Singapore to expel Muslim cleric for prayer against Christians and Jews

Muslim cleric to be sent back to native India

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 April, 2017, 12:50am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 April, 2017, 12:50am

Singapore on Monday said it would repatriate the chief cleric of a Muslim mosque for offensive remarks targeting Christians and Jews, a decision that aimed to “repudiate divisive speech”.

Authorities in the multi-ethnic city-state, an outpost of stability in a region where religious tension is not uncommon, are sensitive to public remarks they deem might adversely affect religious and social harmony.

During Friday prayers on January 6, the cleric, Nalla Mohamed Abdul Jameel Abdul Malik, made use of the phrase, “Grant us help against the Jews and the Christians,” the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on its website.

He had uttered a prayer in Arabic that included the phrase “fansurna ‘alal qaumil yahudiyyin wan nasraniyyin,” which appealed to Allah “to help us against the Jews and the Christians.”

“You knew that these words may be interpreted as asking God to grant Muslims victory against the Jews and Christians,” District Judge Jasbendar Kaur said in passing sentence.

The phrase “can create friction and conflicts between different religious groups,” Kaur said.

The 46-year-old, popularly known as “Nalla”, admitted making the remarks, apologised and “recognised that it was unacceptable in Singapore’s multi-racial and multi-religious context,” the ministry said in a statement.

He pleaded guilty in a Singapore court, and was fined S$4,000 ($2,862), it added.

“He will be repatriated,” it said. “Any religious leader from any religion who makes such statements will be held accountable for their actions.”

The government had “the responsibility to act quickly and firmly to repudiate divisive speech, even if the course of action is sometimes difficult,” it added.

“Nalla has worked diligently as Chief Imam at the Jamae Chulia Mosque over the past seven years, attending to the needs of his congregation, and reaching out to other faiths. He has not been deliberately malicious.”

“I fully respect the laws of the land and appreciate the concerns of her people,” the Straits Times newspaper on Friday quoted him as saying. “I am truly sorry that I had offended you, and I must bear full responsibility for my actions.”

Muslims and Christians account for about 15 per cent each of Singapore’s resident population, while Buddhists and Taoists make up just over half, according to a 2010 census.

The case erupted after a video recording of the sermon was posted on Facebook in February by someone in the congregation.

Nalla subsequently made an open apology on March 31 in the presence of 30 leaders of different religions.

Under Singapore law, acts that are prejudicial to races or religions can be punished with up to three years in jail, a fine, or both.