Mr Shanmugam has criticised the National University of Singapore (NUS) don, Dr Khairudin Aljunied. who made a veiled criticism of Facebook user Terence Helikaon Nunis for lodging a police complaint against an imam. Terence claimed that the imam from Masjid Jamae (Chulia) in South Bridge Road insulted Christians and Jews during his Friday sermons.
Responding to questions from Members of Parliament who asked about the case, the Home and Law Affairs Minister singled out the tenured professor of the university and said:
“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. And he assumes that the imam intended to mean that, and sees nothing wrong with that. Mr Khairudin’s position and actions are quite unacceptable. He has jumped into this, without verifying the facts, and without checking the context. And supports a position that is quite contrary to the norms, values and laws in Singapore.”
Writing in his Facebook, Dr Khairudin imagined a conversation between a convert and an imam and in the conversation, the imam asks the convert to “stop being a Muslim for now.” The post has since been deleted.
Dr Khairudin issued a statement in his Facebook before being singled out by Mr Shanmugam that his post was not meant to malign, insult or say bad things about anyone in particular.
“It is meant to illustrate a bigger point which we all should keep in mind: Islam is a peaceful religion and it promotes peace, much like any other religion. We cherish the good relations we have had with non-Muslims. We have lived in harmony with Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews or any religious groups whatsoever for generations. My own best friends are non-Muslims. And I wouldn’t be what I am now without their kind assistance along with my Muslim friends. All we hope for is for those who say that they are converts to Islam or for that matter those who say that they are true Muslims to preserve the peace that we all cherish. Our imams, religious leaders and in fact all of us can play a big part in this.”
Terence blogs at ‘A Muslim Convert Once More‘. In his blog he describes himself as follows:
“I used to be Catholic and belonged to a missionary organisation. After my conversion, I sat on the board of a Muslim converts’ organisation and specialised in da’wah programmes, convert management, interfaith issues and apostasy cases. I am an initiate of a Sufi order. As such, the articles and writings tend to cover these areas. All the Arabic and graphics could not have been done without the help of my wife, Zafirah.”
In 2014, Dr Khairudin drew criticisms from past and present NUS students for referring to lesbianism as “cancers” and “diseases”. He had then claimed in his Facebook that liberal Islam was supporting the lesbian movement.
“All social diseases must end at home, if not, in schools… Together, we will stop these cancers in their tracks,” he said. His post prompted NUS provost Tan Eng Chye to issue a circular to staff and students stating that Dr Khairudin’s comments on his views of lesbianism “contained provocative, inappropriate and offensive language”.
Prof Tan further said that he had counselled Dr Khairudin, who acknowledged that “whilst his only intention had been to convey his point of view, his original posts reflected poor judgment in the tone and choice of words.”
The imam is said to have repeatedly quoted a verse from the Quran along the lines of “God grant us victory over Jews and Christians”, among other things, said Mr Shanmugam.
“We will know the context of what he said, once the investigations have finished,” said the Minister.
He added: “If the imam had referred to the phrase, to say, for example, that this is not acceptable in a multi-religious society, then there can be no objection. But if he had said that Jews and Christians should be defeated, to make that very point, then that is completely unacceptable.”
He said that the Government will not tolerate any religious preaching that encourages violence or seeks to pit one religion against another.
“The Government has taken a strict position when Muslims have been attacked. People have been charged, sent to jail. The same applies to any attack on any other religions.”
A Christian couple was sentenced to eight weeks’ jail in 2009 for distributing material that cast Islam in a negative light. More recently teen blogger Amos Yee was sentenced to six weeks’ jail and a $2,000 fine in total for eight charges – including the charges of intending to wound the feelings of Muslims and/or Christians.
Mr Shanmugam assured that if the imam is found to not have made any inflammatory suggestion, no action will be taken against him and that a public statement will be issued. But if he had indeed made such suggestions in his sermon, “appropriate action” will be taken, Mr Shanmugam said.
The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) which is assisting the police in their investigation of the imam said that “the individual has been placed on leave whilst investigations are ongoing.”
MUIS added that it “takes a very serious view of any behaviour or speech which promotes feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different faith communities.”