Police ask US preacher to return for interview

Mufti Mohd Fatris Bakaram and Cornerstone Community Church senior pastor Yang Tuck Yoong at the Singapore Islamic Hub last night. At the meeting with Muslim community leaders, Pastor Yang apologised for the comments made by Mr Lou Engle.
Mufti Mohd Fatris Bakaram and Cornerstone Community Church senior pastor Yang Tuck Yoong at the Singapore Islamic Hub last night. At the meeting with Muslim community leaders, Pastor Yang apologised for the comments made by Mr Lou Engle.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Pastor of church that organised conference apologises to Muslim community for speaker's remarks

Police have asked American preacher Lou Engle, who is alleged to have made anti-Muslim statements at an event here last month, to come back to Singapore for an interview.

A statement issued yesterday said that Mr Engle, who spoke at the Kingdom Invasion Conference 2018, had left Singapore shortly after the event ended.

"The police have requested him to come back to Singapore for an interview," the Singapore Police Force said, adding that it was unable to comment further as investigations are ongoing.

It is not known if Mr Engle, 65, intends to comply with the request.

At the heart of the controversy are comments the preacher allegedly made at the Christian conference, which ran from March 13 to 16.

According to a March 25 report from online media outfit Rice, Mr Engle had told the conference, organised by Singapore's Cornerstone Community Church, that "Muslims are taking over the south of Spain", and that he had dreamt he would "raise up the church all over Spain to push back a new modern Muslim movement".

Mufti Mohd Fatris Bakaram and Cornerstone Community Church senior pastor Yang Tuck Yoong at the Singapore Islamic Hub last night. At the meeting with Muslim community leaders, Pastor Yang apologised for the comments made by Mr Lou Engle.

NO PLACE FOR DIVISIVE WORDS

Words matter, and words that sow discord and ill will among the various communities have no place in Singapore.

MINISTER-IN-CHARGE OF MUSLIM AFFAIRS YAACOB IBRAHIM, on American preacher Lou Engle (above) and the controversy he created with his anti-Muslim comments.

After the report, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said it was investigating the incident and would take "firm action" if it was found that he had in fact made statements undermining religious harmony.

Last night, Cornerstone co-founder and senior pastor Yang Tuck Yoong met Mufti Mohd Fatris Bakaram and Muslim community leaders at the Singapore Islamic Hub and apologised to the Muslim community for the comments made by Mr Engle.

He added that the preacher will not be invited for future events, and the church had been unaware of the pastor's controversial past.

In 2011, Mr Engle - who once accused Muslims of "fuelling the demonic realm" - organised a 24-hour event in Detroit where more than 20,000 attendees prayed for Muslims to convert to Christianity. A year earlier, he had expressed support for a Bill in Uganda that called for homosexuals to be jailed or killed.

Pastor Yang said after last night's meeting: "When we invited him, we invited him to teach on prayer and fasting. We did not know he had made such remarks because (these remarks were made) quite some time ago."

He also said that in a phone call last Friday, he had told Mr Engle that he had caused "a lot of problems" and he would not be able to speak in Singapore in the future.

"He (Lou Engle) had accepted it," he said.

The church had earlier lodged a police report against Rice, saying the article was aimed at "stirring up religious tensions and promoting feelings of ill will and hostility between Christians and Muslims". The Straits Times understands that investigations for the case are ongoing.

Apart from the apology made in person by Pastor Yang, a full-screen letter of apology from the Cornerstone pastor was put up on the Kingdom Invasion conference website.

"As a church, we do not condone any speech or actions that foster ill will between communities and remain committed to upholding the peace and harmony we enjoy as a nation," wrote Pastor Yang.

Dr Fatris told the media that the Muslim leaders had accepted Pastor Yang's apology.

He added he was glad that both Muslims and non-Muslims were measured in their reactions and did not express their anger in a destructive manner.

"We want to move on and look forward to more constructive and healthy relationships," he said.

In a Facebook post, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim said he appreciated that Pastor Yang had taken responsibility for inviting Mr Engle.

"Words matter, and words that sow discord and ill will among the various communities have no place in Singapore," he said. He added that people here should "continue to uphold mutual respect and harmony for our common good".

MHA has rejected applications to speak here from both Christian and Muslim preachers in recent years.

Last September, the MHA said it had rejected work passes for two foreign Christian preachers who had made denigrating and inflammatory comments on other religions.

The following month, three foreign Muslim preachers, who were scheduled to speak on a cruise going from Singapore to Aceh, were also banned.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 05, 2018, with the headline 'Police ask US preacher to return for interview'. Print Edition | Subscribe