As the Government looks to tighten processes to ensure foreign preachers with divisive teachings do not come here to preach, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam showed two videos in Parliament on Tuesday (Oct 3) of such preachers.
Mufti Menk of Zimbabwe used to come to Singapore regularly to preach before he was banned two years ago, said Mr Shanmugam. “He preached that it is the biggest sin and crime for a Muslim to wish a non-Muslim Merry Christmas or Happy Deepavali, and I suppose the same goes for Happy Chinese New Year,” he said. “This is dangerous. Divisive. Our common spaces will shrink and different segments of the community will drift apart.”
Preaching such as Mufti Menk’s cannot be allowed to take hold in Singapore because it can have “very serious consequences”, taken to the extreme, said Mr Shanmugam. He agreed with Aljunied Member of Parliament Faisal Manap, who said religious teachings must be aligned with Singapore’s national values.
Besides Mufti Menk, two Christian preachers who had made several Islamophobic comments were banned a few weeks ago and the National Council of Churches in Singapore came out and told all churches to be careful who they invite.
The government needs to draw a clear line between what is acceptable and what is not, said Mr Shanmugam. The mixing of religion and politics is another dangerous area to guard against, he added.
Showing a video of Mumbai-based Islamic preacher Zakir Naik advising followers not to vote for someone of another religion, he said: “I think Singaporeans will say that is not acceptable. If we allow that kind of teaching in Singapore, we can easily imagine what else might be said by people. It will move to race. If you are one race, you should vote for a person of that race.”
While Dr Naik “will not come to Singapore” to preach, preachers like him and Mufti Menk will do so in the region and their videos are available, said Mr Shanmugam.
Singapore’s religious bodies do draw on religious thought and religious leadership from abroad, but it is important to be clear on the practices which would not work here. The Republic has to be careful not to import religious conflicts from other countries, although it may sympathise and offer help where appropriate, he said.