Were they banned just because they said something that goes against Singapore’s stand on multi-racial harmony in the past? What if they were misquoted and their words were taken out of context? Will Singapore government just use it as a convenient excuse to bar them from entering, forever?
For the longest time, these were the questions in my mind too, since popular and charismatic preacher, Mufti Menk was banned from preaching in Singapore in 2015.
I was therefore delighted, when I found out that WP MP Faisal Manap (God bless him), a politician who champions multi-racial harmony, asked if these preachers were given an opportunity to explain themselves before the ban was imposed, or to appeal against it, in parliament today.
PAP MP Zaqy Mohamad (God bless him too) initiated the question when he asked the Minister for Home Affairs what is the criteria used in banning foreign preachers in Singapore.
Singapore it seems, takes a conservative approach to such nuances and would rather err on the side of caution.
They will look at the track record of the preacher and keep anecdotes and videos as evidences
Preachers cannot just say something and then later said that they do not mean it or it was said in a different context. The public would generally not know about the context and will be confused and mislead by their messages.
Case in point – Mufti Menk sermon when he said that wishing Christians Merry Christmas is blasphemous. Who knew what his context was? Many in the community were worried that they were less a Muslim just because they greeted their colleagues Merry Christmas.
They will also assess the agendas of the organisers
Entry into Singapore is not automatic for foreigners and is neither a right nor a privilege, the government will also have to decide if the organisers bringing these preachers have subversive agendas which will harm Singaporeans.
You can say that the government has no choice but to peg the standards of the preachers to the lowest common denominator in the community. If there is the slightest chance the community might be mislead or the organisers are a tad too shady, the preacher will be denied entry into Singapore.
Personally, I could never fully agree with this stance because I have always believed in education rather than draconian measures such as bans.
If the problem is context, then the solution surely should be educating and encouraging the followers to find out more and to read widely for added perspective. How is the Muslim community ever going to learn and get better otherwise?
Followers could also still access these preachers sermons on the internet, but I guess the government is quite satisfied just banning them from entry because preaching and grandstanding live and in person, is quite different.
While the questions in my mind (and heart) were kinda answered today, it also dawned on me that Singapore’s religious and racial harmony could be way more fragile than we understand it to be and that the government is has no choice but to be absolutely paranoid about it.
In the past year, the government had banned at least three Islamic foreign preachers, on top of that, two Christian preachers were banned last year as they had made denigrating and inflammatory comments of other religions.