Singapore mosques reach out to non-Muslims (Straits Times)
Mosques reach out to non-Muslims
Straits Times, Singapore - August 2, 2001
Open house by two mosques this weekend aims to raise awareness about lives
and practices of Muslims
By Laurel Teo
STEP through the gates of the Darul Ghufran mosque in Tampines Avenue 5 and
you find a throbbing hub of activity. Amid the sound of worshippers
chanting their prayers, there is also the hum of sewing machines and the
smell of cooking wafting from various classrooms.
Children scuttle around the compound of the mosque, which sits on a plot as
big as a football field, rushing to and from various tuition lessons.
At night, some adults debate in seminars, while others seek out counselling
and welfare services.
Within its sky-blue walls, the largest mosque in Singapore has been running
a slew of social and educational activities since it opened 10 years ago.
That the mosque is not solely a solemn retreat for worshippers may come as
news to some. But many more will be surprised to know that a large number
of these services are secular, and open to non-Muslims.
Said Mr Mirza Abdul Matin, 47, chairman of Darul Ghufran: ''We welcome
people from different races and religious groups to sign up. Even our
pre-school classes are secular and taught in English.
''But not many people know this.''
For this reason, Darul Ghufran and another mosque, Al-Khair in Choa Chu
Kang, are throwing their doors open to the public this weekend.
Together with Muis, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, they hope
to raise awareness among Singaporeans about the lives and practices of
Muslims, as well as the activities held at the 68 mosques here.
During the two-day open house, the two mosques will put up exhibitions,
performances and food stalls.
Muis spokesman Mohd Nazirin Abu Bakar said the idea was inspired by
comments made by Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew during a dialogue in March
with 150 Malay-Muslim leaders.
Noting that there was a trend for Muslims to hold more activities in
mosques, he said this might limit their interaction with other races. He
urged them to hold more joint activities with other community groups.
Mr Mohd Nazirin, 35, added that this weekend's events are meant to tie in
with Racial Harmony Day, which was marked on July 21. And if all goes well,
such open house events could become an ''annual fixture'', with more
mosques joining in, he said. Darul Ghufran's Mr Abdul Matin noted that the
open house was a landmark in terms of the size of the event and the
hundreds of visitors expected.
Opening up and interacting with others would be a lengthy process, said the
organisers, but it is one they are willing to commit to.
Said Mr Abdul Mutalif, 41, executive chairman of the Al-Khair mosque: ''We
know the problem will not be solved by next week. But we just want to close
the gap, step-by-step, with the other communities.''
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