Two converts to Islam adjust to their new faith and experience their first Ramadan as Muslims

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Mr Muhammad Joy Kumar Paul is all smiles as he gets a warm welcome as a convert from the community at Assyakirin Mosque after prayers.

Neo Xiaobin

WHEN train captain Muhammad Joy Kumar Paul turned 25 in May, he celebrated by converting to Islam.

The ceremony was held at the Muslim Converts’ Association (MCAS) and witnessed by his closest friends and fiancee’s family. That same day, he attended his first Friday prayers as a Muslim at Assyakirin Mosque, near his home in Taman Jurong.

Mr Muhammad was brought up in a Buddhist family, but growing up with Malay friends, he knew “how a Muslim behaves, what they are supposed to do and what they do not do”.

Still, he never expected to become a Muslim until he met Ms Syuhaidah Sha’ada, a 24-year-old pre-school teacher.

The couple got engaged in June but it was not an easy decision. They had a serious talk about their relationship in the long term and considered breaking up.

On his own accord, however, he researched and watched videos by Islamic scholars online, as well as talked to Muslim friends, to learn more about the religion.

Mr Muhammad lives with his mother, who is divorced, and elder sister. Both felt it was his decision to make. He also attended beginner courses at MCAS last year.

Every year, about 600 people convert to Islam at the three-storey building located in Onan Road in Joo Chiat.

Also known as Darul Arqam Singapore, the one-stop centre for converts was set up in 1980 to oversee the welfare, religious guidance and problems of new converts.

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All prospective converts are encouraged to take up basic courses on Islam. Mr Muhammad went through Ramadan as a Muslim for the first time this year. The ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, Ramadan is a holy period of fasting, reflection, devotion, generosity and sacrifice observed by Muslims around the world.

While there have been challenges, he has been touched by the support of his loved ones.

His mother, a Buddhist, cooks the food he wants to eat and made sure there was food in the morning when he woke up to break fast during Ramadan. She buys meat and produce that is certified halal for his sake.

Like Mr Muhammad, Ms Rachel Aryssa Chung, 39, converted to Islam two months ago. The customer insight and communications manager at a gas company found fasting during Ramadan to be particularly challenging.

“What’s more, coffee is not recommended because it dehydrates the body but I don’t function well without coffee. I always tell my colleagues I’m not human until I have my coffee,” she said, laughing.

Divorced for 10 years, Ms Chung has two daughters. She has been dating a Muslim for a year and is still learning about her new faith.

It was her own decision to convert. She said of her new faith: “I feel that it’s a very comprehensive and disciplined faith. How you should treat other people, how you should behave as a person. We’re encouraged to pray five times a day. When you do things like that, I feel that it changes you as a person.”

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Ms Cachola and Ms Bondoc taking a picture with the registration officer after completing the conversion ceremony






‘The Straits Times’ says: Mosque’s outreach a shining example



THE one-year-old Al-Islah Mosque in Punggol, which has already built close ties with neighbouring institutions and residents, embodies ways in which places of worship can help create a more resilient society in these trying times. While the primary purpose of a religious institution is to serve followers, reaching out to the wider community shows the value it places on face-to-face relations. Al-Islah demonstrates this by partnering nearby schools to distribute food to poor families in the neighbourhood. It also opens its doors to others for free guided tours of its premises. Steps like these help to dispel misconceptions of what mainstream Islam stands for. This is especially important given the way some extremist organisations have taken the religion’s name in vain to cloak their dastardly attacks in a semblance of piety.

The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore notes that the mosque stands as “an important bulwark of Muslim identity and community integrity” in Singapore, where Muslims constitute a minority living in a society undergoing far-reaching changes. Community-friendly initiatives that benefit both Muslims and non-Muslims, such as blood donation drives and assistance to low-income families, help to integrate mosques into the wider life of the nation.


