Following an announcement by Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs that Mufti Menk is one of two foreign preachers that have been banned from entering the nation, the Majlisul Ulama Zimbabwe MUZ (Council of Islamic Scholars) has released a statement calling the decision to bar their senior mufti from the nation as “misguided”.
The Council’s President, Shaikh Umar Phiri, wrote that it is “unfortunate and unfair” to call the Mufti’s teachings divisive and said that the religious leader “has played a pivotal role in the global war on extremism by maintaining a very balanced approach and educating the Muslims regarding their duty to respect people of other faiths and inclinations”:
“We have been following with regret and dismay the news on social media regarding the ban imposed on our Senior Mufti, Dr Ismail Menk, by the authorities in Singapore, who allegedly claimed his preaching to be divisive and unfit for multi-cultural, multi-religious Singapore.
“The allegations are based on an inaccurate perception of one of his lectures where they concluded that our Mufti prohibits greeting people of other faiths on their religious festivals such as saying Merry Christmas or Happy Diwali. This, according to them, is deemed divisive.
“We would like to place on record that our Mufti has never prohibited greeting others during their festivals. However, he has maintained that the wording should be inclusive to ensure that it is agreeable to all. In his opinion, greetings such as Happy Holidays, Seasons Greetings, Have a Good Day are fine.
“To claim that his preaching is divisive because of this is unfortunate, unfair and seems to be done without understanding the middle ground he has always taught in this regard.
“We are aware of a very short edited clip that was used to prove the allegation against our Mufti. The entire sermon was not heard. This, we believe is the reason why such a misguided decision was made.
“Mufti Menk has been an asset to multi-cultural, multi-religious Zimbabwe where we have never seen any religious tension. Similarly, he has proven his value on the world stage and in similar settings.
“Mufti Menk has played a pivotal role in the global war on extremism by maintaining a very balanced approach and educating the Muslims regarding their duty to respect people of other faiths and inclinations.
“Among the Muslims too, Mufti Menk has been a breath of fresh air, strongly promoting the respect of other Muslim sects.
“Guided by our Mufti, we serve on several interfaith boards working with members of most religious denominations and we enjoy the best relations.
“Our Mufti has very good relations with leaders and people of other faiths.
“Mufti Menk is himself a graduate of a Christian College in Harare and holds a doctorate of Social Guidance from a Christian University.
“We place on record that he has never said it is “blasphemous” to greet others during their festivals. He teaches that everyone has the same right to celebrate their festivals, without any fear or restriction.
“We urge those concerned to listen to some of his sermons in full and not an edited clip of a few minutes. These talks are available online. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or instagram to see the moderate path he has chosen.
“We stand with our Mufti and are very proud of his achievements and guidance over the last two decades.”
MHA reported on Monday that the ban was instated following consultation with the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS), Singapore Tourism Board and Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore.
The Ministry noted that Mufti Menk has been known to preach “segregationist and divisive teachings” – such as teaching that it is a sin and crime for a Muslim to wish a non-Muslim Merry Christmas or Happy Deepavali – and asserted:
“Such divisive views breed intolerance and exclusivist practices that will damage social harmony, and cause communities to drift apart. They are unacceptable in the context of Singapore’s multi-racial and multi-religious society.”
It added that such teachings are “detrimental to our society and way of life, and will undermine the fundamentals of Singapore’s peace and progress.”
Meanwhile, the Sultan of Johor Bahru has followed Singapore’s suit and banned the Mufti from the Malaysian state as well.
Johor Islamic Religious Affairs Committee chairman Abdul Mutalip Abdul Rahim said today that the Sultan of Johor also decreed that Malaysian Haslin Baharim will not be allowed to preach in the state, along with Zimbabwean Mufti Ismail Menk. Singapore had banned the Malaysian preacher on Monday, as well.
The committee chairman said:
“The content of their previous speeches appear to promote racial and religious unrest, which disrupts harmony between the races.
“The Johor Islamic Religious Department will continue monitoring religious talks in this state to ensure there are no elements or views that encourages racial disunity from being delivered.”