Ask them anything on inter-faith discourse, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Ask them anything on inter-faith discourse

This article is more than 12 months old

Four-hour session with Islamic panel brought up LGBT, genital mutilation issues

Does Islam condemn LGBT individuals?

This was posed by a participant at an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Islam event last Saturday at the National Museum of Singapore.

Panelist and Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) deputy director of religious policy and regulation Ustaz Irwan Hadi, 34, replied: "I do not condemn them, but I will say that I do not condone it.

"I will make this clear. We do not excommunicate, denigrate, or disparage LGBTQ muslims in our community. We sit down with them to understand the challenges they go through, and the fact that they still want to turn to God - I see that as a positive development."

AMA, which had its first event last November, was founded by Miss Shahrany Hassan, 43, founder of a lawyer referral service company.

It is funded by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and aims to encourage inter-faith discourse within the community.

To date, 430 people have participated in AMA's four events, which focused on either Islam, Buddhism or Christianity.

Its next event on May 26 will be a discussion on jihad.

In the four-hour session on Saturday, participants and panelists discussed topics like female genital mutilation, apostasy, and marriage with non-Muslims through a panel discussion of questions sent in by participants, facilitated small group discussions, and a question and answer segment.

Miss Shahrany told The New Paper: "It all started because I wanted to make a concerted effort to create a platform for difficult conversations to be started.

"Ignorance and misinformation breeds distrust, but acceptance comes from a place of understanding."

One of the panelists, Ustaz Ashraf Anwar, 24, got started in inter-faith discourse three years ago in Egypt when he worked with members of the Anglican church to help African refugees.

He holds double bachelors in Islamic Theology, Islamic Propagation & Culture from Al Azhar University, and in Islamic Studies & Arabic from the American University in Cairo.


The ustaz, who is certified under the Asatizah Recognition Scheme, told TNP: "The inter-faith and religious harmony in Singapore needs to go deeper, beyond cliche and normal pleasantries.

"I believe it's time to address the elephant in the room (misconceptions) for all religions."

AMA facilitator Parvitar Singh, 20, who is a Sikh, told TNP he had to "hold back tears" when he saw two people from different branches of Islam - one Sunni, one Shi'a - embrace each other during the event.

"There were disagreements, but everyone embraced their differences so humbly.

"I realised the blessing of the Singapore identity.

"There was common ground we all could stand on."

AMA participant Miss Tran Phuong Ha, 17, who is an atheist, told TNP that the experience "opened her eyes".

The St. Joseph's Institution student said: "I have always been curious, because it is hard to comprehend a higher power.

"I was the only atheist in the group, yet it was so comfortable and easy to ask any questions I had."