Masjid Al-Islah, Kampong Punjol, Singapore

Mosques are not just the focus of religious activities – although that is an essential function – but must act as centres of social development, too. It is in that spirit that they embrace their social calling in a secular state. Muslims, like followers of other religions in Singapore, are reassured that their religious obligations are respected. Simultaneously, they must acknowledge that no community of believers exists in a vacuum, but as part of a larger whole.

This is where Singapore’s model of religious harmony differs from practices in countries that dichotomise religion and public life to the extent that one becomes an affront to the other. Here, religion is accepted as a legitimate influence on social outcomes so long as no faith claims the right to influence these exclusively. Overlapping spheres of belief are anchored in a national centre. A national consensus has emerged on this policy, which treats all religious communities equally. It will be tested from time to time. Insistent foreign influences, travelling via the Internet, do and will make their way into Singapore. Having no stake in Singapore’s common religious and racial future, these groups have no qualms in dividing people. So that they do not lead impressionable minds astray, it is essential for Singapore to curb such influences with its local resources.

In their very co-existence, mosques and other places of worship show that Singaporeans are capable of not just living with religious diversity but also of thriving on it.

The Straits Times
Wednesday, 6 July 2016


Muslims performing prayer and reading al-Quran at Masjid Al-islah in Kampung Punjol, Singapore.

Record for longest chain of knotted sarongs set at inaugural Mosque Family Day in Singapore


Lee Min Kok and Lim Yi Han


THE first ever Mosque Family Day was attended by more than 7,000 members from Singapore’s 69 mosques, who gathered at Pasir Ris Park on Sunday (Jan 31) for a day of bonding activities.

A Singapore record for the longest chain of knotted sarongs – measuring 530m – was also set at the event, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) said in a press release.

More than 500 people were involved in tying the sarongs from one end to the other, symbolising close bonds within the community and the nation.

Mosque Family Day was held in recognition of the mosque volunteers who had sacrificed their time to serve the Muslim community, with six families given the inaugural Mosque exemplary Family Awards to honour their contributions.

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim, Muis president Mohd Alami Musa, Muis chief executive Abdul Razak Maricar, and Mufti of Singapore, Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram attended the event.

Speaking to the media, Dr Yaacob, who was guest of honour, said that the mosques have become “significant nodes within the national grid”, contributing to social cohesion through their close links with grassroots organisations, Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles, social service offices and other voluntary welfare organisations.

He cited the examples of mosques actively partnering with national agencies such as the Health Promotion Board to promote a healthy lifestyle, and the National Environment Agency to care for the environment.

Moving forward, mosques will continue to open their doors to the wider community regardless or race or religion, Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, added.

The Straits Times

Sunday, 31 January 2016



The Burning Europe

charliemagepaIkhwanul Kiram Mashuri

WHAT really happen in several countries in Europe? France’s Charlie Hebdo magazine was being attacked. About 12 people were murdered, including a Muslim police — out of two police who were killed during the attack.

The Moroccan-born Muslim police is Ahmad Murabith, 42 years. In the footage, his foot was shot. When he tried to get up, an attacker confronted him and shot him right in his head. He fell and died in the place.

Few days later, a gunman took a number of hostages n Jewish kosher supermarket Hyper Cache in Vincennes, Paris. The gunman and four hostages were killed during the police raid.

A day after Charlie Hebdo attack, British Intelligence Agency, MI5, warned that Al Qaeda militants in Syria were plotting attacks to inflict mass casualties in the West. The aim is to create massive casualties similar to what they have killed in World Trade Center, New York, US in 2001. Al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people.

“The often attack transport system or iconic targets,” Head of MI5 Security Service, Andrew Parker, said.

Few days before in Germany, or Dresden to be exact, up to 18,000 people attended a rally with the Anti-Islamic Pegida (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West). The rally has spread to Munich, Berlin, Tostock, Wurzburg, Dusseldorf and Bonn.

