Friday, 26 December 2014

Yaacob: A good year for Malay/Muslim community

New mosques coming up plus progress in education, but terror threat looms
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 24 Dec 2014

THE Malay/Muslim community enjoyed a good year, with new mosques on the way and strides being made in both mainstream and religious education, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim said yesterday.

But challenges still loom, including addressing the threat of terrorism, he added in a video posted on Facebook in which he laid out highlights of the year for the Malay/Muslim community.

Dr Yaacob, who is also Communications and Information Minister, said in the two-minute video: "We are committed as a nation to reject and fight this global threat."

Thousands of individuals have travelled to join the extremist Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the Middle East - among them a handful of Singaporeans.

Besides addressing the ISIS menace, the community must also continue to reach out to the needy, and keep healthy, he said.

But even as he spoke of the challenges, Dr Yaacob praised the community for its achievements.

Improvements have been made to older mosques, and the building of new mosques has been announced this year. These will open up more prayer spaces.

In April, for instance, Mujahidin Mosque in Stirling Road was reopened after a $3.7 million upgrade. It can accommodate 4,500 devotees - 1,000 more than before - and boasts better facilities, including 12 classrooms and a computer lab with 30 computers.

Other upcoming mosques include the Maarof Mosque in Jurong, as well as the Yusof Ishak Mosque, named after Singapore's first president and set to open in Woodlands by 2016.

The community also saw new highs in education, with 39 students recognised at the Anugerah Mendaki awards this year for graduating from university with first-class honours - a record for the community.

Malay/Muslim students from both madrasahs and mainstream schools also did well in the Primary School Leaving Examination.

Islamic education was made more accessible, Dr Yaacob said. The Islamic Education Fund, for instance, received a $2 million boost this year.

Next year will be more eventful, Dr Yaacob added. Pioneers will be honoured and the contributions to the nation will continue.

The SG50 Kita committee, leading the Malay/Muslim community's contributions to Singapore's golden jubilee celebrations, will give young people the chance to outline the Singapore they want to see in the years to come.

The community will also work to strengthen family units and ensure students have a good foundation in Islamic education to shape a progressive religious life, said Dr Yaacob.

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