SINGAPORE: A former religious teacher was fined S$2,000 for organising a gathering without a valid permit in 2018 which attracted about 400 people.
On Wednesday (Jan 27), Fahrorazi Sohoi pleaded guilty to organising a public event entitled Maulidur Rasul - an event marking the birth of Prophet Muhammad - without a permit.
The 49-year-old Singaporean - formerly a popular religious teacher also known as Ustaz Fahrurazi Kiayi Kassim - was in 2019 granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal for a separate charge of cheating in relation to fraudulent Haj pilgrimages.
The court heard that on Nov 11, 2018, the police had received a call regarding a large crowd gathered at Pu Tian Building along Lorong 33 Geylang, and that a Facebook post showed that FR Quran Centre - operated by Fahrorazi - was hosting an event there at the time.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Zhi Hao stated that Fahrorazi was aware that a permit was required for the gathering, noting that he had earlier applied for a permit for the same event to be held at the Singapore Sepak Takraw Federation at Bedok North through TBQ Healthcare, a company run by another religious teacher.
An officer from the Compliance Management Unit of Bedok Police Division had informed Fahrorazi via email that the application had been rejected, informing him that it would be an offence to organise the event without a permit.
Fahrorazi then wrote in to appeal against the rejection, noting that speakers at the event had “clean records and that arrangements had already been finalised”.
His appeal was rejected, and the police again advised Fahrorazi against proceeding with the event without a permit.
Mr Tan told the court that on Nov 9, 2018, Fahrorazi cancelled the booking for the Singapore Sepak Takraw Federation premises and proceeded to lease the auditorium of the Pu Tian Building.
Despite having his permit application rejected, Fahrorazi continued to publicise the event on social media and on Nov 10, 2018, placed an advertisement in the Berita Harian newspaper promoting the event.
The court heard that Fahrorazi sent out 800 invitations for the event through the FR Quran Centre Facebook page, and had also distributed flyers and invited students of the religious classes he conducted to the event.
Mr Tan noted that Osman Sarkam - under whose name FR Quran Centre was registered - and Mohamad Yazid Yunos, a religious teacher invited to speak at the event, were “dealt with separately”.
Mr Osman received a stern warning for his role in assisting with the organisation of the event while Ustaz Mohamad Yazid received a verbal advisory for participating in the three-hour event.
The prosecution had sought a fine of S$2,000, pointing out that Fahrorazi had at least twice disregarded advice from the police not to proceed with the event without a permit.
Mr Tan said the proper recourse for Fahrorazi would have been to appeal the police’s decision to the Minister for Home Affairs, and apply for judicial review if he remained unsatisfied with the outcome.
Fahrorazi’s lawyer Mohamed Niroze Idroos however called for a conditional or absolute discharge for his client.
Pointing to comments made by then Second Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam in Parliament in 2009, Mr Niroze argued that the Public Order Act was meant to regulate “cause-based” activities such as protests.
An event celebrating the birth of Prophet Muhammad could not be defined as a cause-based activity and was thus “not the sort of event” regulated by the act, he said.
Mr Niroze said that the event was a “technical breach” of the law that posed no threat to public order or safety.
In her sentencing, District Judge Salina Ishak noted discharge orders were rarely made, and said there was a lack of extenuating circumstances in Fahrorazi’s case.
She stated that she disagreed with Mr Niroze’s characterisation of the incident as a technical breach of the law.
Fahrorazi had deliberately gone against police advice, she said, pointing to the size of the crowd as well as the duration of the event.
For organising a public assembly without a permit, Fahrorazi could have been fined up to S$5,000.
"VIP HAJ" SCAM
In 2018, Fahrorazi was charged with cheating, having been accused of deceiving Mr Mohammad Farehan Mohammad Hussein into paying S$1,550 to perform a "VIP Haj" pilgrimage at the invitation of the Saudi Embassy.
Mr Farehan was one of more than 80 victims - who had paid a total of S$98,250 - affected by the scam, which promised the victims non-existent discounted Haj pilgrimages to Mecca, according to the police at the time.
In October 2019, the court granted Fahrorazi a discharge not amounting to an acquittal for the case.
This means he may still be prosecuted for the offence in the future should there be developments in the case, such as the emergence of new evidence.
In August last year, Mohd Ramlee Ab Samad, a 60-year-old Singaporean, was charged with cheating 69 people of amounts between $400 and $1,950 and deceiving at least 15 others of their passports in relation to the Haj scam.
According to court documents, the alleged victims had given their money and passports to Fahrorazi.
The relationship between the two men is not known.
If convicted, Ramlee faces up to three years in prison and fines for each charge of deceiving others into handing over their passports, and up to 10 years imprisonment and fines for each charge of cheating others of their money.
FR QURAN CENTRE ORDERED TO CLOSE
FR Quran Centre was ordered to close on Apr 24, 2019, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) said on Thursday.
Mr Osman was served with a closure order for operating an unregistered Muslim religious school and deploying Fahrorazi to teach when he was not registered with the Asatizah Recognition Scheme, the council said in a media statement.
"MUIS has made a police report, and the police are investigating the matter."
MUIS added that the Muslim community should only seek religious instruction and guidance from teachers registered with the Asatizah Recognition Scheme and from registered Muslim religious schools.
The scheme was made mandatory in January 2017 to maintain the standards of Islamic teachers in Singapore and to ensure that the Muslim community receives appropriate religious guidance, the council said.
The police on Thursday confirmed that they were investigating the matter after MUIS lodged a report against FR Quran Centre and a 64-year-old man who is its sole proprietor for allegedly operating as an unregistered Muslim religious school.