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5 - Challenges, Genesis and Prospects for Development

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 September 2023

Norshahril Saat
Affiliation:
ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute
Azhar Ibrahim
Affiliation:
National University of Singapore
Noor Aisha Abdul Rahman
Affiliation:
National University of Singapore
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Summary

Introduction

This chapter focuses on major challenges and problems encountered by Singapore’s asatizah graduates upon their return from completing Islamic studies abroad. Factors including the genesis in the surge of religious studies graduates in Singapore which have contributed to the current challenges faced by them will be discussed. The impact of dominant discourse in recent decades on the significance of asatizah in guiding the community to adapt to change and the need for them to contextualize Islam to suit the conditions of Singapore’s pluralistic society amid evidence of Islamist extremism as well as policies and measures aimed at professionalizing them are also examined. The overriding aim is to analyse the extent to which these have facilitated critical attention on the need to revaluate Islamic studies education, crucial for the well-being of the community and the larger society.

Data obtained from in-depth interviews, survey responses and focus group discussions with returning religious studies graduates and undergraduates as highlighted in the previous chapters reveal that until the mid-1980s, the number of those who went abroad to pursue religious education was very few. Today, the situation has changed significantly with more having completed tertiary religious education in foreign universities abroad. While the traditional centre of religious learning for local asatizah in the past was Al-Azhar University in Egypt, data reveal that in the last two decades or so, their option has expanded to include other universities in Egypt and the Middle East more generally, including those in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria, Yemen and Libya. Students have also continued to study in Malaysian universities though in its relatively newer established ones, as well as in Brunei and Indonesia. Malaysian Islamic studies centres, such as Kolej Islam in Klang which used to be the educational destination for those who did not or could not pursue religious studies in the Middle East, are becoming less common today given the rise in competing institutions. While UM and UKM religious studies departments or academies continue to attract students, the relatively newer established ones such as IIUM (International Islamic University Malaysia) are noticeably fast replacing them. Others that are seeing increasing enrolment are USIM (Islamic Science University of Malaysia), KUIS (International Islamic College of Selangor) and UTM (Technological University of Malaysia).

Type
Chapter
Information
Reaching for the Crescent
Aspirations of Singapore Islamic Studies Graduates and the Challenges
, pp. 110 - 150
Publisher: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute
First published in: 2023

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