Islamic religious teachers must be 'very egregious' to be struck off accreditation scheme: Masagos
SINGAPORE: To have their accreditation revoked, Islamic religious teachers will have to be "very egregious", Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Masagaos Zulkifli said in Parliament on Tuesday (Feb 12).
He was responding to Member of Parliament (MP) Zainal Sapari's question on whether religious teachers who have been struck off are allowed to return to the Asatizah Recognition Scheme (ARS).
The ARS, which comes under the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS), provides accreditation for Islamic religious teachers.
"It's not easy for the asatizah to lose his accreditation. He must have been very egregious to have lost it and therefore the process of getting him on board should not be too easy either," Mr Masagos said.
"The Asatizah Recognition Board (ARB) and MUIS will look into how we can bring them back to ensure that they do not regress into the situation when their ARS registration was cancelled in the first place."
Under the ARS, Islamic religious teachers are required to abide by a code of ethics that includes not encouraging extremism or violence, denigrating other racial and religious groups, committing ethical misconduct and promoting segregationist practices.
"I wish to assure the member that the Asatizah Recognition Board and MUIS take ARS registration seriously. Processes have been put in place to ensure that our asatizah registered with the ARS can perform the role that the community entrusts them to do," Mr Masagos said.
These include instituting provisional periods of observation and requiring additional interviews when deemed necessary by the ARB.
Each asatizah would also be required to renew their registration every three years.
He added that former religious teacher Mr Murad Mohd Said was struck off the Asatizah Recognition Scheme (ARS) last May for going against its code of ethics.
Mr Murad was later served a restriction order under the Internal Security Act in December. It was the first time a restriction order had been issued to a previously recognised religious teacher since the start of the ARS in 2017.
"This is how the ARS system should work. It monitors and takes action to bar those whose views are inimical to social cohesion from preaching," Mr Masagos added in response to Nominated MP Mohamed Irshad.
Mr Irshad asked about the safeguards in place for accredited religious teachers and whether there were mechanisms to periodically review and renew the ARS accreditation.
All ARS-approved religious teachers are required to go for regular training, and their suitability is periodically reviewed. If there are reports or if they demonstrate that they are unfit to be a religious teacher, their ARS status will be cancelled, Mr Masagos said.
"MUIS and the ARB conduct regular reviews of the ARS system. The ARS is meant to build up and support our asatizah community, so that they are reliable and credible sources of religious knowledge for the Muslim community, and play an important role in fostering peace and harmony," he added.