim scholars PERDAUS have called MM Lee’s comments “unfair and unacceptable”, while the Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) have urged the government to clarify if MM Lee’s comments reflected its official position.
A Facebook group called “Islam isn’t a hindrance to national integration. MM Lee, apologise” has also been set up, professing to be a “show of solidarity between Islam and other faiths.”
Amongst non-Muslim students, there were mixed responses to MM Lee’s comments.
Final-year history undergraduate Kelvin Chin thought the comments were “quite insensitive” and that “it’s not representative of what people today are thinking about.”
Said fourth-year undergraduate Teo See Ching, “I think there is a certain amount of truth because when you talk about Malay-Muslims you are dealing with both race and religion so there is a double segregation but I don’t think he should have said it.”
In response to the Malay-Muslim community’s reactions to MM Lee’s comments, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Jan. 30 that his perspectives on the Muslim community were not the same as those expressed by MM Lee.
He also acknowledged that Singapore Muslims have made important contributions towards “strengthening harmony and social integration” in Singapore.