Singapore bans four foreign publications, two Islamic preachers
Singapore banned four more foreign publications for extremist content and two Islamic preachers from entering the country in late October, continuing its push to suppress extremist activities amid attempts by the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) to set up a so-called caliphate in Southeast Asia, according to media accounts.
“The Singapore government has zero tolerance for individuals or publications which aim to encourage hostility or violence among different religious groups, and has therefore decided to prohibit these publications,” Singapore’s Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) said in a news release.
Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) barred two foreign preachers from entering the country who were planning to preach on a weeklong religious-themed sea cruise that would wind up in Singapore in late November 2017. Singapore previously denied the two men’s applications for a miscellaneous work pass to preach in Singapore, the channelnewsasia.com website reported.
“They will not be allowed to get around the ban by preaching instead on cruise ships which operate to and from Singapore,” MHA said in late October.
The first, Ismail Menk, “has been known to preach [segregationist] and divisive teachings.” The second, Haslin bin Baharim, “has expressed views that promote disharmony between Muslims and non-Muslims,” MHA said, Agence France-Presse reported.
The ministry consulted the Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS), also known as the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, the Singapore Tour Board, and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore before banning the preachers, channelnesasia.com reported.
Singapore’s MCI said the four newly banned foreign publications, which were published between 2011 and 2016, contain “undesirable and harmful teachings” that could “cause social distancing, distrust, hatred and even violence among people of different faiths and religious views.”
“The threat of extremism is real and should not be taken lightly,” said MCI Minister Dr. Yaacob Ibrahim, pictured, according to www.channelnewsasia.com. “The government strongly condemns the use of such publications to espouse destructive ideologies and promote enmity between communities. We will not hesitate to take firm actions where necessary,” Yaacob said.
MUIS issued a statement that said: “These books do not promote a peaceful, moderate understanding and practice of Islam in multicultural societies. Instead, they project a simplistic, inward-looking and skewed understanding of Islam. This, in the long run, may lead to an insular, exclusive Muslim community that seeks to isolate themselves rather than integrate with the larger society.” The publications are “contrary to the ethos of the Singaporean Muslim identity and diametrically opposed to the progressive and inclusive religious outlook of the Singapore Muslim community,” according to MUIS, The Straits Times newspaper reported.
Anyone who possesses or distributes the publications in Singapore faces fines and jail.
U.S. Pacific Command Commander Adm. Harry J. Harris, Jr., said Southeastern Asian militants returning to the region could pose a threat as ISIS is pushed out of the Middle East, Agence France-Presse reported.
“Foreign fighters are passing their ideology, resources and methods to local, homegrown, next-generation radicals,” Harris said during a speech in early October in Singapore. “So, we must stop ISIS at the front end and not at the back end when the threat can become even more dangerous,” he said.
The MCI banned nine other publications in June 2017 for their extremist content and denied their author, Rasul Dahri, permission to teach and preach Islam in Singapore. The books were published between 1997 and 2013 by two publishers, Perniagaan Jahabersa and Syarikat Ummul Qura Enterprise in Johor Baru, the Singapore news website todayonline.com reported.