Reject preachers who go against Islamic values, Muslim leaders urge

The Religious Rehabilitation Group shared in a Facebook post media reports on why Singapore had denied entry to Indonesian preacher Abdul Somad Batubara. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM RELIGIOUS REHABILITATION GROUP/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - A group of senior Muslim religious leaders in Singapore on Tuesday (May 24) called on Muslims to reject preachers who hold views that go against Islamic and universal values of humanity and mercy.

The Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) did not name any individuals in its statement, but shared in a Facebook post media reports on why Singapore had denied entry to Indonesian preacher Abdul Somad Batubara over his extremist teachings.

"The Religious Rehabilitation Group responds with deep embarrassment and utmost regret to a fellow preacher who appears to possess and propagate views that are opposed to accepted Islamic and universal values of humanity, mercy and unconditional love to others," said the group in a Facebook post.

"We stand strong by the Singapore Government's position that divisive and segregationist views have no place in this country."

The RRG brings together Islamic scholars and teachers who voluntarily assist in the religious counselling of radicalised individuals, including terror detainees, and inoculate the wider community against extremist views.

On Monday, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam shared that Somad had been on the authorities' radar for some time, when it emerged that some individuals investigated for radicalisation had been watching his videos and following his preachings.

Among them was a 17-year-old detained under the Internal Security Act in January 2020, who had watched Somad's YouTube lectures on suicide bombing, and began to believe such bombers were martyrs.

The minister also noted that Somad had denigrated Christian symbols, and after Somad publicised his being turned away, some of his supporters posted threats against Singapore online.

Somad has a sizeable following online, but is also a controversial figure in Indonesia, where mainstream Muslim leaders have criticised his divisive teachings.

In its statement, the RRG specifically addressed three points concerning Somad's teachings, and clarified how these are opposed to accepted Islamic and universal values.

One, by suggesting a parallel between prophetic wars and suicide bombings, he "shows a severe lack of understanding of the principles and tenets of wars in Islam".

Two, "by degrading the places, ways or instruments of worship of others, he has breached the foundational principle of interfaith relations and dialogue in Islam - respect", the RRG said.

It noted that interfaith relations are built upon similarities and appreciation of differences as a divine blessing.

Three, Muslims should reject such preachers or others with views opposed to the spirit of the shariah, or Islamic law, even if they are from within their own fold, the RRG said.

This is because they should support the truth and reject falsehoods, no matter who they originate from.

The RRG said that it regards harmonious and cohesive life in a multiracial society as a key part of living in Singapore, and called on Muslims here to value and cherish the country's peace and harmony.

"Let us preserve this stability and not let any divisive statements be a setback to the harmonious preservation of faith and humanity that we all work for," it added.

"Fellow Singaporeans, it is our responsibility to strengthen social cohesion and religious harmony and to safeguard our common spaces."

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