CAIRO - Hundreds of mosque leaders in Singapore gathered for the Mosque Convention 2011, calling for preaching an inclusive and open message that accepts and welcomes all visitors regardless of their different inclinations, the Jakarta Globe reported on Monday, December 5.
"Even if the young person has tattoos on his body, or a lady with very modern clothes, never mind, Alami Musa, president of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), told reporters after the convention.
Our job and our role as mosque leaders is to empathize and to give as much help as possible.
That is most important," he said.
Some 700 mosque leaders and volunteers met Sunday at Mosque Convention 2011. The event was organized by Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis).
Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim addressed participants at the event, which is held once every five years to take stock of what has been accomplished and to chart the way forward for the next five years.
At closed meetings, mosque leaders were urged to make more effort in the coming years to engage individuals and groups beyond their mosques.
One example of this kind of engagement, he said, is "to have empathy and feelings towards people who need help."
When the person becomes more comfortable with the mosque, "then you can introduce mosque programs and the kind of spiritual or other guidance needed," Alami said.
Muslims in Singapore are estimated between 450,000 to 500,000, making around 14 to 15 percent of the population.
Entitled with a new inclusive message, mosque leaders were already reaching out to Muslims who are non-citizens or new citizens by providing them with socio-religious services while encouraging them to interact more with local Muslims.
Some mosques now cater specifically to certain groups, Alami said.
"The Bishan mosque is very close to the Indonesian Muslims, the mosque in Jurong is very close to the Turkish Muslims, the mosque in Geylang is very close to the Bangladeshi Muslims, he said.
So, you find that our mosques are reaching out, embracing and serving them.
Some permanent residents also serve on mosque management boards, but Alami said the number remains small.
At the event, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who lunched with participants, said the inclusion of residents in the mosque boards would not signify a fundamental change in mosque leadership.
The core of it will still be Singaporean, Loong said.
We are gradually building a Singapore Muslim identity, a community which is comfortable in itself, people who uphold their faith, at the same time well integrated into our multiracial and multireligious society.
"When you bring in new arrivals, we expect them to integrate into this ethos and to understand how this system works, and become part of this system over time," he said.
Premier Lee also stressed that in working with various community and religious groups, "mosques are an integral living part of our Singapore society."
"I think this is the right direction for them," he said.