Speech by Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Education, at the Ramadhan Zakat Disbursement at 10:30am on Sunday, 5 July 2015, at the Auditorium, Muslim Converts’ Association of Singapore (MCAS)

Published Date: 05 July 2015 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Mr Faiz Edwin Ignatious, President, MCAS

Mr Ridzuan Ng, Deputy President, MCAS

Honoured Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning.

On this very special day in Ramadhan, I offer you my greetings of peace and love.

1.I am delighted to be here this morning and to join you in the annual Ramadhan Zakat Disbursement.

2.Zakat seeks to help the less fortunate among us who face difficult circumstances in life. In Singapore, Zakat has been collected and disbursed effectively, as it is driven by people’s sense of duty, compassion, and love for one another. Therefore, to all Zakat beneficiaries, the financial assistance is not just to lighten your burden. More importantly, it is a form of motivation from your peers to overcome the challenges that you are facing. It is an important message that you are not alone.

3.It is heartening for me to witness today’s event as it demonstrates the strong sense of community among the Singaporean Muslims. It exemplifies the spirit of gotong royong, where the community mobilises itself to help one another, where people know one another, and support one another to overcome challenges in life.

4.Today’s event also reminds us that we each play a part in building a compassionate and caring society, where those who are better off help those who in need. The Zakat represents the Singaporean Muslim community’s desire to help those who are in need. Similarly, MCAS was formed out of a desire to bring Muslim converts together, in order to provide religious guidance to them and take care of their welfare. Today, MCAS seeks to actively bridge everyone - regardless of race, language, or belief - to help bring about a better understanding of Islam in Singapore.

5.This spirit of helping one another among our Muslim community is also something that we are seeing more and more in the broader Singaporean society. Many Singaporeans, regardless of race or religion, volunteer their time to raise donations - be it food, money, clothing or groceries - for those in need. Others volunteer abroad, to help our friends in countries who have suffered from disasters or tragedies.

6.Community organisations such as MCAS are also critical in our social fabric as they help to bring people together to support those in need. I understand that beyond financial aid, MCAS offers free courses in Islamic learning for everyone, as well as workshops on budgeting and motivational talks for financial aid recipients.

7.The Government stands shoulder to shoulder with the community in helping those in need. In education, for instance, we want every child to succeed, to have access to learning opportunities, regardless of their starting point. We want to bring out the best in every child. We offer a range of support to students in need; and as Singapore prospers, we can afford to do more. For instance, we have recently enhanced the school breakfast programme; we have enhanced a whole range of bursaries for primary school, secondary school to ITE, polytechnics and universities. We recently introduced transport voucher subsidies and waived exam fees. Beyond financial needs, we support students with a weaker start in learning and those with special needs. For instance, we have levelling-up programmes for Primary 1 and 2 students, and we are extending it all the way - right up to primary 6 and beyond, if the student needs it. We now have School-based Dyslexia Remediation (SDR) to help those with dyslexia. Through SkillsFuture, we aim to provide opportunities to all Singaporeans to advance based on their skills and develop themselves to their fullest.

8.So I hope that these efforts to provide support by MCAS, the Government, and other community organisations and individuals, will reassure and motivate everyone - the community and nation are behind each and everyone of us to overcome our challenges, and to propel our families forward.

9.As we celebrate 50 years of nation building this year, let us also look to the example set by our pioneers. 50 years ago, it seemed difficult to build a country with little resources. But our Pioneer Generation overcame formidable obstacles, and with grit and determination, they built Singapore to what it is today. Similarly, I hope that for all our beneficiaries, together with financial support that you receive, you will also find strength and tenacity to turn your challenges into opportunities.

10.Singaporean Muslims at this event share not just their wealth, but also a common goal to improve the lives of everybody involved in Zakat. As your bonds are strengthened through Zakat, the Singaporean Muslim community shines in unity as part of Singapore. And this motivates us all to look forward to a better future together.

11.With that, I wish you “Selamat Berpuasa” for the rest of today and Ramadhan, and an advance “Selamat Hari Raya”. May you enjoy the festivities ahead with kind thoughts and motivating words for everyone.

12.Thank you.

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