Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth
- Consultation Period:
- 10 Nov 2023 - 05 Dec 2023
The Ministry of Culture, Community, and Youth (MCCY) invites the public to give feedback on the draft Administration of Muslim Law (Amendment) Bill. The consultation period for the draft Bill will be from 10 November to 5 December 2023.
2.The Administration of Muslim Law Act (AMLA), which has been in force since 1968, provides for the establishment of Majlis Ugama Islam, Singapura (“Muis”), the Syariah Court (“SYC”) and the Registry of Muslim Marriages (“ROMM”), and the administration of mosques and wakafs (charitable endowment). It was last amended in February 2022 to update the provisions governing the processes and operations of our statutory Muslim institutions.
SCOPE OF THE CONSULTATION
3.For this round of amendments, MCCY is proposing to amend AMLA in three areas:
a.Enable Muis to better administer its functions and duties to support the Muslim community;
b.Enable further digitalization of ROMM and SYC processes; and
c.Enhance the administrative provisions relating to ROMM and SYC for effective outcomes.
A.Enable Muis to better administer its functions and duties to support the Muslim community
4.A key impetus for this round of amendments is to empower Muis to create wakafs and strengthen Muis’ powers to provide better services and religious guidance to citizens. The amendments will also improve Muis’ ability to manage community funds under its jurisdiction.
Empowering Muis to create wakafs
5.In 2020, the Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs announced the intention to set up the Wakaf Masyarakat Singapura (WMS) as a community endowment fund. The WMS aims to provide an additional and sustainable source of funding for the future needs of the Singapore Muslim community, such as mosques, asatizah and community programmes. The WMS will serve as a voluntary funding mechanism to complement the established community funds such as the Mosque Building and MENDAKI fund (MBMF) and zakat by pooling assets from community and religious institutions to grow a corpus fund. The proposed amendments will empower Muis to create wakafs such as the WMS with an expanded definition of a wakaf to include those whose donors are the collective Muslim community in Singapore rather than an individual or family.
Recognition of Foreign Halal Certification Bodies
6.Muis does not provide halal certification for food products that are produced and/or manufactured overseas and imported into Singapore. This role is undertaken by Foreign Halal Certification Bodies (FHCB) based in their respective countries. FHCB are organisations that Muis recognises as having similar or comparable halal certification standards to Muis’ Halal standards. The proposed amendments will lay out the principles by which Muis will implement its FHCB recognition framework and ensure that halal food imported into Singapore is properly certified.
Expand the (Fatwa) Legal Committee Membership and give the Committee more discretion in considering a fatwa request
7.The (Fatwa) Legal Committee in Muis assists the Mufti in the process of fatwa (religious opinion) deliberation. Over time, the religious issues being brought before the Legal Committee have become more complex, cover a wider range of domains and draw more diverse views within the community. The fatwa requests to the Legal Committee have also increased.
8.Expanding the membership of the Legal Committee will allow for better representation of the asatizah fraternity, with a wider set of expertise, to better deal with a range of socio-religious issues faced by the community. The proposed amendments will expand the Legal Committee membership from four to eight full members (excluding the Mufti). The proposed amendments will also allow the Legal Committee more discretion in deciding whether a fatwa should be issued for specific requests, especially if the Office of the Mufti has already issued an irsyad (guidance).
Introduce a definition of Muslim religious schools and inspection powers for Muis officers
9.AMLA states that it is the function and duty of Muis to administer all Muslim religious schools in Singapore, but it does not define “Muslim religious schools”. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Muis found that some online religious classes were conducted by schools or individuals that were not registered with Muis. With the proposed amendment to define “Muslim religious schools”, Muis will be in a stronger position to administer all Muslim religious schools in Singapore, including online and physical classes, and take enforcement action against any unregistered Muslim religious school. The proposed amendments will also allow Muis officers to inspect Muslim religious schools to ensure their compliance with the relevant requirements.
Introduce a fixed period of appeal to Minister from religious schools
10.Appeals under section 87 of AMLA pertaining to Muis’ decisions on religious schools are to be made to the Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs. However, AMLA does not stipulate a time period for unsuccessful applicants to submit an appeal to the Minister, and applicants can appeal long after a decision has been made. It would be challenging for such appeals to be considered properly, given the passage of time. The proposed amendment will set out a fixed period of 14 days for an appeal to be made to the Minister after a decision is made, to ensure that cases are dealt with in a timely manner.
Clarify that unaccounted contributions to the Mosque Building and MENDAKI Fund (MBMF) will go towards the purpose of building mosques
11.Under section 78(9) in AMLA, any excess contributions paid to the MBMF shall be deemed to be for the purpose of building mosques. However, Muis also receives unaccounted contributions. This usually occurs when MBMF contributions are manually submitted, either by individuals or employers in the form of a lump sum contribution on behalf of their employees, to the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board, which collects the MBMF contributions on Muis/MENDAKI’s behalf. The proposed amendments will provide clarity that these unaccounted MBMF contributions will also go towards the purpose of building mosques, which is the current administrative practice.
