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7 - Conclusion

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

While asatizah have historically played a significant role in the community in matters of faith and worship, the demands and impact of rapid change which have affected basic social institutions have witnessed their growing influence in society extending beyond these traditional domains. Uncertainties in response to change and the rise of a host of social and economic challenges affecting the community in the process of development have witnessed their growing influence for guidance and remedy. At the same time, strong signs of insecurity have also conditioned the nature of religious experience of Muslims, revealing signs of conservatism and utopian streaks that threatened and impeded the well-being of society. Asatizah, the people responsible for teaching the religion, perpetuating the religious tradition and protecting religious identity are thus seen to be significant in strengthening the potential role and contributions of religion towards improving the condition of life.

Until the last two decades, discourses on the needs and development of asatizah have been largely confined to the community level. The rise of religious revivalism in the region since the 1970s compounded by violence and terrorism in the name of Islam that have emerged in the region shortly after 9/11 and its ramification on Singapore, have ushered greater spotlight on Muslims’ religiosity at the national level. Asatizah, in particular the Islamic studies graduates, who at present formed the core of the asatizah community, have inevitably been the subject of much attention in dominant discourse. Highlighted by Singapore’s leaders as one of the three vital pillars of the Malay/Muslim community, alongside the professionals and entrepreneurs, they have been said to play a highly pertinent role in contributing to harmony and social cohesion of Singapore’s pluralistic society. Not only are they expected to provide guidance to the community in areas as broad as scientific developments, demographic changes and social problems experienced by those who fall between the cracks, their role in safeguarding the nation against extremism and violence in the name of Islam that threatens the security of the nation has also been constantly reiterated. At the same time, asatizah are also constantly urged to contextualize and promote religious teachings conducive to Singapore’s pluralistic society. However, the discourse has not been accompanied by systematic and critical attention to planning for religious education that is progressive and meaningful for change, if at all.

Type
Chapter
Information
Reaching for the Crescent
Aspirations of Singapore Islamic Studies Graduates and the Challenges
, pp. 191 - 206
Publisher: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute
First published in: 2023

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