Offensive online poll on female religious teachers removed from MeWe platform

The poll first came to light after it was highlighted by Ustaz Muhammad Zahid Mohd Zin in an Instagram post on May 26, 2021. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - An online poll sexualising ustazah, or female Islamic religious teachers, with a view to commit sexual violence against them has been removed from social media platform MeWe.

Mr David Westreich, marketing director of MeWe, told The Straits Times on Sunday (May 30) that the poll, which is currently being investigated by the police here, is no longer on the platform.

"Our team investigated this and found that the poll is no longer on MeWe. The user who created it deleted their own account, removing the poll and all of their content in the process," said Mr Westreich, without specifying when the user deleted this account.

He also did not respond to further queries by ST regarding the incident, including questions about how MeWe is assisting investigations about the poll, what MeWe's policy is regarding adult content, and if it had any comments about the offensive poll.

The poll first came to light after it was highlighted by Ustaz Muhammad Zahid Mohd Zin in an Instagram post last Wednesday.

It listed at least 12 female asatizah who were ranked according to their sexual attractiveness, with 1,005 MeWe users participating in the poll. The poll had also suggested committing sexual violence against the religious teachers on the list.

The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) said last Friday that the poll constitutes prohibited content under Singapore's Internet Code of Practice, and has no place here. It added that it had contacted MeWe to remove the offending poll if it was still on the platform.

IMDA has also contacted other social media platforms to ensure that the post does not surface on them.

The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) said last Thursday that it was aware of the post, which had caused "immense distress" to the individuals involved, and was very concerned by it.

The council has lodged a police report to expedite investigation into the matter and "bring the perpetrators to justice".

Religious and political leaders, as well as community groups here, have lashed out against the poll, and some have also set up initiatives to help provide support to its victims.

On Sunday, a group of female lawyers, counsellors, and community leaders held a closed-door women-only virtual dialogue for those who have been sexually harassed or defamed - including victims of the MeWe Poll.

The dialogue explained to participants their legal options after becoming victims of such crimes and also when a police report is made, what happens during criminal court proceedings, and how to take civil action against someone.

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