Muslim leaders yesterday said the case of imam Nalla Mohamed Abdul Jameel was a reminder that Singapore's harmony cannot be taken for granted, and the words he had used have no place here.
Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim said in a Facebook post that the incident was a difficult episode, but a timely reminder of how words uttered insensitively can undermine social cohesion.
"Words matter and words that cause mistrust and apprehension among the various communities have no place in Singapore," said Dr Yaacob, who is Minister for Communications and Information.
"There cannot be double standards when we deal with issues that touch on race and religious harmony," he said. "Our laws preserve the freedom to practise one's faith, and protect all communities, regardless of race or religion, from being denigrated.
"The authorities have done the right thing by applying the law firmly and fairly, as this is in the best interest of all communities."
He urged the public to refer such cases to the authorities when they arise, and said "it would be irresponsible and reckless to sensationalise such issues on social media".
The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) noted the imam's recitation had sought God's help against Jews and Christians, and was not from the Quran. "Supplications written by past scholars living in a different era, as well as exhortations from religious texts, must always be contextualised," it said.
Mufti Fatris Bakaram said: "The words used by the imam have no place in today's Singapore where we as communities live in peace and also in harmony."
He said when the remarks were made public, "it naturally made our Jewish and Christian friends wonder why they were being targeted".
"It has also caused confusion and suspicion among non-Muslims and unfortunately it has also damaged the image of Islam and Muslims."
Muis' code of ethics obliges all religious teachers to ensure that their messages do not harm Singapore's social harmony, Dr Fatris added.
The Federation of Indian Muslims is relieved the probe was conducted thoroughly and concluded fairly. "This incident serves as a wake-up call to step up vigilance against divisive and offensive speech," it said.
The Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Association said: "Essentially Islam forbids praying for negative outcomes on others, whether they are Muslims or believers of other religions."
Toh Yong Chuan
Imam will be repatriated. http://str.sg/48aR