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PERGAS's response to the White Paper on Jemaah Islamiyah
1. PERGAS value the steps taken by the government in making public the document and information regarding the arrest of the JI members in the white paper. It augurs well as it reflects transparency on the part of the authority and shows its concern towards the people. The white paper on the Jemaah Islamiyah also provides recomendations as to how we can address the danger of terrorism in our midst.
2. From the information on the investigations given in the paper, we acknowledge that such group would pose a great danger and may escalate into terrorism if it left unchecked. This threat of terror may result in destabilizing the peace of our nation and the cohesion of our society.
PERGAS once again reiterates our stand in also upholding and safeguarding the well being of our multi-racial nation because Islam, evidently, also enjoins this. And we reject any effort of any group who tries to set aside this concern of safeguarding the well being of every citizen without just reason, and who choose the path of violence and destruction.
3. The proposal and recommendation to step up efforts of vigilance and mutual precaution is necessary, but we hope that whatever steps taken would not impede any citizen's valid religious practices, or display intolerance which may invite suspicion and mistrust between others (non-Muslims) with their fellow Muslim citizens in Singapore. To the Muslims generally, this incident should awaken us towards the importance of being equipped with the correct Islamic knowledge and worldview through authentic sources and religious teachers whose competencies on Islam are acknowledged. Only by eradicating ignorance of Islam amongst Muslims can we effectively avoid the general masses from being misled into following such deviant ideologues.
3. (As for) Recommendation for the monitoring of those engaged in the teaching of Islam for the masses, PERGAS has all along been concerned and committed towards this effort, as also MUIS. Just as MUIS, PERGAS also keeps a register of all our Asatizah (Islamic religious teachers) and students of Islam under our tutelage, including their background datum. We have already cooperated with MUIS in sharing information regarding our Asatizah.
PERGAS even feel that mere monitoring is insufficient without an efficient system for accreditation of Asatizah and Du'at (propagators or missionaries of Islam). Regarding this, PERGAS, as the Association of Islamic Scholars & Religious Teachers in Singapore, has already embarked by establishing our council of elders (Majlis Mashayikh) amongst our Islamic scholars, which will serve as a pillar to our accreditation system within PERGAS. Other steps will include the providing of special courses and training programmes for Islamic religious teachers; to formulate a Charter as guidelines for all Asatizah and Du'at; and many other programmes are being planned. We realize that our efforts in this requires support from the general Muslim masses in Singapore. On the basis of the teachings of the Qur'an and As-Sunnah (traditions of the Prophet) which we uphold, every effort of cooperation with MUIS will be further strengthened and continued. This will also include providing information and public education to the general Muslims to inform them of our efforts on this matter, as their support and the support of every concern citizens are important for the success of this endeavor.
5. From this incident, we feel that our local Madrasah education system is an important institution in laying the foundation of nurturing correct (legitimate) Islamic education that in its implementation considers the Singapore social contexts. We hope that Singaporeans understand this and support every effort of the Muslims in Singapore to strengthen this institution and not raise any suspicion as to its existence. If its existence was to be affected, this will only open (and give) the opportunity for foreign radical ideologies to gain adherents here.
6. Steps to strengthen social cohesion as a means of averting suspicions (mistrust) amongst the various races and religions are an important step. We agree to our government's concern regarding this and support the continuance of this effort. At the same time we are worried that there are side issues which are regarded as important to a particular group as these are evidently a valid requirement of their religion, but yet are not recieving due attention and toleration by others for them to practice it. Example is the 'Tudung Issue', a specific Islamic requirement for Muslim girls who have attained the age of puberty. By not resolving this issue, we fear that some section of our citizens may become disenchanted with our concept of freedom of religious practices. This issue has already raised dissatisfaction and if left unattended would lead to feelings of mistrust by one group towards the others. We are concerned that if this is not resolved amicably and convincingly, every effort towards wanting to strengthen social cohesion (amongst the races) would only be seen merely as a mere slogan chanting. To forge a more meaningful social cohesion, it must seriously consider and respect the differences existing amongst the various ethnic groups in Singapore. To regard it as insignificant or setting aside (disregarding) something seen as very important for one minority group with the excuse that we have to look into the interest and well-being of the majority should not be too often used as an excuse.
7. PERGAS would like to register our concern regarding misconceptions about Islam, which if it is not corrected may lead to negative reactions of other groups towards the Muslim community. Efforts to correcting these misconceptions must be by referring to valid sources. Allowing any ideas which aims at inciting towards violence using Islam as the label, or radical ideas which aims to tarnish the sanctity of Islam and thereby affecting the believe of Muslims, disregarding the accepted authoritative Islamic methods and authentic sources, if allowed to spread amongst Muslims, would only worsen the situation. These have indirectly undermined and challenged the general lay Muslims belief, for it gave the opportunity for some people to disparage respected scholars of Islam and Islamic leaders in the region. The specific example we are referring to is the recent Forum conducted by ISEAS (Institue of South-East Asian Studies) where in our opinion, many misleading views and questionable assertions were given an audience which may endanger the established beliefs and practices of Muslims in this region. It is most unfortunate that these (speakers) were projected as though they are the spokespersons representing Islam.
8. May Allah protects us all in Singapore from every dangerous threat.
And Allah Knows (all)
And (May there be) Peace
Ustaz Mohamad Hasbi Bin Hassan
16 JANUARY 2003/13 ZULQA'EDAH 1423
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