Religious preaching that encourages violence or pits one religion against another will not be tolerated in Singapore, said Minister for Home Affairs and Law K Shanmugam in Parliament on Friday (Mar 3).
Referring to a video posted on social media which purportedly shows an imam saying “God grant us victory over Jews and Christians”, Mr Shanmugam said the context of what the imam said will be clear once investigations are completed.
“If the imam had referred to the phrase, to say, for example, that such phrases can promote ill will, hatred, enmity or violence against other communities, and that this is not acceptable in a multi-religious society, then there can be no objection.
“But if he had said that Jews and Christians should be defeated, and for God to grant Muslim brothers victory over them – to make that very point – then that is completely unacceptable.
“The Government has taken a strict position when Muslims have been attacked. People have been charged and sent to jail,” he said. “The same applies to any attack on any other religions.”
He cited the example of a Christian couple sentenced to eight weeks’ jail in 2009 for distributing material that cast Islam in a negative light.
Mr Shanmugam said the Government’s position has to be made clear because “matters like this have the potential to escalate, with people jumping in, opinions being formed, hardened, along religious lines”.
If the imam did not make any inflammatory suggestion, no action will be taken and the authorities will issue a public statement, Mr Shanmugam said. But if the imam had engaged in such preaching, “some appropriate action” will be taken.
“We have to be fair to the imam,” he said.
Mr Shanmugam also criticised NUS academic Khairudin Aljunied for encouraging vilification of the individual who posted the video online.
“Looking at what Mr Khairudin has said, he seems to suggest that it is okay for the imam to say that Jews and Christians should be defeated. He assumes that the imam intended to mean that, and Mr Khairudin sees nothing wrong with that.
“Mr Khairudin’s position and actions are quite unacceptable. He has jumped into this, without verifying the facts and without checking the context. And supports a position that is quite contrary to the norms, values and laws in Singapore.
“The police will look into the issues, and the conduct of all involved – quite thoroughly,” Mr Shanmugam said.