The racial rally was responded by another group which defends Muslim community in Germany. With similar number of people, they upstaged a rallt in Dresden, Berlin, Cologne, Stuttgart, Muenster and Hamburg. Fortunately, the two groups didn’t clash.

Islamophobia or hatred towards Islam, Muslims or of ethnic groups perceived to be Muslim appears in other countries in Europe. Besides France and Germany, the attack towards Muslim and its facilities happened in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Austria, and others. Several mosques were attacked and burned down.

With two bloody events in Paris, the tension emerges in Europe. Europe is burning. Distrust and suspicion even develop in citizen of Europe, especially towards Muslim.

In Belgium, al Sharq al Awsat reported that Muslim, especially female who wear hijab, are afraid to go outside of their house. They are afraid that stangers will attack them. “The Charlie Hebdo attack increases Islamophobia in Belgium,” Sheikh Muhammad at Tamami, the imam of Masjid al Hamidin in Anderlecht, Belgium, said. Anderlecht is predominantly Muslim neighborhood.

In France, the attack towards mosque and other Islamic facilities is rising since Charlie Hebdo attack. So in other European countries.

Then, who takes the advantages of the attack towards Charlie Hebdo and hostage in kosher supermarket? Muslim clearly doesn’t take the advantages. So does government and citizen in Europe. European countries, such as UK, France and Germany is democratic, secular, tolerant and supporting freedom.

That is why, President of France Francois Hollande and German Counselor Angela Merkel must neutralize the attack towards Charlie Hebdo and anti-Islamic rally in order not to become inter-religious conflict. “The attackers of Charlie Hebdo in Paris are not related to Islam,” Hollande said. “The rally is conducted by people who do not respect diversity in Germany,” Merkel said.

Those who take the advantages from Charlie Hebdo attack and the burning of mosques are radicalism and extremism groups. Radicalism and extremism are ideology. Ideology which allows any ways to reach a target. The action that justify any means gives birth to terrorism.

In Europe, the radical and extrimist come from both Muslim and non-Muslim. The cause varies. In German, for instance, about 18,000 people who attented anti-Islamic rally were furious due to economic downturn. They are disappointed as they cannot compete with Muslim immigrants. They are racist. They may also hate the behavior of hardline Islam which cause terror everywhere.

Radical and extremist also appear in Germany. They maybe small in number, but they inflict losses to 3 million of Muslim in Germany. The 3 million Muslims who lived in peace among 80 million of German citizens. German, likes any other people who live in the world, knows that radical Muslim like Al Qaeda, ISIS, Jabharu an Nasrah and others poses terror everywhere.

The attack towards Charlie Hebdo in Paris surely will raise Islamophobia in the West. The attack that killed 12 people brings more harassment towards mosques in France and other European countries.

We condemn terrorism conducted by any body from any group. Not only for the attackers of Charlie Hebdo, but also for those who publish the magazine.

Charlie Hebdo which has insulted Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) and Islamic symbols several times is also a terrorist. They are terrorizing the faith of Muslim. And also other parties such as anti-Islamic rally in Germany.

Freedom is important. However, it must be followed by responsibility. A responsibility to avoid hatred and anger. Responsibility to create peace in the middle of pluralistic people.

In this frame, we must fight radical and extremism. They are our enemy.

Sat, 17 January 2015

Thailand, Malaysia set Southern Thai peace-talks conditions


THE Thai and Malaysian premiers agreed Monday that stalled talks on ending southern Thailand’s deadly Muslim insurrection could only resume once all rebel attacks cease and its various insurgent groups come to the table as one.

The conditions spelled out by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, agreed in a meeting with hardline new Thai leader Prayut Chan-O-Ca, appeared to cast doubt on any speedy resumption of the peace talks on the bitter and stubborn conflict.

