SINGAPORE – Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam on Monday (May 23) urged Singaporeans to be careful and discerning when it comes to foreign religious preachers and potentially divisive teachings.
“Apply your own judgment – you know what makes Singapore work, you know what’s good for oneself as well as the society,” he said.
“Everyone is free to practise their religion here. Everyone is free to believe in God or not believe in God, or believe in whichever god they want to believe. But we don’t need to cross the line and attack somebody else.”
He was speaking to reporters in the wake of the controversy over Indonesian preacher Abdul Somad Batubara being denied entry into Singapore last week.
Somad was turned away at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal when he arrived from Batam on May 16. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said his extremist and segregationist teachings are unacceptable in Singapore’s multiracial, multi-religious society.
Asked if there was any indication that Somad planned to speak in Singapore, Mr Shanmugam said: “Our position is very simple. Persons like this, we will not let them come.”
He added: “Even if he’s on a private visit, that doesn’t preclude him from saying some things when he is here. It is for us to decide what our security requires.”
Somad’s airing of the issue on social media saw his supporters make online threats against Singapore, as well as hold protests at Singapore’s foreign missions in Jakarta and Medan.
Asked by reporters about Somad’s potential supporters in Singapore, Mr Shanmugam said it was not possible to track the preacher’s following here.
“We, the Government, MHA, ISD (Internal Security Department), intervene when we sense, pick up, that there’s radicalisation,” he said.
“Beyond that, we cannot go around telling people what they can watch and what they cannot watch. That’s not our business and we do not have the power to do that either,” he added.
But his advice was to “have a care” on such foreign preachers on all sides, noting that on the Internet, there are plenty of people attacking other religions.
“This is not unique to any particular community. If you see preachers from Indonesia, they attack Christianity, they attack non-Muslims.
“But if you watch videos from some of the Western preachers, they attack Muslims unreasonably. They say all sorts of unspeakable things about Islam and the Quran,” said Mr Shanmugam.