BE DISCERNING ABOUT REPORTS ON CONFLICTS, MUFTI TELLS MUSLIMS

SINGAPORE — Muslims here should be “mindful and concerned” about the plight of fellow Muslims in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world due to conflicts, but they must also be critical when reading or watching reports and show discernment even while they display sympathy, said Mufti Mohamed Fatris Bakaram.

Delivering the Eidulfitri sermon on the first day of Hari Raya Puasa at the Sultan Mosque yesterday, Dr Mohamed said: “We must be extremely careful and discerning when we read fatwas and individual opinions that call upon Muslims to kill and commit acts of violence towards others.”

Urging the Muslim community to equip themselves with “sound religious knowledge”, he said: “We will not be gullible and easily swayed by all sorts of claims that are being widely circulated. We will not fall for the manipulated interpretations of the religious texts that these people are making to justify their desires and personal gains.”

Dr Mohamed’s comments come after weeks of continued violence between Israel and Gaza, and in the wake of concerns raised by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean over Singaporeans getting involved in militant activities in Iraq and Syria.

Mr Teo, speaking in Parliament earlier this month, revealed that a handful of Singaporeans had gone to participate in the conflict in Syria, posing potential security risks to Singapore and threatening social harmony.

Addressing an audience of about 5,000, Dr Mohamed said: “It definitely worries us when we read the news and watch videos of violence and injustice (being) committed. Many aspects of what we see in these videos and what we read about in the reports are against Islamic teachings, because they are propagated by misinterpretations of the teachings; or the actions are in support of a certain agenda.”

Speaking to reporters after the sermon, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, said the conflict in the Middle East is an issue that affects not only Muslims, but also people of all religions.

He also said he was glad to see “various communities coming together to see this from a humanitarian point of view (and) how we can work together to bring peace to the region”, noting positive response in the form of fund-raisers to help victims of conflict and nightly prayers.

On Saturday, about 300 people gathered at Hong Lim Park to show solidarity with Gaza.

Dr Yaacob reiterated Singapore’s support of a two-state solution in the Israel-Palestine conflict and said he hoped it could be realised as quickly as possible, “so the people there can live in peace as we live in peace”.

Yesterday also marked the launch of the Sultan Mosque’s upgrading plan, with the S$3.45 million refurbishment to start next month.

Visitors will be able to enjoy two new lifts by the fourth quarter of next year. The current ablution areas will be replaced by more spacious ones and the domes refurbished, electrical installations rewired and a new coat of paint given to the entire complex.

The two lifts are aimed at improving accessibility for elderly congregants of one of Singapore’s oldest mosques. The Sultan Mosque was built in 1824 and gazetted as a national monument in 1975.

It has remained largely untouched since it was rebuilt in 1920, apart from the addition of the Annex Building.

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