SINGAPORE - The alleged sect leader accused of deviant teachings was the subject of a complaint to Singapore's highest Islamic authority as long ago as October 2015.
But there was not enough evidence at the time to take him to task, Minister-in-charge for Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli said in Parliament on Monday (April 5).
The married former massage therapist in his 50s, who is not a certified religious teacher under the Asatizah Recognition Scheme, made headlines in November over allegations that he was a self-styled prophet with five "spiritual wives".
Mr Masagos, who is also the Minister for Social and Family Development, said officers from the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) met the person who made the 2015 complaint.
He added: "Based on the information provided then, there was insufficient evidence for Muis to take further action against the said individual."
The minister was responding to questions raised earlier by Mr Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap (Aljunied GRC), who had asked him to confirm if Muis had received a complaint against the man in 2015 and what actions were taken then.
Mr Faisal also enquired about the outcome of a more recent investigation last year. That probe began after a Straits Times report on Nov 9 which quoted some of the man's former followers and ex-husbands of his "spiritual wives".
They showed ST minutes and classroom notes supposedly of lessons conducted by the former massage therapist. As a result of the ST report, Muis reopened the case. It also asked witnesses with evidence or new information to step forward.
Mr Masagos said Muis first investigated the man between October 2015 and October 2017.
The case was then presented to the Fatwa Committee in November that year, and in early 2018, relevant individuals were invited to be interviewed by the Mufti and selected committee members.
Mr Masagos added: "After further investigation, the Fatwa Committee ruled that some of the said individual's religious beliefs had no basis in religious sources and traditions."
The committee then issued the man with an order to immediately stop rendering healing services, and cease propagating ideas and practices that were not taken from credible religious sources to members of the public.
The alleged sect leader - owner of an events management company and director of an eatery - was also advised to seek religious instruction from credible and qualified asatizah.
When ST approached him for comment last year, he denied being the head of a deviant religious sect or having spiritual wives.
Since then, a lawyer representing the man and five women has issued letters of demand to two former husbands of the women, as well as opposition politician Damanhuri Abas and a video producer, for alleged defamation.
In a widely shared video published by ST on Nov 9, the ex-husbands claimed they lost their wives to the alleged sect leader's deviant teachings.
The findings of the latest Muis probe will be made public when ready, and investigations are ongoing, said Mr Masagos.