MHA investigating American preacher's comments

The Home Affairs Ministry (MHA) is investigating claims that an American speaker invited to preach at a conference here made statements about Islam that could undermine religious harmony in Singapore.

In an article published on Sunday, online media outfit Rice said Mr Lou Engle commented at the event that "Muslims are taking over the south of Spain". The preacher is also quoted in the article as saying: "But I had a dream, where I will raise up the church all over Spain to push back a new modern Muslim movement."

Cornerstone Community Church had invited Mr Engle to speak at its Kingdom Invasion conference, held from March 13 to 16.

The MHA said that Mr Engle was granted a Miscellaneous Work Pass to speak at the conference. "He had also been told that he should keep clear of controversial subjects and not undermine social, racial and religious harmony in Singapore."

The ministry said it is aware of the allegations that Mr Engle had made "certain statements, particularly in respect of Islam, during the conference".

"If there is evidence that Mr Engle had made statements that could undermine religious harmony in Singapore or had mixed religion and politics, we will take firm action. MHA will not tolerate any person undermining Singapore's social, racial and religious harmony."

Meanwhile, the church has lodged a police report against Rice, saying the write-up was a "scurrilous attack" and the allegations "seek to, and (have) the effect of, stirring up religious tensions and promoting feelings of ill-will and hostility between Christians and Muslims".

The police confirmed that a report was lodged and that investigations are ongoing. Cornerstone confirmed Mr Engle made those remarks but its senior pastor Yang Tuck Yoong clarified it was "never meant to be an indictment against Muslims or the Muslim community in Spain as a whole".

Pastor Yang said: "Instead, he was referring to the radical Islamic insurgency, including ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) advances into that nation with intentions of pressing its brand of militant ideology.

"He expressed his apologies that the choice of words used might have caused unnecessary misunderstandings, as it had not been in his intention to do so."

More than 150 churches were involved in the sixth edition of the event.

Pastor Yang said: "The Kingdom Invasion conference, along with our participating churches and individuals, values the cohesive social fabric and religious harmony that have been painstakingly woven together by our Government and fellow citizens." He also said the church communicates to all its foreign speakers areas of racial or religious sensitivities they should avoid crossing.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, Rice's editor-in-chief Mark Tan said the story highlighted inconsistencies "with the hard line approach taken by the authorities when they banned religious leaders from other faiths, who had also espoused divisive and radical ideas, from speaking in Singapore".

The MHA has banned or has rejected the applications of both Christian and Muslim foreign speakers over the years.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 27, 2018, with the headline 'MHA investigating American preacher's comments'. Print Edition | Subscribe