Najib Razak and Prayut Chan-O-Cha

Najib Razak and Prayut Chan-O-Cha

Prayut arrived in Malaysia on Monday for a one-day visit, his first to Thailand’s Muslim-majority southern neighbour since the former military chief seized power in a May coup, with officials saying the stalled peace talks were “high on the agenda”.

Speaking to Malaysian media afterwards, Najib said if insurgents halted attacks, Prayut agreed the Thai army’s presence could be reduced.

“All parties need to respect the law and the Thailand Prime Minister has agreed that the army could reduce its presence,” Najib said.

But a decade-long insurgency that has seen near-daily bombings, shootings and occasional beheadings has spiked anew this year — sparking a renewed Thai security crackdown, with no end in sight.

More than 6,100 lives — most civilians — have been lost in the rebellion, where a range of shadowy groups are fighting for a level of autonomy from the Thai state.

Najib conceded the effort “will take time,” in comments to Malaysian state news agency Bernama.

Malaysia hosted several rounds of peace talks last year between one of the Muslim rebel groups and the previous Thai government led by Yingluck Shinawatra.

But the dialogue made little headway and eventually collapsed as Yingluck’s government became engulfed by a political crisis that ultimately led to Prayut’s coup.

Najib said all rebel groups must agree together on their demands and “only then can substantial negotiations start.”

Experts on the conflict have said the peace effort is hampered by divisions within insurgent groups.

patani2Attacks continued during last year’s talks, raising doubts over whether the rebels at the table spoke for other factions or had any authority over fighters on the ground.

Buddhist Thailand colonised its predominantly Muslim deep south more than a century ago, and insurgencies have repeatedly flared.

Rights organisations accuse Thai authorities of widespread human rights abuses — including extra-judicial killings — and sweeping aside the area’s distinct local culture.

Despite seeking a resumption of peace talks, Thai authorities have recently distributed hundreds of assault rifles to villagers, saying locals need to be able to protect themselves following a slew of insurgent attacks on civilians.

But rights groups have warned the move threatens to breed yet more fear and violence.

Dozens of Malaysian demonstrators held a protest outside Thailand’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur on Monday against Prayut’s visit, denouncing him for his “illegal” power grab.

The Bangkok Post
Tue, 2 Dec 2014

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EU funds publication of Bangsamoro law primer

bangsamoro basic law
Bong S Sarmiento

A PRIMER on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), funded by the European Union (EU), was presented to the public on Friday.

The BBL is the measure now deliberated in Philippine Congress to legalise the creation of the new Bangsamoro government in Mindanao.

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), which crafted the BBL, presented to the public the BBL primer during a ceremony in Mandaluyong City in Metro Manila.

The primer will be in English and six local languages, and more than 50,000 copies will be published.

“As part of the EU’s long-standing support for the peace process in Mindanao, we are very pleased that EU funds have enabled the production of this key publication,” EU Ambassador to the Philippines Guy Ledoux said in a news release.

Attending the public presentation were Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles, Secretary Yasmin Busran-Lao of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, BTC chair Mohagher Iqbal and Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed.

Malaysia brokered the peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation (MILF).

The GPH and the MILF signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), their final peace agreement, last March after 17 years of negotiations.

The key feature of the CAB is the creation of the Bangsamoro government that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The BBL is a tool which can be used to organise conversation, debate, and dialogue with all the stakeholders.

It will again prove to be an excellent tool in the preparations for the future plebiscite. It will help to describe, explain, and clarify the various aspects of the law and how this will affect the everyday life of the Bangsamoro people, the EU Philippine Delegation statement said.

The publication of the primer has to be considered a further effort of the BTC to make the peace process as transparent as possible, by enabling everyone to clearly see its benefits.

It has the ultimate objective of inclusiveness so that the negotiated peace settlement would be truly sustainable, it added.

