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Don’t impose foreign Islamic culture on Muslims: Mufti

SINGAPORE — Muslims should not impose a foreign culture on a community that already has its set of practices, Singapore Mufti Mohamed Fatris Bakaram said on Sunday (June 25).

Don’t impose foreign Islamic culture on Muslims: Mufti

Singapore's mufti Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram addressing congregants at the Al-Mukminin Mosque on the morning of Hari Raya Aidilfitri on Sunday (June 25). Photo: Jason Quah/TODAY

SINGAPORE — Muslims should not impose a foreign culture on a community that already has its set of practices, Singapore Mufti Mohamed Fatris Bakaram said on Sunday (June 25).

Even more problematic is when a believer “concludes that what’s foreign is definitely more Islamic”, he added, noting that such attitudes often arise when someone is “easily fascinated by something new and something that differs from the norm”.

Dr Fatris told congregants at the Al-Mukminin mosque that Islam guides its followers to observe good values without forcing them to neglect their local customs. Such flexibility ensures that it “remains relevant to any culture”.

“The desire to live a more Islamic lifestyle ... symbolises one’s spiritual and religious commitment,” said Dr Fatris, who delivered his sermon in Malay. “However, (it) doesn’t mean we should abandon our customs ... which don’t run contrary to Islamic principles.”

Citing Singaporeans’ well-known work ethic, he said: “Surely this work culture, which is practised widely in Singapore society, is in line with the teachings of the Prophet.

“It’s also in line with our communal culture that encourages the spirit of gotong royong, or cooperation, in all aspects of life.”

The celebration of Hari Raya Aidilfitri is another instance where Islam allows flexibility.

“Islam didn’t set a particular way of celebrating this day. As long as it meets the basic religious guidelines, and good ethics are observed, then it’s allowed,” said Dr Fatris.

Muslims in the Malay archipelago should therefore not feel that they are not “perfect Muslims” if they do not forsake their culture, or because they live far from Mecca.

Dr Fatris cited a religious principle saying that “customs could be a determinant of a law” when religious texts offer no clear guidance. And he urged Muslims to be discerning and wary of calls from “unsure sources”.

“In today’s landscape of advanced technology and the widespread use of social media, there are individuals out there who try to detach the values of rahmah (compassion) and goodness ... from the Islamic teachings.”

Those without a proper understanding of the religion can be deceived and even influenced to participate in wars, he said.

Rounding up his 30-minute sermon, Dr Fatris said: “Thus, if we were to know of people who’ve disclosed their intentions to commit acts of violence, then we need to seek help as soon as possible before they fall deeper into this problem and before it’s too late.”

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim, who attended the prayers at the Al-Mukminin mosque, said the Mufti’s message reassured Muslim Singaporeans that what they have been practising is “perfectly acceptable within the framework of Islam”.

“(The sermon) was very appropriate given the times and the context in which we’re operating,” said Dr Yaacob.

“We must remain proud of our heritage ... of the fact that we’re Malays and there are certain traditional practices we’ve done for many centuries, which we must continue to embrace and continue to strengthen.”

The Mufti’s words are important given how Singaporeans are today “inundated with many other influences we receive across the world through the Internet”, said Dr Yaacob.

“There’s always this debate about which one is more Islamic than the other. I thought the reassurance from the Mufti was very important.”

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