MHA investigating foreign Christian preacher's comments that online site claims were anti-Islamic

Mr Lou Engle was invited by Cornerstone Community Church to speak at its Kingdom Invasion conference, which was held from March 13 to 16, 2018, at the Singapore Expo. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/KINGDOM INVASION SINGAPORE

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

In an article published on Sunday (March 25), 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."

Organiser Cornerstone Community Church had invited Mr Engle to speak at its Kingdom Invasion conference this year which was held from March 13 to 16 at the Singapore Expo.

In its reply to The Straits Times, the MHA said 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," the statement read.

Meanwhile, the church has lodged a police report against Rice, saying the write-up titled "Lou Engle: An American Threatens a Christian-Muslim Divide in Singapore" was a "scurrilous attack".

In the police report, which was filed on Sunday, the church said that contents of the article contain inflammatory and serious allegations "that seek to, and has the effect of, stirring up religious tensions and promoting feelings of ill-will and hostility between Christians and Muslims".

Cornerstone said the article has a "seditious tendency". The same article also contained comments which "denigrate the Christian faith", the church claimed.

The police confirmed that a report was lodged and that investigations are ongoing.

As for Mr Engle's remarks, the church said he made them but Cornerstone's senior pastor Yang Tuck Yoong clarified that his statement 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 represented in the sixth edition of the event. There were about 4,000 registrants for the day sessions and around 6,000 to 7,000 attendees for the evening meetings which were open to public.

Pastor Yang said: "The Kingdom Invasion conference, along with our participating churches and individuals, value the cohesive social fabric and religious harmony that has been painstakingly woven together by our Government and fellow citizens throughout our nationhood."

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 ST, Rice said that it was not aware of the police report.

Its editor-in-chief, Mark Tan, added that it stands by its writing and that the objective of the story was to "simply question why a religious leader with such divisive and radical ideas" was allowed to speak at a conference in Singapore.

"This is inconsistent 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," said Mr Tan.

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

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