Duo banned in S'pore can preach in Malaysia

Singapore on Monday barred Zimbabwean Ismail Menk (right) and Malaysian Haslin Baharim as their hardline teachings ran counter to the Republic's multicultural and multi-religious values.
Singapore on Monday barred Zimbabwean Ismail Menk (right) and Malaysian Haslin Baharim as their hardline teachings ran counter to the Republic's multicultural and multi-religious values. PHOTO: THE STAR/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said yesterday that the country will not stop two Islamic preachers from speaking in public, following Singapore's move to bar them from entering the city state.

Singapore on Monday barred Zimbabwean Ismail Menk and Malaysian Haslin Baharim as their hardline teachings ran counter to the Republic's multicultural and multi-religious values.

Datuk Seri Zahid, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, said the duo have so far not caused any tensions among Malaysia's various religions or ethnic groups.

"So far, these two religious speakers have not suggested anything that goes against our understanding of cultural and religious diversity to the point of causing social, racial and religious tensions in Malaysia," he was quoted as saying by national news agency Bernama.

"Thus far, Malaysia is satisfied with what they are doing and does not intend to take similar action (as Singapore's) as they are not wrong in our eyes," he said.

Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Monday said the decision to bar the two was made in consultation with the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), the Singapore Tourism Board and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore.

According to the MHA, Mr Menk had asserted that it is blasphemous and "the biggest sin" for Muslims to wish non-Muslims "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Deepavali".

NOT CAUSING TENSION

So far, these two religious speakers have not suggested anything that goes against our understanding of cultural and religious diversity to the point of causing social, racial and religious tensions in Malaysia. Thus far, Malaysia is satisfied with what they are doing and does not intend to take similar action (as Singapore's) as they are not wrong in our eyes.

MALAYSIA'S HOME MINISTER AHMAD ZAHID HAMIDI

Meanwhile, Mr Haslin is said to have advocated that in multicultural and multi-religious societies, non-Muslims should be made subservient to Muslims.

Muis said their teachings "run counter to the values Singaporean Muslims uphold dearly that can contribute to a progressive and thriving religious life in Singapore".

Both preachers have an avid following in Muslim-majority Malaysia.

In March, Prime Minister Najib Razak posted a picture of himself with "Mufti Menk", as the Muslim scholar is popularly known, on his blog. Datuk Seri Najib wrote about promoting the religion's message of "peace and tolerance", quoting Mr Menk, who said: "In Islam, it does not mean that if someone does something wrong, that you must respond in the same way."

Mr Menk, who has more than two million followers on Facebook, is popular among Malaysia's middle-class Muslims.

Meanwhile, Mr Haslin is known as Ustaz Bollywood (or Bollywood teacher) for his reading of the Islamic text to sound like Hindi movie tunes. He told the Harian Metro daily yesterday that he would like to meet Muis to clarify that he does not encourage animosity between Muslims and non-Muslims, and that he hoped he could still enter Singapore to visit his many relatives there.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 01, 2017, with the headline 'Duo banned in S'pore can preach in Malaysia'. Print Edition | Subscribe