The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has denied entry to two foreign clerics seeking to preach on a religious-themed cruise departing and ending in Singapore in late November.
Zimbabwean Muslim preacher Mufti Ismail Menk and Malaysian Ustaz Haslin Baharim were barred from entering Singapore on the grounds of spreading “divisive views” and “exclusivist practices.”
Both their Miscellaneous Work Pass applications have previously been rejected because their teachings ran counter to Singapore’s strict policy of religious harmony.
The MHA referred to Mufti Menk’s assertion that it is wrong to wish others “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Deepavali” during such festivals of other faiths and Ustaz Haslin’s description of non-Muslims as “deviant” as segregationist views that threaten Singapore’s social harmony.
Ustaz Haslin has also allegedly advocated that non-Muslims should be made subservient to Muslims in multicultural and multi-religious societies,.
The MHA released in its statement that the views held by the preachers encouraged intolerance and exclusivity, adding that they were unacceptable in a multi-racial and multi-religious country like Singapore.
Minister for Home Affairs K. Shanmugam brought up Mufti Menk’s religious teachings during his speech on standing united against terrorism in Parliament on Oct 3. In the speech, he explained why the MHA had banned Mufti Menk from teaching in Singapore two years ago and “made no apologies for taking that approach.”
Mufti Menk has since clarified on his particular view regarding greeting non-Muslims during their religious festivals.
The MHA has reinforced the previous prohibition towards Mufti Menk and Ustaz Haslin by stating that speaking on a cruise that runs to and from Singapore will not enable them to get around the ban that was imposed on them.
In its statement, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) stated that it does not endorse applications by foreign preachers whose teachings violate the requirements under the Asatizah (religious teacher) Recognition Scheme. The council also added that the teachings by Mufti Menk and Ustaz Haslin “run counter to the values Singaporean Muslims uphold”.
Under the Asatizah Recognition Scheme, all Islamic religious teachers undergo strict assessment by MUIS and have to be approved by the council before they can hold classes and sermons in Singapore. Foreign clerics intending to preach in Singapore also have to get vetted by MUIS.
The organiser of the five-day voyage, Islamic Cruise, is a Malaysia-based tour agency that often organises religious cruises. A spokesman for the company said that it was not aware that Mufti Menk had previously been prohibited from entering Singapore and had not experienced any prior problems organising cruises from Singapore featuring other religious preachers.