SINGAPORE - Muslim leaders have reminded the community on the ills of gambling - including online gambling, which they said is "firmly" prohibited in Islam.
In a message from the Office of the Mufti, delivered by imams at mosques across Singapore during Friday sermons on Friday (Oct 14), it said that Islam demands that believers strive to earn a halal income in order to enjoy the comforts of this world.
The Office of the Mufti, headed by top Muslim leader Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram, described online gambling as "an extremely worrying trend".
The Office said: "It has the potential to not only affect the individual involved, but also the entire family and community. When a person becomes addicted, they are more prone to lose control of themselves and to spiral into lawlessness."
The Friday sermon is the platform through which the Singaporean Muslim community is given guidance on their socio-religious life.
The message comes after the Ministry of Home Affairs' approval last month to allow two Singapore-based lottery operators to be exempted from the Remote Gambling Act passed by Parliament two years ago. The Act outlaws all online and phone betting activities.
Singapore Pools will launch online betting on Oct 25, and the Turf Club will offer its new Web and mobile platform on Nov 15. Punters can place bets for 4-D, Toto, football, Formula One and horse racing.
The authorities said operators will have to put in place safeguards, such as allowing only those above 21 to open accounts.
The Office of the Mufti also noted that research has found that those who become addicted usually start off as social gamblers. It reminded the community to educate children on the negative consequences of gambling and to also take precautionary measures. These measures could include ensuring that family members are recorded on the list of those not permitted to partake in licensed gambling activities, as well as monitoring the websites they frequent, it said.
The message added: "Gambling will not only cause the gambler to be heavily in debt, but can also break familial ties. Many gamblers have ended up being declared as bankrupts, adversely affecting the future of their children, and crushing the hopes and dreams that they used to share as a family."
Other religious bodies have also weighed in on the issue. The National Council of Churches Singapore, which represents over 250 churches, called for a review of the decision on Oct 5 while the Catholic Church on Oct 12 urged the Government to closely monitor the situation, and also requested for regular consultations and updates on the consequences of its decision.