Religion For Peace



Azman bin Kassim is a long-time Design and Technology Education Workshop Instructor with Manjusri Secondary School, where he is the main person responsible for initiating programmes to raise understanding of non-Chinese cultures among students. He is also chairman of Masjid Al-Huda in Jalan Haji Alias and chairman of the Ulu Pandan IRCC. He has attended the CEED Programme.


Mr Azman bin Kassim has a "secret talent' that comes in very useful in a school environment that is largely Chinese. He can play the kompang, a Malay drum, knows how to participate in the dikir barat, a Malay group performance, and can make ketupat, a traditional rice dumpling. Sharing these talents with his largely Chinese students allows him to open for them doors to an essential part of Singapore's multi-racial culture. Those activities are supplemented through assembly talks on the basics of Islamic culture, such as the Islamic calendar, and guest lectures by MUIS officials on subjects such as halal food. The response has been heartening, he says. Like young people anywhere, his Singaporean students take interest to abstract lectures. In this way, the CEP message of bonding and trust gets spread naturally. Helping to create an atmosphere of real understanding gives him great satisfaction as a teacher.


The same attempt to create understanding is apparent in his work as IRCC chairman. "Attending courses, seminars and talks in the CEED Programme helped me understand more seriously how to engage the community effectively and diplomatically to promote racial harmony as part of our culture in Singapore", he says. Personally, his involvement in the programme helped him build networks of trust with various community leaders, all of whom shared his stake and interest in creating a culture of peace, harmony and happiness regardless of race and religion, he adds, recalling the message of the Singapore Pledge.


Mr Azman's work at Masjid Al-Huda is part of that broader attempt to unite Singaporeans. He is particularly proud that the mosque and Farrer / Holland Neighbourhood Committee organized joint Lantern Festival and Hari Raya celebrations in October 2010. The sight of a Lantern Festival gathering held on mosque premises impressed on those who attended the event the spirit of openness and friendship that is an integral part of Islam. At the mosque itself, Mr Azman discusses CEP issues at meetings with his fellow leaders and gathering involving other worshippers. Since 2008, an annual IRCC Educational Talk-cum - Iftar has been held annually at the mosque to mark the breaking of the fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.


Have Mr Azman's attempts to make the mosque an integral part of the upscale neigbourhood ever run into problems? Delicately and with a benign smile, he recalls an incident in which an expatriate living in the condominium across the road complained to the mosque authorities that the loudspeaker carrying the morning call to prayer was disturbing him. The loudspeaker's volume was turned down, and the man was propitiated. However, very soon another resident, also a non-Muslim living nearby, visited the mosque and complained that he was getting up late because he could no longer hear the call to prayer on the loudspeaker. It is obviously not possible to please everybody, Mr Azman suggests with a hearty laugh.


On a serious note, Mr Azman adds that it is his mission to build warm relationships among community leaders, whatever their religion, in the Ulu Pandan area. These leaders include those working at the grassroots and religious leaders, such as from St Ignatius Church, the International Baptist Church and Lutheran Church. Acknowledging and celebrating Singapore's religious diversity is among Mr Azman's talents, one makes no secret of.




Source: "Hearts of Resilience - Singapore's Community Engagement Programme"- a book published by ISEAS (Institute of Southeast Asian Studies), written by ISEAS Visiting Research Fellow Mr Asad-ul Iqbal Latif.


Abbreviations used in this article:

CEED - Community Engagement Executive Development

IRCC - Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles

CEP - Community Engagement Programme