SINGAPORE - The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) has rebutted allegations that it failed to take action for four years against a man's deviant religious teachings that were brought to the public's attention last month.
The council said in a statement on Tuesday (Dec 1) that it had investigated the man in question, a former massage therapist in his 50s, and had taken appropriate action, adding that it is working with agencies to conduct a further investigation into the matter.
Muis' decision to re-investigate this alleged leader of a deviant religious group here comes after The Straits Times' expose on the man and the group, published on Nov 9.
Muis' earlier statement on the matter, on Nov 10, revealed that it was first alerted to the case in 2018 and had taken action then. But some individuals online have claimed that the council did not address the issue.
"Recently there have been postings on social media alleging that Muis failed to take action for four years against a case of deviant teachings until the case was brought to the public's attention in 2020. These statements are factually inaccurate," said Muis.
The council pointed to how it had already investigated the matter in 2018, and taken necessary action, including interviewing the man in question, and issuing a formal advisory for him to cease his activities.
It is believed that the man has led the group, whose female followers help run a small restaurant and an event management business, for 15 years.
ST reported that among his teachings, the man professes to be Prophet Muhammad, permits gambling to help needy Muslims, and aspires to have 13 spiritual wives.
Muis' formal advisory to the man, who is not a qualified or registered religious teacher under the Asatizah Recognition Scheme, was to cease his religious activities immediately.
On Tuesday, the council repeated its call for those with credible evidence about the man to come forward and aid its investigations.
Those with reliable evidence such as e-mails, recordings and other documents who are willing to testify should make their submissions to it before Dec 11, Muis said, repeating its earlier appeal for such evidence.
While acknowledging that the Muslim community here has been deeply concerned with the issue of deviant teachings, Muis said the public has to act responsibly, especially when commenting on social media platforms.
The council added: "We should also not comment when a matter is still under investigation, lest we unwittingly cast aspersions and falsehoods on parties who may be innocent. This is against the spirit of the law and the principles of natural justice."
Muis said it has been accused of not being serious in combating deviant teachings, with some even questioning its overall responsiveness in facilitating the socio-religious life of the Muslim community here.
Such remarks are "deeply unfortunate", said the council, highlighting how it is deeply committed to supporting the community, for instance by strengthening the religious schools here, fighting the threat of extremism and helping people adapt to disruptions from the Covid-19 pandemic.
It warned that it would not hesitate to take legal action against those who continue to spread falsehoods and unfounded allegations.
"As an organisation that serves the community and works closely with the Muslim community, we are a firm believer in consultation and are open to feedback," said Muis.
"However, we do not appreciate unfounded allegations and aspersions which serve to erode the trust and close relationship between Muis and the community."