RIMA, May 2012 – A Short Interview with Mr. Necmettin Eskici, Director, Turkish Cultural Centre, Singapore

necmettin eskici“The engagement and integration to the larger society is very crucial for Muslims. There are many good qualities in secular societies which are Islamic such as right of education, freedom and housing. We should value them and play our part.”  Mr. Necmettin Eskici

RIMA: Is there a collective vision of your community of what a Muslim community should be in today’s diverse society?

NE: Muslim community should be part of the society which contributes to economy, education and well-being of the society actively. Muslims should be open to other cultures and beliefs without worrying of losing something from themselves.  Variety is richness. We cannot limit ourselves to only mosques, madrasahs, and religious institutions. We can do cultural activities, businesses; we can operate hospitals and engineering companies. We must be in every segment of the society who represents Islamic values. We cannot and should not isolate ourselves. 

On the other hand, when we engage with others, we must make sure that we are well fed with our own tradition and religious identity – we cannot just engage with everyone and do nothing behind that. Just make sure we have strong values, and never lose our religious ground.

RIMA: How do you find the Malay/Muslim Community in Singapore when it comes to their integration and community development?

NE: The engagement and integration to the larger society is very crucial for Muslims. There are many good qualities in secular societies which are Islamic such as right of education, freedom and housing. We should value them and play our part.

In recent years, I see a lot of development in the Muslim community. I have been here 11 years and I feel myself as part of the society. I can say that they are more vocal, more engaging and more daring to do something. I can see the efforts of Muslim institutions and the Singapore government in engaging not only the Malay Muslims but Muslim expatriates to the larger community. So, I see a big development of the local Muslim community in Singapore – they are more willing to learn and to share.

Although we have a natural closeness with Muslim brothers and sisters because of religious beliefs, we have many common points which we share with other people. A very simple step is to have closer relations with our Chinese or Indian neighbours. We can just take a portion from what we cook to them and let them know that we love them. Great Turkish Sufi poet Yunus Emre says “We love the created for the Creator’s sake”.

RIMA: What are your suggestions for the Malay/Muslims in Singapore to be more integrated and dynamic community?

NE: There are already some efforts which should be applauded. On the other hand, there is a duty falls on individuals, not necessarily on institutions who know the religion and the problems facing the Muslims. They should take the initiative to inculcate our values to our children and to our Muslim brothers and sisters. We should not always expect people to do something, we have to guide, teach and make them understand, and make sure our children know the good values of living in a dynamic society. If everyone cleans in front of their house, the whole city will be clean. If we wait for others to do so, no one will do it at the end of the day.

Said Nursi, a great Muslim thinker said, we have three problems within the Muslim community. One is ignorance which can be recovered with education. Education also increases our income level. Second is poverty, it comes from laziness and it is not that Allah made us poor, we should work hard. Third is disunity, we should unite in spirits and in understanding as a community. We can live together and support one another.

Education is very vital. One of the biggest problems of the Muslim community is education. There is a vicious cycle going on. Majority of the Muslims cannot have a quality education due to financial problems. Since they cannot get a good education they cannot earn well.

The Muslim professionals who are financially better should help the community by giving scholarships to the underprivileged students in the neighborhood, without expecting anything in return. These individual efforts will be noticed by people and they too will start donating money to make sure a good future for the community will come.

Mr. Necmettin Eskici is the Director of the Turkish Cultural Centre Singapore since 2004. He is a Turkish Language and Literature Teacher by profession. 

 
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