[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Monday, July 13, 2009

[Meeting Singapore Students in Damascus]
In recent years, the number of Muslim religious students studying in various institutions in Damascus has grown. There are now about 70 of them in Syria. The Islam taught here is moderate reflecting the philosophy of the multi-religious Syrian state. The cost of studying in Syria is also not expensive. The Syrians are a warm and friendly people who would readily extend assistance to our young men and women. MUIS now endorses Syria as a good country for our religious students to go too.

MUIS makes special efforts to keep in touch with our religious students overseas. Dr Bakrie has become my travel companion. Three years ago, he brought me to visit our students in Yemen, and last year our students in Cairo.

On Saturday night, I hosted dinner for our students in Damascus including family members. My wife and I were very touched by the preparations they made for our gathering. The religious students wore robes which they tailored for the occasion, each costing about S$50 I was told. They look pretty smart in them. They also put up a small performance and gave us gifts.

One problem they face is the difficulty of getting student visas. Visas are tightly controlled because of the government's fear of radical students from abroad. I raised this issue with the Syrian Foreign Minister. He responded positively when I proposed a government-to-government agreement as we also do not want to send them radical students. MFA will now work with MUIS on this.


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