2 foreign Islamic preachers barred from entering S'pore

Mr Ismail Menk (above) and Mr Haslin Baharim have preached in the region and built a following online.
Mr Ismail Menk (left) and Mr Haslin Baharim have preached in the region and built a following online.

Divisive teachings of both men, who were to preach on religious-themed cruise, go against values here: MHA

Singapore has barred two foreign Islamic preachers from entering the country as their hardline and divisive teachings run counter to the country's multicultural and multi-religious values.

One of them, Zimbabwean Ismail Menk, has asserted that it is blasphemous and "the biggest sin" for Muslims to wish non-Muslims "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Deepavali".

The other, Malaysian Haslin Baharim, has advocated that in multi-cultural and multi-religious societies, non-Muslims should be made subservient to Muslims.

Both men were engaged to preach on a religious-themed cruise departing from Singapore on Nov 25 and returning on Nov 29, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said yesterday.

It added that the decision to bar them was made in consultation with the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), the Singapore Tourism Board and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore.

"Ismail Menk and Haslin Baharim had previously had their Miscellaneous Work Pass applications to preach in Singapore rejected.

"They will not be allowed to get around the ban by preaching instead on cruise ships which operate to and from Singapore," said MHA in its statement.

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".

The barring of both men comes a month after Singapore denied entry to two Christian preachers who had applied for short-term work passes to speak in Singapore. They had made denigrating and inflammatory comments about other religions.

Government leaders have cautioned against foreign preachers whose extremist teachings can spread ill will among people of different religions and threaten social harmony and cohesion.

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said last month that the Government is looking at how it can further restrict foreign preachers who do not share Singapore's values of racial and religious harmony, from coming here to preach.

Mr Menk and Mr Haslin have preached in the region and built a following online.

They were to have been part of a five-day cruise from here to Banda Aceh, Indonesia, and back, that was advertised as a "spiritual voyage".

Of the 1,000 passengers, about 10 per cent are from Singapore, said a spokesman for Islamic Cruise, a Malaysian company. He said he was not aware Mr Menk had been barred from entering Singapore in the past, adding: "We respect the decision of the Singapore Government and we fully respect Singapore's laws."

MHA said Mr Menk is known to preach "segregationist and divisive teachings", while Mr Haslin has described non-Muslims as "deviant".

"Such divisive views breed intolerance and exclusivist practices that will damage social harmony, and cause communities to drift apart. They are unacceptable in the context of Singapore's multiracial and multi-religious society," it added.

"The Government has a responsibility to safeguard social cohesion and religious harmony in Singapore. Singaporeans too, need to play their part, to unequivocally reject and guard against divisive doctrines and preachers who propagate such doctrines, regardless of the faith they represent."

Muis said both men's background and past teachings contravened the code of ethics of Singapore's Asatizah Recognition Scheme, which it administers. The scheme requires all Islamic religious teachers to register before they can teach here.

Ustazah Kalthom Isa, 44, from the Religious Rehabilitation Group, said greeting others of a different faith during festive periods does not mean people have disowned their own faith.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2017, with the headline '2 foreign Islamic preachers barred from entering S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe