Address by Minister for Law & Second Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam on the role of Muslim NGOs in Asia and the Pacific Region
15 Oct 2008 Posted in Speeches
Mr. Abu Bakar Maidin, President of Jamiyah
Dr. Abdel Illah Ben Arafah from the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization,
Diplomats from the various foreign diplomatic missions in Singapore
Delegates from the Asia-Pacific countries
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good morning. Firstly let me extend a very warm welcome to all our foreign guests, and wish you a very pleasant stay in Singapore.
I am particularly pleased to note that the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) is holding this seminar for the 6th time in Singapore in cooperation with Jamiyah Singapore.
The development of Muslim NGOs in relief efforts
- The theme for this year’s seminar, ‘Networking for Development: Role of Muslim NGOs’ is very relevant. A slew of wars and natural disasters in recent times have plunged Muslims and non-Muslims alike into poverty and displacement. Muslim NGOs have spearheaded relief efforts to these stricken areas. They have worked closely with each other, and with governments, local agencies and other international organizations.
Networking between Muslim NGOs
- Networking among Muslim NGOs is crucial in the current climate. Unfortunately, the actions of extremists and terrorists have cast greater scrutiny on the work and finances of Muslim NGOs, resulting in resources being less readily available, and access to relief areas restricted. Muslim NGOs would benefit greatly from working together and pooling resources. They should share ideas, manpower and expertise, and create an organized, transparent system for facilitating relief efforts. These would go a long way towards ensuring sustainability and building up public trust. Coordinated action allows Muslim NGOs to better address societal needs and have more social impact, rather than just those of a small target group.
- International linkages meanwhile allow Muslim NGOs to reach and help all parts of the world, and not just their immediate locality. For instance, Muslim Aid, an NGO based in the UK, worked with Global Peace Malaysia, to gain access to Aceh within days of the tsunami incident in 2004.
Networking Muslim NGOs and non-Muslim agencies
- There is also great value in establishing networks between Muslim and non-Muslim agencies, especially for efforts to help those affected by natural disasters. The human victims of such tragedies clearly cut across racial and religious lines. Muslim agencies can gain from the more established and larger infrastructure of international NGOs, while the latter needs Muslim NGOs to help bridge cultural and language gaps.
- There are many examples of such cooperation. On December 26, 2003, an earthquake devastated the Iraqi city of Bam. In Singapore, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) worked together with Mercy Relief, Singapore Inter-Religious Organisation, the Singapore Catholic Archdiocese, the Singapore Soka Association and the Singapore Young Sikh Association, to raise more than $480,000 for the victims through a 30-day nation-wide fundraising campaign. In 2005, Muslim Aid worked with the United Methodist Committee on relief in Sri Lanka after the tsunami, and there is now a worldwide partnership between the two organizations.
- Islamic Relief is another UK-based NGO which worked with Islamic Relief Worldwide and the Islamical Medical Association of North America for logistical support, and also partnered the Church of Latter-day Saints in donating USD$1.6 million worth of emergency supplies to earthquake-hit areas in Java, Indonesia.
Networking NGOs for community development
- But we do not need to wait for crises or emergencies to work together. There is a significant role for cooperation in times of peace and safety as well. More often than not, there are issues of mutual trust and accommodation in normal, everyday dealings between people, especially when they are not of the same race or religion. Organisations and communities need to come together and build lasting relationships that can withstand the tensions that will inevitably flare from time to time. NGOs can play an important role in promoting the development of such ties within society by coming together more often for discourse and dialogue or to help the needy and vulnerable.
- By forming better networks between themselves and with other agencies, NGOs can improve the scope of their programs and services, making them available to all. In Singapore, a large number of Voluntary Welfare Organizations and self-help organizations such as Yayasan Mendaki, Singapore Indian Development Association, Chinese Development Assistance Council, Eurasian Association, and the Association of Muslim Professionals, cooperate and play a complementary role along with the Government. They tackle key issues such as education, family services, health and social welfare, especially of the needy sections of our society.
NGOs like Jamiyah Set a Good Example
- Jamiyah Singapore has set a good example. It has been actively involved with non-Muslim organisations to raise funds for the victims of disasters, including those of the tsunami and the Java quake. Jamiyah, in cooperation with the Singapore Hindu Endowments Board and other fraternal organisations, has also more recently raised funds for earthquake victims in Myanmar and China.
- Jamiyah Singapore has formed many links with its counterparts in the region. Mr Abu Bakar Maidin, the Jamiyah President, has been the President of the Indonesia-Singapore Friendship Association (ISFA) since 2004. As a founding member of the Regional Islamic Da’wa Council of South East Asia and Pacific (RISEAP) which is based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Jamiyah Singapore has been actively participating in RISEAP’s regional seminars and conferences. These seminars and conferences provide opportunities to network with leaders from the member countries. Since 2006, Jamiyah has also been represented in the Supreme Council of Dunia Melayu Dunia Islam (DMDI, The Malay and Muslim World).
- Since 2004, Jamiyah Singapore has established a network relationship with New York University through a program initiated by Jamiyah called ‘Touch of Harmony’. This program provides opportunities for tertiary students from the United States and Singapore to enhance their awareness on the value of racial and religious harmony, and goodwill towards achieving global peace. Students from both countries have short term exchange programs in each country each year.
- This seminar is itself an opportunity to build networks, and to share knowledge, experiences and ideas for the development of stronger Muslim NGO networks within your own countries as well as internationally.
I wish you a fruitful and enjoyable seminar.
Last updated on 26 Nov 2012