Mufti of Singapore says his responsibilities and religious leadership are a complex balancing act
"Trust and responsibility towards the community, the country’s leadership. More importantly, towards the religion and God," says Mufti of Singapore Nazirudin Mohd Nasir on his responsibilities.
SINGAPORE: Mufti of Singapore Nazirudin Mohd Nasir said in an interview broadcast on Wednesday (Aug 10) that his responsibilities and religious leadership are a complex balancing act that covers many aspects.
"Trust and responsibility towards the community, the country’s leadership. More importantly, towards the religion and God," he said in an interview in Malay with Detik Personaliti on Mediacorp's Suria channel.
This complex process "has to be carried out in a good and careful manner and that often results in misunderstandings”, said the country’s top Islamic leader.
Dr Nazirudin addressed the controversy over his announcement earlier this year that Hari Raya Puasa would be celebrated in Singapore on May 3. Neighbouring countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei marked May 2 as the date of the festival.
In his statement then, the religious leader said that the crescent moon – which marks the start of a month for Muslims – for the Islamic month of Syawal, which follows Ramadan, was not visible in Singapore at sunset on the 29th day of the Islamic month of Ramadan.
“Thankfully, I think after the explanation, many accepted the decision,” Dr Nazirudin said in the Detik interview.
When asked how he deals with criticisms such as those he received in response to the Hari Raya Puasa date, he said: "My principle is that if I feel that I’ve done my best and I’ve tried my best to find or made a decision, after consulting the asatizahs and colleagues in the Mufti’s office, I have to be brave and confident to defend the decision.”
People in leadership positions have to be willing to accept criticism, he added.
“If not, we would not be better in our job. But as humans, we have emotions and the language does play a role,” he said.
UNIQUE ROLE OF MUSLIM COMMUNITY
The Mufti also said that in a plural society such as Singapore, with many religions and races, the Muslim community has a unique role in reflecting the values of the religion.
This is especially so in an environment "where our religion is often misunderstood" due to the actions of a small group "on violence, terrorism and other things", Dr Nazirudin said.
"It has got better, in terms of perception. But it still exists. At the same time, it gives us the opportunity to live up to the real values of our religion that encourages grace and simplicity,” he said.
Dr Nazirudin, who visited Darussalam Mosque as part of the interview, said he spent a lot of time there in his youth. It was there that he was given opportunities to participate in religious activities.
Beyond the weekly religious classes he attended at the mosque, he also took part in activities on Saturdays, such as a religious lecture competition and memorising sections of the Quran.
“That was how I was given the opportunities and received strong support from my ustazah (female Islamic religious teacher),” he said.
“It was quite special then. When they saw my potential and capabilities, they began to give me the space to deliver lectures as a youth lecturer.”