Mufti rebuts ISIS video's distortion of religious texts

He urges Muslims to be wary of such destructive messages

Singapore's top Muslim leader has called on his community to be wary of messages that misquote the Quran as well as prophetic sayings and traditions to justify acts of violence.

In his Friday sermon delivered at all mosques yesterday, Mufti Fatris Bakaram firmly refuted messages in the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria's recent propaganda video featuring Singaporean fighter Megat Shahdan Abdul Samad, 39, and highlighted how they have grossly distorted Islamic teachings.

Shahdan, who has been with the terror group in Iraq and Syria since 2014, had urged viewers to join him on ISIS' path of destruction, calling this "the path of the prophets".

He had also claimed Muslims must be hostile to believers of other faiths, and said he had answered the call for jihad. He also believed that anyone who followed ISIS and died fighting would die a martyr. "All of this is completely wrong. Islam has never considered the killing of innocent lives as jihad," the Mufti said. "Islam does not allow for violence and oppression to prevail, places of worship to be destructed and heritage sites to be destroyed and blown up."

Those who participated in these crimes are under the "skewed impression" they will die as martyrs. Even worse, they justify these heinous acts by misquoting Islam, the Quran and prophetic traditions.

"It is obvious that what is being committed by ISIS is not just a crime towards Islam, but towards the global community," he added.

Dr Fatris made clear that ISIS' actions are fundamentally against the ethics and guidelines taught by Prophet Muhammad.

He said: "We need to ensure that ourselves, our families and beloved community have the religious resilience to challenge the messages that violate Islamic teachings and endanger the lives of humanity."

RELIGIOUS RESILIENCE

We need to ensure that ourselves, our families and beloved community have the religious resilience to challenge the messages that violate Islamic teachings and endanger the lives of humanity.

MUFTI FATRIS BAKARAM

He also said it is every Muslim's responsibility to understand religious texts well, and not uncritically accept information from unknown sources without verification.

"Failure to comprehend the context of religious texts can lead to problematic and inaccurate interpretations," he said, citing how some verses had a specific context. "Applying these texts that are meant to be specific... to any situation is considered a deviance."

Dr Fatris urged Muslims to find out where and from whom family members get religious instruction, to protect them from deviant ways.

The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) called Shahdan's claims "blasphemous and unIslamic, as it taints and distorts the intentions of our prophets to suit ISIS' violent narratives". It said the video encouraging and justifying violence against non-Muslims "goes strongly against the Quranic principle of reciprocating peace and harmony".

Shahdan also parroted ISIS' doctrine of encouraging Muslims to migrate to "Islamic territories", it said.

"Credible Muslim scholars worldwide have always maintained that Muslims should continue to be contributing citizens and co-exist harmoniously with other communities in diverse, multi-religious societies," it said, adding that scholars over the ages have said there is no need for Muslims to migrate if they can practise their faith where they live.

Muis noted that the community is privileged to have the Administration of Muslim Law Act, which helps guide, support and facilitate Muslims' religious life in Singapore.

Yesterday, community group Perdaus also rejected the video's expression of violence and hatred.

Stressing the need to learn religion from accredited teachers, it said it was important to be on guard against subversive elements that preach extremism, hatred and discrimination of others.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2017, with the headline 'Mufti rebuts ISIS video's distortion of religious texts'. Print Edition | Subscribe