The Brunei Times
Sunday, November 30, 2014

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Algebra of violence in the Mideast (2)

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Pehin Orang Kaya Lela Raja Dato Seri Laila Jasa Haji Awang Abdul Rahman bin Haji Abdul Karim

PRESCIENTLY, the grave concern expressed by Gary Burge actually almost covers the content of his book: “Whose Lands? Whose Promise? — What Christians Are Not Being Told about Israel and the Palestinians.” It is about “a profound injustice committed by the Israelis against the helpless Palestinians.”

This grave concern actually happened again in August to September 2014. Within this period, the Zionist military might bombs schools, UN shelters, hospitals, mosques, 18,000 houses, three 14-storey apartments, electrical supply that directly crippled the sewerage system and the supply of water, the desalination plant. (Re: The Strait Times: “Gaza Faces Steep Rebuilding Challenge.)

The International New York Times, 15-9-2014, carried this article: “In Gaza, A Battle To Open Schools”:

[Related letter: Algebra of violence in the Middle East]

“There were 500,000 students. They were scheduled to go to school. They were 648 schools, with 421 schools to be used as double shifts. But 34 schools buildings were bombed (by the Zionist military) beyond use; dozens more in need of major repairs. Thirty one schools were still sheltering 59,728 people.”

But a generation that has survived three wars in six years — the latest killing 500 Gazans younger than 18 and injuring 3,100, as well as creating 1400 orphans, has more than just material assets destroyed; thousands are violently traumatised by the Zionist bombs, machine guns and collapsing buildings.”

Traumatising the Palestinian children is the long term strategy of the Zionist state to weaken the future generations of the Palestinian, mentally and physically.

According to Gary M Burge, since 1948 to 1990, 531 Arab villages have been either destroyed by bulldozers or occupied by Israeli residents who stole the Arab lands despite UN resolutions calling for the rightful return of those homes and lands to their Arab owners.

According to UN records in June 1999, about 3.6 million Palestinians refugees have been victims of Israel’s nationhood. (Refer: The Colonisation of Palestine (1992)

After the usual European governments pro-Zionist stand was seriously protested against by their citizens, only then these European governments made their perfunctory lip-service against the Zionist bombings of Gaza.

Only then when the atrocities have actually been committed by the Zionist military, shown ‘live’ on TV news and on the hand-held cyber-power owned by hundreds of millions of their owners worldwide did “Human Right Watch (HRW) Accuses Israel of War Crimes in Gaza” (The Brunei Times, Sept 12, 2014). The Zionist military bombed three UN-run schools, killing Palestinian civilians who had sheltered there, in violation of the laws of war. The HRW also distrusted the self-investigations done by the Israel military into its Gaza War operations.”

On Sept 2, 2014, Al Jazeera documentary, showed the extreme atrocities of the Zionist military against the Palestinian lives and economic assets in 2002, 2008, 2010 and the recent August-September 2014 mass destruction of the assets of the Palestinian in Gaza. Of course more than 3,000 killed and thousands traumatised and injured.

Useful readings:

“Palestine-Peace Not Aparthied” by Jimmy Carter — the former USA President.

“Whose Land? Whose Promise? What Christians Are Not Being Told about Israel and Palestinians

“The Crisis of Zionism” by Peter Beinart.

“The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy — How a Powerful?

“Brokers of Decit” by Rashid Khalidi.

“Cursed Victory-A History of Israel And The Occupied Territories.” By Ahron Bregman

Other Independent, objective scholars, writers such as the former CIA officers, Kathleen and Bill Christison highlighted this Zionist policy of “annihilation”, “ethnic cleansing”, “genocide”, “holocaust” in their book: “Palestine In Pieces – Graphic Perspectives on the Israeli Occupation.” Another hundreds of sources which highlighted this concerted Zionist ultimate objective involving the Palestinians and their lands are as per the following samples:

“We have to kill all the Palestinians unless they are resigned to live like slaves.” (General Shalomon Lahat, the Mayor of Tel Aviv, October 1983).

