Shanmugam appreciates imam's sincere apology

From left: Imam Habib Hassan, Law Minister Shanmugam and Imam Nalla at the Ba'alwie Mosque, where they met for breakfast yesterday together with leaders of the Federation of Indian Muslims and Jamae Chulia Mosque, where Imam Nalla was chief imam. Ima
From left: Imam Habib Hassan, Law Minister Shanmugam and Imam Nalla at the Ba'alwie Mosque, where they met for breakfast yesterday together with leaders of the Federation of Indian Muslims and Jamae Chulia Mosque, where Imam Nalla was chief imam. Imam Nalla will return home to India today.PHOTO: BA'ALWIE MOSQUE

The Islamic religious teacher who was fined $4,000 for making offensive remarks about Christians and Jews will return home today.

Yesterday, Imam Nalla Mohamed Abdul Jameel met Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam, who told him he appreciated the sincerity of the imam's apology.

The breakfast meeting at Ba'alwie Mosque was organised by its head, Imam Habib Hassan Al-Attas.

Mr Shanmugam explained why he accepted the invitation to meet Imam Nalla. "I thought it would be good to meet and tell the imam that I appreciated the sincerity with which he had shown his remorse."

The meeting came two days after the State Courts fined Imam Nalla, 46, on Monday for committing an act he knew was prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between religious groups and which was likely to disturb public tranquility. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said that day that the imam will be repatriated.

SINCERITY AND COURAGE

Imam Nalla had shown remorse and regret for what he did. He also met the leaders of other faiths, including the rabbi at the synagogue, to apologise for his actions. That showed real sincerity and courage.

MR SHANMUGAM, on Imam Nalla's apology.

 
 

He pleaded guilty to the charge and admitted to committing the offence on Jan 6 at the Jamae Chulia Mosque in South Bridge Road, where he was chief imam. After the Friday sermon that day, he had recited a prayer on his own in Arabic, saying: "Grant us help against the Jews and the Christians".

A video of the prayer was circulated online in February, causing some disquiet and prompting a police investigation into the matter.

The imam clarified in a public apology, when he met various faith leaders, including Bishop Terry Kee last Friday, that the additional prayer he read was not from the Quran, but an old Arabic text originating from his village in India. He also visited the Maghain Aboth Synagogue in Waterloo Street on Sunday to apologise to Rabbi Mordechai Abergel and the Jewish community.

Mr Shanmugam said: "Imam Nalla had shown remorse and regret for what he did. He also met the leaders of other faiths, including the rabbi at the synagogue, to apologise for his actions. That showed real sincerity and courage."

"Action had to be taken against the imam. But as the MHA statement of April 3 pointed out, the action against him was taken with some regret," the minister added.

Also at the breakfast were leaders from the Federation of Indian Muslims and Jamae Chulia Mosque.

Yesterday, the imam said he fully understood and accepted the decision to prosecute him and the episode was a "priceless lesson" to him.

He said he was reassured that the charge against him "was not one out of witch hunt, but solely to preserve the sanctity of interfaith harmony". "This is what I am bringing with me back to India," he said.

He also said Bishop Terry Kee and Rabbi Abergel both received him "with warmth and grace, bore no grudges, and their message was that all mortal men make mistakes and that we must move forward consciously for the sake of social trust and religious cohesion". "This is the one thing I will not forget, and we all must not take for granted."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2017, with the headline 'Shanmugam appreciates imam's sincere apology'. Print Edition | Subscribe