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Indonesian preacher denied entry to Singapore says he will not give up trying to visit

Abdul Somad Batubara also said Singapore is a Malay land similar to Riau.

Indonesian preacher denied entry to Singapore says he will not give up trying to visit

A screengrab of a video showing Abdul Somad Batubara (right) in an interview on May 18, 2022, with Indonesian journalist Karni Ilyas. (Image: YouTube/Karni Ilyas)

SINGAPORE: An Indonesian preacher who was denied entry to Singapore on Monday (May 16) said he will not give up trying to visit Singapore, describing the country as Malay land similar to Riau where he is from.

In a YouTube video on Wednesday, Abdul Somad Batubara said people in Riau see Singapore as part of their land because Singapore was part of the Temasek Malay kingdom. 

"To say that I'm tired of going to Singapore is the same as saying I'm tired of going to Minangkabau. This is because Singapore is a Malay land. My grandmother has brothers, children and grandchildren who live in Singapore,” he added.

Somad said his intention in visiting Singapore recently was to have his wife and children get to know their ancestors.

Somad and six people who travelled with him arrived at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal on Monday and were placed on a ferry back to Batam on the same day.

Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said he has been known to preach "extremist and segregationist" teachings, which are "unacceptable in Singapore’s multi-racial and multi-religious society".

"For example, Somad has preached that suicide bombings are legitimate in the context of the Israel-Palestine conflict and are considered 'martyrdom' operations,” MHA added.

"He has also made comments denigrating members of other faith communities, such as Christians, by describing the Christian crucifix as the dwelling place of an 'infidel jinn (spirit/demon)'.” 

Protesters gathered at the Singapore embassy in Jakarta and the Singapore consulate-general in Medan on Friday, rallying against Singapore’s decision to deny Somad’s entry.

The protesters in Jakarta, who are members of the Islamic Sharia Ideology Defenders (Perisai), demanded that the Singapore embassy provide clarification over the incident and apologise openly. 

The group also called for Singapore’s ambassador to Indonesia to be asked to leave the country. 

In Medan, protesters gathered at a mosque and marched towards the Singapore consulate-general, demanding that Singapore be held accountable over the “deportation” of Somad.

Some carried posters and banners with messages like “boycott Singapore products” and “expel Singapore ambassador”.

A representative from the group reportedly said that Singapore’s decision had hurt the feelings of Muslims and affected Indonesia’s sovereignty.

In response to CNA’s queries, a senior official with the Indonesian National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) said on Wednesday that Singapore took the decision because it is clear that exclusive, intolerant lectures, attitudes and views are the basic ingredients for radicalism.

“I see this as an important lesson for Indonesia to also take precautions from upstream by prohibiting radical views, understandings and ideologies that can lead to acts of terror and violence,” said Brigadier General Ahmad Nurwahid, who is the director overseeing terror prevention in BNPT.

He added: “The government, including BNPT, respects every policy taken by other countries. There is no attempt to intervene regarding the rejection of the arrival of preacher Abdul Somad and his entourage.”

CNA understands that the Indonesian government has reaffirmed Singapore’s sovereign right to decide who it would allow entry, and that the country's Ambassador to Singapore Suryopratomo said on May 19 that the Indonesian government “could not intervene” with regard to Singapore’s decision.

He called on Indonesians to understand that in international relations, the right to enter a country was determined by the receiving state. As such, there was “no basis to ask Singapore for an apology”.

Somad has previously been prevented from entering other countries. For instance, in 2018 he was prevented from entering Timor Leste by airport officials due to terrorism-related concerns.

In 2018, he tried to visit the Netherlands by transiting through Switzerland, but was denied access by Swiss immigration officials on the grounds that he did not possess the necessary documentation to enter the Schengen area, CNA understands. He was also refused entry to Germany in 2019 while on a layover.

Source: CNA/lk(gs)

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