Budget 2014: Malay/Muslim organisations to improve outreach

Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar, MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC.

Malay/Muslim organisations are making a concerted push to improve their outreach and make services easier to tap, to ensure that the needy do not fall through the cracks.

For instance, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) and self-help group Mendaki are partnering six mosques so that families on Muis' social assistance can also tap on Mendaki's educational and employment schemes.

Help can also be sought from more locations - including Mendaki satellite centres in Pasir Ris and Woodlands - with the change.

The programme, Nadi Khidmat, will be launched this year, Minister in Charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim said on Tuesday.

He acknowledged that there were some who needed help but were not aware of assistance schemes, and where they could turn to.

Speaking during the debate on the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth's budget, Dr Yaacob listed another example of an effort to improve the delivery of services - a new framework to improve Malay/Muslim organisations' efficiency.

It will be led by the Community Leaders' Forum (CLF) - a platform that brings together organisations such as mosques and schools - and will help Malay/Muslim bodies tap on a $2.6 million development fund to meet training needs.

Together with the National Council of Social Service and the Social Services Institute, the CLF will also identify programmes for Malay/Muslim bodies to improve their organisational development.

"These measures will help ensure that the Malay/Muslim organisations, who are our key partners in providing welfare services, are efficient, well-organised and have good governance," said Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister for Communications and Information.

In his speech, he also urged the Malay/Muslim community to guard against extreme religious views and misinformation online.

"Some members of our community may be easily influenced by the extreme stances of the vocal few from other parts of the Muslim world," he said.

Earlier, Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar (Ang Mo Kio GRC) voiced concern about the differing opinions that have surfaced. Some see themselves as "true Muslims", while others call themselves "liberal Muslims", she said.

Mr Zainal Sapari (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) also warned of potential polarisation within the community due to social media.

Dr Yaacob said "enlightened guidance" and continuous learning must be the basis of the community's defence against such forces.

"The sheer accessibility and spread of misinformation on social media will continue to pose a threat to our harmonious religious life," he said. "It is therefore imperative that we strengthen our religious knowledge.

"We should work together to ensure that our children receive proper guidance, appreciate Islamic values like peace and harmony, and are receptive to diversity."

Muis has several initiatives planned, he added, including one where seven more mosques will offer religious classes to adults.

This brings the total number of centres offering such classes to 13 this year.

Where there is contention, said Dr Yaacob, the Office of the Mufti, Singapore's highest Islamic authority, should have the final say.


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