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S’porean Muslims’ guide on Mideast relations developed

SINGAPORE (ANN/THE STRAITS TIMES) – In a collaborative effort, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) and its partner organisations, including the Singapore Islamic Scholars & Religious Teachers Association, Religious Rehabilitation Group, and Asatizah Youth Network, unveiled a comprehensive guidebook aimed at providing counsel to the local Muslim community in navigating and comprehending the complexities of the Middle East conflict.

The 28-page advisory, a product of the Religious Leadership Forum 2023 held on November 2, signifies a dedicated initiative by Singapore’s Muslim leadership to address the diverse needs of the Muslim community in understanding and approaching the ongoing challenges in the Middle East.

Muis officially announced the guidebook on November 22, emphasising its commitment to fostering informed perspectives and facilitating a nuanced approach to the critical issues discussed during the forum.

Presently available exclusively in Malay, the guidebook offers religious guidance rooted in Islamic values for navigating the complexities of the Middle East conflict. A forthcoming English version is currently in development.

The guidance underscores Islam’s unequivocal rejection of all manifestations of oppression, irrespective of the source, according to Muis. The statement further emphasises Islam’s commitment to prioritising the pursuit of global peace.

At the same time, Islam acknowledges human emotions like sorrow and grief, and encourages Muslims to express these feelings in appropriate ways.

In responding to global crises like the one unfolding in Gaza, the reaction of the Muslim community should be guided by religious principles and the “immutable values” of Islam, added Muis.

Muis compiled the 28-page advisory after the Religious Leadership Forum 2023 that was held on Nov 2. PHOTO: ANN/THE STRAITS TIMES SOURCE

It cautioned that the war in the Middle East had led to the proliferation of apocalyptic religious texts and hadiths on social media.

Muslims should refer to the interpretations of “authoritative scholars” to understand the context of these texts, Muis said, so as to avoid confusion and panic that would prevent them from making contributions to the well-being and prosperity of their community.

The Singapore Muslim community is in a unique position and Muslims in Singapore should continue to preserve the atmosphere of peace, protecting it from any threat of division or strife caused by geopolitical conflicts, Muis said.

The advice also recognises and supports the contributions of the youth, calling on Muslims to avoid dismissing young people as naive or uninformed, even though they may seem idealistic about making positive change in the world.

Muis underlined the importance of providing a “good support network” to the young, whether of family, friends, teachers or asatizah (religious teachers). The support network should give them someone to rely on and the safety to share their feelings and concerns with others, Muis added.

Those supporting Muslim youth can help them renew their intentions, put their thoughts into perspective and allow young people to take a more balanced view on issues close to the community’s hearts.

The guidebook also offers tips on how to recognise signs of burnout in those engaged in advocacy work.

“It is our hope that this guidebook will be of benefit to the community in navigating the myriad and complex challenges that we face today,” said Muis.

The advice will be shared with the community at Muis’ weekly Friday sermon and disseminated on social media and other online platforms.