In his Malay speech at his annual National Day Rally, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said these include giving a boost to madrasah or Islamic religious education.
"I have discussed these ideas with Minister—in—Charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim and the Malay MPs. They have sounded out community leaders and received support for these ideas," said Prime Minister Lee.
Last year, three full—time madrasahs — or religious schools — came together to form the Joint Madrasah System.
Working with the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore or MUIS, they aim to raise the quality of madrasah education. But to do this, they need more resources.
Prime Minister Lee, speaking at the Rally on Sunday, said one way is to tap on the Mosque Building and Mendaki Fund (MBMF), which is currently used for the mosque building programme and also to fund the activities of Mendaki — the community’s self—help group.
But this would mean raising the monthly contribution rates. Contributions are made through deductions from Malay/Muslim employees’ salaries. And as income goes up, the amount contributed goes up too. Currently, those earning under S$2,000 a month contribute at least a dollar, while those making over $4,000 give up to $7.50. They can opt to give more.
Mr Lee gave the assurance that the new contribution rates will be affordable, especially for those earning less.
The Prime Minister also suggested using money from the MBMF to breathe new life into old mosques, under a new mosque upgrading programme. This will help older mosques keep up with the new—generation mosques, which he said, are in a different class. Older mosques are also showing signs of wear and tear.
"It is apparent that the old mosques need a new lease of life. This can be done by upgrading and adding new facilities to our old mosques. For example, we can provide activity rooms for youths, and lifts and ramps for the elderly. The community can then enjoy mosques which are up—to—date, and meet the needs of the modern Muslim community," said Mr Lee.
Another suggestion is to tap on the MBMF for resources to tackle the problem of dysfunctional families among the community which continue to be a concern for him. Mendaki is working with Malay/Muslim organisations to mobilise the whole community and the government, said Mr Lee, is supporting this.
Mr Lee said that in making the changes to the monthly contribution scheme and religious education, it should be remembered that Singapore is a multi—racial and multi—religious society. So, even when practising our religious beliefs, there is a need to strengthen national togetherness.
On that note, Mr Lee said the Malay/Muslim community should continue to participate in other grassroots activities and also pour more resources into the study of English, Mathematics and Science. This is to ensure that the community continues to make economic and social progress.
Mudpie puzzles -
I checked the MUIS website after reading this, but could not find the accounts or at least the figure collected by the Mosque Building Fund last year. Granted, that there is probably a need to increase the collection amount, but transparency and good governance dictates that how much is collected and how it is spent should be made easily available, especially at a time when such a announcement is made.