SINGAPORE: The restriction orders against a religious teacher and one of his students show that the challenge of countering radicalisation continues, Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli said on Wednesday (Jan 16).
“The swift actions of our security agencies are timely. However, the actions of a misguided few must not be allowed to tar the good name of our community,” Mr Masagos said.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Wednesday issued the two Singaporeans with restriction orders under the Internal Security Act (ISA).
Former freelance religious teacher Murad Mohd Said, 46, was placed on the order on Dec 5 last year for “propagating beliefs promoting violence and views detrimental to the cohesion of Singapore’s multi-racial and multi-religious society”, said MHA.
This is the first time a restriction order has been issued to a previously recognised religious teacher. Murad was accredited under the Asatizah Recognition Scheme (ARS), which recognises teachers and scholars who meet the minimum standards of qualification to teach Islamic religious knowledge.
Murad’s student, Razali Abas, was arrested under the ISA last September after he was found to hold radical views on the use of armed violence against the perceived enemies of Islam, MHA added.
"OUR SYSTEM HAS WORKED WELL SO FAR": MASAGOS
In a Facebook post, Mr Masagos said that Murad's violent and problematic views as a religious teacher, or Asatizah, carried weight among his followers, and had the potential to mislead many more, with grave consequences for Singapore’s religious harmony.
Mr Masagos said that the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) has a code of ethics for religious teachers and the mandatory ARS, such that the Muslim community regulates their own religious teachers.
“Our system has worked well so far. Murad had come to MUIS' attention, and despite being spoken to by both MUIS and the Asatizah Recognition Board, Murad did not change. He was struck off the ARS register and not allowed to conduct classes in Singapore. When Murad persisted in his harmful teachings, the authorities deemed it serious enough to take action.
“We must continue to look out for each other. If anyone has questions or doubts, our ARS-recognised teachers and the Asatizah Youth Network are best-placed to answer their queries. If there are signs of radicalisation, we should refer these individuals early to MUIS, the Religious Rehabilitation Group or the police,” he added.
In a separate statement, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Grace Fu said the two cases underscored the continued need for vigilance.
“Murad and Razali do not represent our Muslim community, and we must continue to stand together with our Muslim friends, to protect the deep friendships and harmony between our races and religions in Singapore,” she said.
NEED TO REMAIN VIGILANT
In a statement on Wednesday, MUIS also said that the two cases reinforce the need to remain vigilant against exclusivist and extremist teachings.
MUIS said the two cases also show the importance of the mandatory ARS to ensure that Muslims receive religious guidance only from certified religious teachers.
This case is an example of individuals misrepresenting religious ideas by taking them out of context and fitting them into a radical agenda that promotes violence and killing, said Dr Nazirudin Mohd Nasir, senior director of religious policy and development in MUIS.
“The Quran clearly promulgates freedom of belief and leaves it to the individual to accept the religion out of his or her own conscience.
“The idea that apostates or non-believers can be killed is misguided and erroneous, and has been exploited by radical groups to justify their indiscriminate killings. There must be no place for such ideas in our multi-religious society in Singapore,” Dr Nazirduin said.
Mr Ustaz Pasuni Maulan, vice chairman of the Asatizah Recognition Board - which manages the ARS together with MUIS - said that he was reassured that the Board and MUIS are actively monitoring and engaging religious teachers and Islamic religious schools to ensure the code of ethics is put into practice, and would not hesitate to remove the accreditation from any teacher who violates the code.
“Such individuals would not be allowed to mislead the community, as these teachings are clearly incompatible with the values of the Muslim community, who are well-adjusted to Singapore’s multi-racial and multi-religious society,” he said.