An active youth leader since his student days,Mohamed Irshad is the Founder and President of Roses of Peace, a non-profit organisation driven by the youth in Singapore to strengthen religious harmony and create a community based on peace and compassion.In 2018, he was appointed as a Nominated Member to the Parliament of Singapore. He also serves as a member on the Facebook Community Leadership Global Advisory Board and on the Panel of Community Advisors for Honour (Singapore). He serves as an advisor/ambassador for various organisations such as REACH Singapore, OnePeople.sg, Singapore Kindness Movement, and Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI). In recognition of his contributions to the community, Mohamed Irshad was awarded the President's Volunteerism & Philanthropy Award and the MUIS Inspiring Youth Award. He is a knowledge enthusiast and two-time international finalist at Tata Crucible Campus, Singapore.
Catch some glimpses from this exclusive interview with Mohamed Irshad, by Knowledge Tribe’s Rashmi Furtado.
KT : Tell us how the Roses of Peace (ROP) initiative started in Singapore.
Mohamed Irshad: Roses of Peace is a ground-up, youth-driven initiative that seeks to bridge the gap in interfaith discourse by connecting faith, service and diversity to empower youth to be change leaders and peace ambassadors. Too often in our world today, religion (and race) can become a barrier that divides, rather than unites us.
In September 2012, in wake of the global protest against the demeaning caricature of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) published by Charlie Hebdo, Roses of Peace began as a simple idea of giving out roses with attached greeting cards bearing quotes of peace, love and unity from luminaries such as Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Jesus Christ, Gautama Buddha, Guru Nanak and from religious texts such as the Bhagavad Gita, amongst others. It was an interfaith response to exemplify the religious unity in Singapore, involving not just the Muslim tertiary students, but also youth from other faith groups.
The founding fathers of Singapore have worked hard to build an ethos of religious harmony amidst our diversity. Roses of Peace recognises the need to continue to build on this good work and contribute to the advancement of a more cohesive society. At Roses of Peace, we believe that diversity in faith is a strength and can serve as a bridge for deeper cooperation, especially in the context of Singapore’s multi-religious, multi-racial and multi-cultural society, by fostering co-operation through common good.
Image: Mohamed Irshad
Through its activities, Roses of Peace has effectively reached out to over 40,000 people and engaged over 2,000 youths. The unique programmes delivered by Roses of Peace— Interfaith Conferences, ROP Youth Forums, Faith in Leadership Symposiums and more recently, its Ambassador Programme and Connectors Programme— have united the hearts of people across faith, race and tradition by deepening understanding and strengthening trust, for a common cause of promoting peace, harmony and social cohesion.
Over the years, we are proud and delighted to share that we have registered Roses of Peace as a non-profit organisation and have the President of Singapore, Her Excellency Madam Halimah Yacob as our patron.
KT : You often advocate the importance of turning a crisis into a positive movement. How difficult is it to do that? What challenges did you face?
MI: As exemplified by the genesis of Roses of Peace, I believe that there is definitely more than one way of framing an issue. In life, I believe that you have to always frame any issue in a positive light. The old saying of looking at a glass as half full or half empty highlights this. As an optimist by nature, when you approach any situation or a crisis positively, there is always an opportunity to do good and effect change.
When I started out, people where criticising and questioning the impact of giving out Roses for free. Little did they expect that this simple act would blossom over the years, into a huge movement and organisation. My advice to the youth is that there will be naysayers. But as long as you have firm belief and conviction in what you set out to do, you will be able to achieve it. The setbacks that you face in life and especially in my journey at Roses of Peace, have to be taken in your stride and looked at as stepping stones that will only make you stronger once you overcome them.
KT : Do you see peace, harmony and love as concepts applicable the world over? Do you see ROP becoming a global movement for the youth?
MI: Absolutely! The world we live in today is getting increasingly polarised by all sorts of tensions tearing our social fabric apart…
Continue reading the interview in our magazine, as Mohamed Irshad talks about leaders who inspire him, his advice to youngsters, and his view on knowledge.