Ranking of female religious teachers

Those behind poll won't be allowed to teach here

If it is true that Islamic studies graduates here were behind an online poll sexualising female religious teachers, these graduates will not be allowed to teach Islam to the Muslim community in Singapore in any form, said the Asatizah Recognition Board (ARB) yesterday.

Several netizens have alleged that those who started the poll on social media platform MeWe were studying to become asatizah, or religious teachers, and have urged the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) not to accredit them.

The ARB, which oversees the Asatizah Recognition Scheme, said it will not hesitate to take stern action against the perpetrators if the allegations are proven true.

In a strongly worded statement condemning the poll, the ARB said the poll misused photos of ustazah, or female Islamic religious teachers, and violated the norms of decency and morals in Islam.

Expressing its regret over the incident, the ARB added: "This matter is very serious and needs to be addressed immediately."

However, it also urged the Muslim community not to speculate further on the case as it is now under police investigation.

The Infocomm Media Development Authority said on Friday that the poll constitutes prohibited content under Singapore's Internet Code of Practice and it has contacted MeWe to remove the offending poll. The Sunday Times understands the poll has already been removed.

The MeWe poll was first highlighted by Ustaz Muhammad Zahid Mohd Zin on Wednesday in an Instagram post. It showed a list of at least 12 female asatizah being 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.

Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and National Development Sim Ann, who was previously Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information, said she and Parliamentary Secretary for Communications and Information and Health Rahayu Mahzam will host an online session on Saturday to meet those who are disturbed by the poll and wish to combat such online harms.

In a joint statement on Friday, several Muslim groups called on Muis and Muslim leaders to take concrete action, including comprehensive sexuality education in local madrasahs and mandatory training for religious teachers and students on how to respond to sexual assault cases.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 30, 2021, with the headline 'Those behind poll won't be allowed to teach here'. Subscribe