SINGAPORE - The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) is investigating a self-styled prophet again following a Straits Times report on his activities that drew concerns from many in the Muslim community.
The council on Tuesday (Nov 10) said it was alerted to the case in 2018 and had issued a formal advisory to the man, who is not a qualified or registered religious teacher under the Asatizah Recognition Scheme (ARS), to cease his religious activities immediately.
However, the ST article titled "Self-styled prophet said to have five spiritual wives" published on Monday had raised "new and alarming claims" about his activities, the council said.
"While Muis is unable to independently verify if they indeed took place, practices such as having 'spiritual wives', gambling to help others, and describing oneself as a prophet are clearly deviant and a distortion to the Islamic faith.
"It is also an offence to conduct a religious school without being registered with Muis," it added.
ST had reported that the man had proclaimed himself a prophet during his teaching sessions. He also allegedly said gambling is allowed in order to help the needy. Gambling is prohibited in Islam.
Several men also blamed the alleged sect leader for ending their marriages, saying the married man had taken their former partners as his spiritual wives.
Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli noted in a statement on Facebook on Tuesday that many had expressed concern about these alleged deviant teachings, and said these new claims and allegations had to be investigated further by Muis and the relevant authorities.
"Members of the public who have information should come forward to assist this investigation.
"We should only take proper legal recourse for all infringement of our laws. Witnesses (who) will take a stand in court when required are vital," he added.
Mr Masagos, who is also Minister for Social and Family Development, also said the Muslim community should be careful when seeking religious guidance, and check that the teacher is qualified under the ARS, a database of registered religious teachers here.
He added that if members of the community are unsure or come across questionable teachings, they should verify them with Muis.
"Let us stand guard against deviant and extreme teachings of Islam. We must work together to protect our families and community against negative influences that will harm them," he added.
In its statement, Muis noted that the Fatwa Committee - a panel of top Islamic scholars here - had interviewed the individual soon after it was alerted to the case in 2018, "as the nature of his activities in the complaints appeared to be religious".
"He had denied any wrongdoing then and only admitted to offering spiritual healing. The committee had subsequently administered a formal advisory to him to cease such activities immediately as he was not qualified to do so," it said.
ST's video on the group had been watched more than 310,000 times as of 8pm yesterday. In addition, the clip has been shared about 3,700 times and currently hosts over 1,000 comments.
While some had expressed feelings of outrage, others said the alleged leader, a businessman in his 50s, and his all-female group of followers, should not be judged harshly.
The man, a former massage therapist, is said to have led the group for the last 15 years.
ST took three months to break the story, interviewing a number of former followers and scanning through reams of documents said to be notes from the teaching sessions.
On Tuesday, Muis said anyone who knows of individuals making dubious claims or propagating doubtful teachings should verify such information with Muis or the ARS Office via firstname.lastname@example.org