“The Palestinians would be crushed like grasshoppers ….heads smashed against the boulders and walls.” (Israel Prime Minister, New York Times, April 1, 1988)

“We shall use the ultimate force until the Palestinians come crawling to us on all fours.” (Rafael Eiton, Chief of Staff Israel Defence Forces — New York Times, April 14, 1983)

“We must use terror, assignation, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population.” (The Koening Memorandum.)

“We, the Jewish people, control America, and the American knows it.” (Ariel Sharon told Shimon Peres on Oct 3, 2001.)

In 1989, Benjamin Netanyahu (before he became Prime Minister in 1996) was speaking at Bar Ilan University following the brutal Chinese repression of demonstrators in Tianamen Square.

His apartheid assertion was that: “Israel should have exploited the repression of the demonstrators in China, when world attention focused on that country, to carry out mass expulsion among the Arabs of the occupied territories.” (The Israeli Journal Hotman, Nov 24, 1989)

Even one of my favourite intellectual journalists, Thomas Friedman in his book, “Longitudes and Attitudes — Exploring the World Before and After September 11, 2001” has strongly indulged in a diatribe against Islam, Muslims and Arab/Palestinian in his bias support for the Jews and Israel.

The Brunei Times’ Editorial: “Israeli Illegal Land Grab”, Sept 2, 2014 highlights, the latest brazen land stealing of 400 hectares of the Palestinian land by the Zionist state under the pretext of a retaliation against the death of the three Jewish youths.” The Zionist state is committed to this in line with its execution of the overall policy of “crushing the Palestinians like grasshoppers, and land stealing of their lands.” These samples of Zionist atrocities and land stealing and the policy to drive the Palestinians from their lands are found in the Surah and Verses in the Noble Quran, for example:

“Then your hearts hardened after that, so that they were like rocks, rather worse in hardness. And surely there are some rocks from which streams burst forth; and there are some of them which split asunder so water flows from them…..(Al-Baqarah or The Cow) 2: Verse 74)

“Yet you it is who would slay your people and turn a part from among your out of their homes, backing each other up against them unlawfully and exceeding the limits…. (Al-Baqarah) 2 : Verse 85)

“And We made known to the Children of Israel in the Book: Certainly you will make mischief in the land twice, and behave insolently with mighty arrogance.” (BaniIsrail or The Israelites) 17: Verse 4)

Apart from those books which expose Zionist brutalities, land stealing and apartheid policy against the Palestinians, there is also another brave, humane Jew, Gideon Levy who exposed on film and camera those brutalities and the land stealing by the Zionist people. Gideon Levy, was a reporter for Haaretz newspaper, Israel. His bravery and scarifies in supporting the Palestinians was shown on Al Jazeera TV on Aug 31, 2014. The title of his documentary is “Going Against the Grain”. Gideon Levy was exasperated by the brutalities, by the destructions of the Palestinians economic assets, their houses deliberately inflicted by his own Jewish people, since 1948. Another Al Jazeera documentary on Sept 2, 2014 showed the Zionist bulldozers uprooting those 800 years old olive trees in the Palestinians lands; the shooting of Palestinians babies, children, mothers and old people in their bedrooms by intruding Zionist soldiers who punched holes in walls to brutally bully the Palestinians in their houses.

Another sample of Jewish brutalities: “Armed with guns given to them by the Jewish army, the Jewish settlers of Hebron have always been the most extreme, violent and abusive of all settler communities. They have routinely abused the city’s Palestinians resident; beating them, hurling refuse at them, destroying their shops, chopping down their olive trees, poisoning their water wells, breaking into their homes and even killing them. The Jewish army protected these settlers. When the settlers’ brutalilties escalalated the Jewish military would often attempt to calm down the situation by locking the Arabs up in their houses and imposing curfew on them.” (Ahron Bregman in his book: “Cursed Victory-A History of Israel and the Occupied Territories.”)

The Brunei Times
Tue, 28 October 2014