The police are looking into the conduct of everyone involved in the case of an imam who allegedly made insensitive comments about Christians and Jews, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam.
He told Parliament yesterday that the Government will not tolerate any religious preaching that encourages violence or seeks to pit one religion against another.
Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) and Ms Rahayu Mahzam (Jurong GRC) had sought an update on the case.
A video of an imam reciting a prayer in Arabic at Jamae Mosque in South Bridge Road was uploaded on Facebook last week.
The imam was reported to have quoted a verse from the Quran, said Mr Shanmugam, and he seemed to have said "God grant us victory over Jews and Christians", among other things.
Police will consult wide variety of people in probe
Two MPs yesterday sought clarifications from Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam after he spoke on the case of the imam accused of making insensitive remarks against Jews and Christians.
Mr Zainal Sapari (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC): I would like to ask whether the police in their investigation would be consulting the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) to establish whether it was really out of context or indeed was inflammatory?
Mr Shanmugam: The police will interact with, speak with a wide variety of people in coming to their conclusion. Ultimately, the police will be guided by advice from the Attorney-General's Chambers, taking into account the facts, the videos which are available, a proper translation of what was said. Everything will be looked into.
Mr Faisal Manap (Aljunied GRC): I just want to get a confirmation, as well as affirmation, from the minister on whether Muis and the Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Association will be consulted, because I believe that they will be able to provide a more accurate interpretation of the imam's text, since he seems to be quoting from the verse from the Quran.
Mr Shanmugam: Can I ask the member whether he thinks that it is all right to quote from a text and encourage violence against others? Can I have a direct answer, please?
Mr Faisal: Madam (Speaker), from my own knowledge, the verses in the Quran are always in the context of giving out mercy to the people and the universe.
Mr Shanmugam: That is not the question I asked, and I didn't refer to the Quran. Do you think it is all right for someone to refer to any holy text to encourage violence either by quoting directly or speaking, encouraging such violence? Yes or no?
Mr Faisal: It is wrong, Madam.
Mr Shanmugam: Thank you. That is a question the police will be considering. Thank you.
A police report has been lodged.
Investigations are ongoing, Mr Shanmugam said during the debate on the Home Affairs Ministry's budget, adding: "We will know the context of what he said, once the investigations have finished."
Mr Shanmugam made clear the Government's position on the issue.
If the imam had referred to the phrase to say, for instance, that such phrases can promote ill will against other communities, and that this is not acceptable in a multi-religious society, then there can be no objection.
But, said Mr Shanmugam, "if he had said that Jews and Christians should be defeated, and for God to grant Muslim brothers victory over them, to make that very point, then that is completely unacceptable".
"And if any member disagrees, I welcome him or her to stand up and clarify," he told the House.
"The Government has taken a strict position when Muslims have been attacked. People have been charged, sent to jail," he said, citing the example of a Christian couple sentenced to eight weeks in jail in 2009 for distributing publications that cast Islam in a negative light.
The same applies to any attack on any other religion, Mr Shanmugam noted, saying: "We will not tolerate any religious preaching that encourages violence or seeks to pit one religion against another."
If the imam is found not to have made any inflammatory suggestion, no action will be taken, and a public statement will be issued.
But if he had indeed made such suggestions or engaged in such preaching, appropriate action will be taken, said Mr Shanmugam.
"We have to be fair to the imam," he said, adding: "The Government's position has to be made clear because matters like this have the potential to escalate, with people jumping in, opinions being formed and hardened along religious lines."
He also called out National University of Singapore academic Khairudin Aljunied for criticising the person who made public what the imam said.
Dr Khairudin, a tenured associate professor in the university's Department of Malay Studies, had posted his comments on Facebook.
"Mr Khairudin has encouraged vilification of that individual. Looking at what he has said, he seems to suggest that it is okay for the imam to say that Jews and Christians should be defeated," said Mr Shanmugam.
"He assumes that the imam intended to mean that, and Mr Khairudin sees nothing wrong with that, even if the imam had intended the meaning of his words.
"Mr Khairudin's positions and actions are quite unacceptable. He has jumped into this, without verifying the facts and without checking the context. He supports a position that is quite contrary to the norms, values and laws in Singapore."
The police will look thoroughly into the issues and the conduct of all involved, Mr Shanmugam said, adding: "When such issues arise, it is best that parties refer (them) to the police. Going public may inflame the views further."
The video of the imam was posted online by investment associate Terence Nunis. He said that it had been taken in early January and sent to him by a friend who had heard the sermon at Jamae Mosque.
The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) earlier this week told the media that it is assisting the police with their investigations.
As part of due process, the imam has been placed on leave while investigations are ongoing, it said.
Mr de Souza yesterday commended Muis on its "courageous and generous position".
"What we have attained, what we have enjoyed, we need to maintain, nurture and strengthen," he said.
Muis said in a statement in response to media queries last night: "Muis appreciates and fully supports the Government's firm and consistent position in the matter.
"Muis shares the view that there can be no room for discourse that promotes intolerance, enmity or violence against other communities."