New mosque for Tampines North to cater to growing needs: Yaacob

MUSLIM residents living or working in Tampines North and nearby Pasir Ris will get a new mosque in their neighbourhood, as more homes are built there.

"The timing for the mosque's development will be planned to meet both the growth in resident population there and prayer spaces in the area," Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim said yesterday.

He was speaking during the debate on the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth's budget.The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) is a statutory board under the ministry.

"Our mosques are a central focal point in our community's religious life," Dr Yaacob said.

"We are committed to ensure that our mosques provide a safe and nurturing space conducive to worship and religious education."

He noted that since the Mosque Building Fund was set up in 1975, Muis has built 23 new mosques and upgraded 39 older ones, and would add 87,300 prayer spaces by the end of this year.

But he acknowledged that some mosques still face overcrowding issues on Fridays, and efforts are under way to have more prayer spaces in the East.

When Al-Ansar Mosque in Bedok reopens next month, it will have 4,500 prayer spaces, up from 3,500 before upgrading.

Darul Ghufran Mosque in Tampines will also be upgraded next year to add 1,000 prayer spaces and improve its learning facilities, and Muis is looking at ways to make better use of the space at Al-Istighfar Mosque in Pasir Ris.

Elsewhere, three new mosques will be ready soon: Al-Islah Mosque in Punggol is due to open by Ramadan this June, and construction of Maarof Mosque in Jurong West and Yusof Ishak Mosque in Woodlands has begun.

Dr Yaacob commended the community for its strong support for the Maarof and Yusof Ishak mosques, which had raised $2 million each.

The spirit of giving was also seen in the steady rise in zakat contributions, he added.

They hit about $32 million at the end of last year, up from $22.8 million in 2010.

Adult Muslims are obliged to give 2.5 per cent of their wealth as zakat, or tithe. Dr Yaacob said: "The culture of giving is what makes us strong and what brings us together as a community."

Muis has also broadened the qualifying criteria for recipients, and 1,000 more recipients stand to benefit from this year.

Mosques are also reaching out to the community, working with other groups to help residents.

Dr Yaacob said the NTUC's U Care Centre will start working with Al-Mukminin Mosque in Jurong East to educate low-wage workers on training schemes and their employment rights.

Muis is also looking at providing religious classes more widely, including starting extra sessions and extending operating hours for religious classes for youth.

Its Adult Islamic Learning classes are now on offer at 13 mosques, with about 2,300 students, Dr Yaacob said. And Muis is looking to develop eight new modules for the programme this year to better cater to Muslim adults.

"The Office of the Mufti is committed to developing more modules that help put current issues into perspective, while at the same time shedding light on common misperceptions or misinterpretations of Islam," he added.

This article was first published on March 13, 2015.
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