Founder and President of Roses of Peace (a non-profit interfaith peace movement). Founder/Co-Founder of four (yes, four!) CCA clubs at SMU. Highly lauded, internationally-acclaimed, award-winning youth leader, most recently receiving the first-ever Inspiring Youth Award at MUIS50 Awards. Nominated Member of Parliament. All this by the age of 29. Meet SMU alumnus, Mohamed Irshad (BBM 2014), who has dedicated many years to a civic cause he holds dearly -- social cohesion, and racial and religious harmony, through the engagement of youths. Beyond his myriad accomplishments, SMU is most proud of this young man's desire to make meaningful impact to society.
You graduated from SMU with a BBM in 2014. How was your SMU experience?
My SMU experience was my most memorable one amongst all my schooling years. The student life was very vibrant, developing a strong school-spirit culture. The lecturers were top-notch, and very helpful. The staff were absolutely amazing too, in particular from the Office of Student Life (OSL), as they were supportive of pretty much any student activities. Having co-founded SMU Ventures, founded the SMU Islamic Business & Finance Society, as well as the SMU Muslim Society, and then established SMU Apolitical, I felt that OSL was very student-centric and always empowering and encouraging the students to think out of the box to create a vibrant student life experience.
Props also to the Office of Career Services for allowing me to take a leave of absence for one semester to do my overseas internships in Dubai and India, and following that to attend a professional exchange program called the International Visitors Leadership Program funded by the US Department of State for current and emerging international leaders to experience the diversity of American politics and culture. I wouldn't have had such enriching experiences otherwise!
I am also grateful to the Centre for Social Responsibility for their support in allowing students to establish their own overseas community projects to give back to society and humanity as a whole. I was part of the maiden group which visited Kashgar in Xinjiang, China, to build a cultural heritage centre for the Uighurs there. This will always be a memorable experience for me in SMU.
At SMU, you started Roses of Peace – an interfaith movement that promoted peace. Why did you do so? What inspired you? What did you hope to achieve?
In 2012, a hateful caricature of Prophet Muhammad was drawn by Charlie Hebdo, a French magazine. It sent shockwaves and widespread unhappiness amongst the muslim communities across the world. As a result, one of my seniors approached me to conduct a sit-in protest in SMU to show our displeasure on the incident. However, I was taken aback by the idea and felt uncomfortable about it. Inspired by the teachings of Prophet Muhammad himself, I felt only love can conquer hate. Hence, I decided to take this opportunity to send a positive message of love and kindness. I thus began Roses of Peace (ROP), an interfaith youth movement to build social cohesion and develop inter-religious appreciation in Singapore. We gave out about 3000 roses with greeting cards bearing sayings from Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Sikhism and Hinduism with the help of about 100 youth volunteers.
(Irshad with his Roses of Peace 2016 volunteers gathered in red, pink and white before the distribution of roses and peace messages)
(Photo courtesy: Roses of Peace)
Roses of Peace has grown since its inception, in terms of the outreach as well as organization and volunteers. What is your personal favourite milestone/moment?
When I first began Roses of Peace in 2012, I have never imagined that so many youth volunteers will continue to come back and ask us when we will do another ROP event again. I realised people were appreciating the good work we were doing. Hence, each year we gave out more roses along with peace messages.
In 2017, ROP was officially registered as a non-profit organization. We also distributed 10,000 roses with the help of 300 youth volunteers from various racial and religious backgrounds. To date, ROP has engaged more than 2,000 volunteers, and more than 40,000 people through its outreach on religious harmony.
My personal favourite is the launch of the Roses of Peace Ambassador Programme in February 2018. The entire event was literally put together in a matter of one week, where more than 300 people turned up. However, it was an oppurtunity for me to witness the confidence, support and love people had for this humble initiative i had began. The event was graced by our SMU Patron, Her Excellency President Halimah Yacob. We also had international speakers, Mr Thione Niang and Mr Krish Raval from the US and UK respectively. It surely has been one of my favourite milestones.
(Irshad at the Launch of the Roses of Peace Ambassador Programme,
with the appointed 30 youth ambassadors and ROP Patron, President Halimah Yacob)
(Photo courtesy: Roses of Peace)
You have recently been appointed as a Nominated Member of Parliament. What was your reaction to the nomination? As well as family?
In all my years of doing community work, I never had the intention of entering politics. I did it because I wanted to sincerely give back to the community and do the little good that I can, in my own small capacity. I was very surprised when I was nominated to become a Nominated Member of Parliament. Even when I went for my interviews, I did not think much. I told myself, if this role is going to help me do even more good for the community, then let it happen. If not, I will still continue to do my work to the best of my ability.
To be honest, I was very surprised when I actually did get appointed as a NMP. I feel that I have a huge responsibility and I certainly want to make the appropriate use of this platform to raise issues pertaining to youth and social cohesion in Singapore. I am also grateful for a very supportive and understanding family. The news of my appointment as an NMP came the next day after I got married - almost like a wedding gift by the government.
Have you always been interested in public service?
Not really to be honest -- I'm more keen on the business world (laughs)! Having said that, I've always been interested in people and social development from a non-governmental view, particularly on what citizens can do to make our society better.
(Irshad at the Interfaith Youth Forum 2018, where the ROP@Heartlands and ROP Advocates Network was launched. These programmes aim to foster deeper interfaith cooperation amongst Singaporeans. Pictured also is Guest-of-Honour, Minister K Shanmugam)
(Photo courtesy: Roses of Peace)
What’s next for you, both professionally and personally?
In my capacity as an Nominated Member of Parliament, I would like to be an active voice for the youth, championing causes including social cohesion, racial and religious harmony in Singapore. As for Roses of Peace, we are looking to go regional and global in the coming years.
I also just got married recently to an amazing person, Fahima Farha who's also an SMU alumna. Hoping to be a good husband to my wife, a good son to my parents and a good brother to my brother, Mohamed Anas, who is also studying in SMU now. #SMUFamily
(Irshad & his beautiful wife, fellow SMU alumna Fahima Farha (BAcc 2018))
Last updated on 04 Nov 2018 .