B.Enable further digitalisation of ROMM and SYC to enhance services to the public
Support the implementation of ROMM’s new digital Our Marriage Journey to enhance services to the public
12.To better serve Muslim couples, ROMM has implemented a new digital Our Marriage Journey system that provides e-services for Muslim marriage solemnisations. The proposed amendments will facilitate the implementation of this new digital system, including the introduction of digital Certificates of Marriage that will no longer require the signatures of the Kadi/Naib Kadi (solemniser), parties and witnesses. This move is aligned with the new process for civil marriages.
Facilitate the operation of SYC’s new digital system and simplify processes for members of the public
13.To simplify processes for members of the public using SYC’s new digital system, the proposed amendments will remove the requirement for the divorce register to be signed by the Registrar of SYC, by the woman applying for, and witnesses whose evidence has been taken by the Court in respect of a decree of fasakh (i.e. dissolution of a Muslim marriage). The identity of the parties to the divorce and witnesses will still be captured digitally in SYC’s records and reflected in the divorce certificate.
C.Enhance the administrative provisions relating to SYC for effective outcomes
Enhance SYC’s powers to deliver fair and just outcomes through the judge-led approach
14.Arising from the amendments to the Family Justice Reform Act 2023 to enhance the Family Justice Courts’ judge-led approach, the proposed amendments to AMLA will ensure that SYC has similar enhanced powers to deliver fair and just outcomes in its administration of divorces for Muslim families. The amendments will make the following changes:
a.Allow SYC to make orders on its own motion, including an order of a substantive nature (i.e. not procedural) to better facilitate the just, expeditious and economical resolution or disposal of any matter. This will ensure that SYC has the powers to address the immediate needs of the family. Currently, the Court can only make a substantive order if it is pleaded/applied for by parties. The amendment will make clear that SYC may make orders that was not specifically applied for or pleaded by parties, if the Court is of the view that it is necessary.
b.Allow SYC to prohibit a party from filing an application or a document in support of an application in certain situations. To prevent parties from filing applications and documents that are frivolous or without merit, which may result in prolonged proceedings, unnecessary acrimony and hardship on others involved in the proceedings, this amendment will allow SYC to make orders to limit these applications if satisfied of certain conditions. For example, if the filing of that application or a document in support of the application (i) will or is likely to be without merit, having regard to the party’s past conduct in the relevant proceedings or similar proceedings, or (ii) where a child is involved and the application or document will have an adverse effect on the welfare of the child.
Amendments to sections 35, 51 and 52 to clarify SYC's jurisdiction and powers in respect of ancillary orders
15.The proposed amendments will clarify the following:
a.Section 35(2)1 of AMLA provides for SYC’s jurisdiction to make orders in respect of judicial separation. However, there is no concept of separation under Muslim law, and thus no concept of judicial separation. The proposed amendments to AMLA will clarify this by removing the concept of judicial separation.
b.That SYC’s powers under section 52(3)(c) to make orders in respect of the custody of minor children of the parties, also includes orders on care and control and access.
c.That SYC’s powers to make ancillary orders upon divorce or variation of court orders as found in sections 51 and 52, as well as section 35, of the AMLA, are meant to be read together.
SUMMARY OF PROPOSED AMENDMENTS
16.In summary, the proposed amendments to AMLA are as follows:
a.Empowering Muis to create wakafs;
b.Recognition of Foreign Halal Certification Bodies;
c.Expanding the Membership of the (Fatwa) Legal Committee and giving the Committee more discretion in considering a fatwa request;
d.Introducing a definition of Muslim religious schools and inspection powers for Muis officers;
e.Introducing a fixed period of appeal to Minister on decisions related to religious schools;
f.Clarifying that unaccounted contributions to the Mosque Building and MENDAKI Fund (MBMF) will go towards the purpose of building mosques;
g.Supporting the implementation of ROMM’s new digital Our Marriage Journey to enhance services to the public;
h.Facilitating the operation of SYC’s new electronic system and simplifying the process for members of the public;
i.Enhancing SYC’s powers to deliver fair and just outcomes through the judge-led approach; and
j.Amending Sections 35, 51 and 52 to clarify SYC’s jurisdiction and powers in respect of ancillary orders.
GUIDELINES FOR SUBMISSION OF COMMENTS
17.We request that all interested parties submit their comments to the draft Bill using the following link: https://go.gov.sg/feedback-amla. All submissions should be submitted no later than 5 December 2023, 6.00pm.
18.Respondents are also requested to follow these guidelines:
a.Please indicate your name and the organisation you represent (if any) as well as contact details (email address and/or telephone number) within the form to enable us to follow up with you to clarify any points, if necessary;
b.Be precise and concise in your comments; and
c.Focus the comments on potential operational/implementation issues, legal clarity and/or workability, or language and structure of the draft Bill.
19.All comments received during the consultation will be reviewed and some provisions may be further refined based on feedback received during this consultation. We will publish a summary of the main comments received on the REACH website, together with our responses, after this consultation exercise closes. Please be assured that the identities of the respondents will not be disclosed in the summary.
1 Section 35(2) of the AMLA provides that the Court shall have jurisdiction to hear and determine all actions and proceedings in which all parties are Muslims or where the parties were married under the provisions of the Muslim law and which involves disputes relating to judicial separation.