Singapore's Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam has made the country's stand on public speaking clear by saying that religious preachers propagating radical thoughts and divisive teachings will not be given a platform to speak.
Irrespective of how popular these leaders are or how big a fan following they have, they should not expect to be allowed to spread unrest and hate among Singaporeans. It does not matter whether they intend to touch upon controversial subjects in that particular speech, if they have a history of giving radical speeches, they will not be granted audience.
Shanmugam gave his statements at a meeting in Parliament on Monday, January 8, as a response to Workers' Party Aljunied GRC MP Muhd Faisal Abdul Manap's question. Manap had enquired about the factors taken into consideration by the Ministry of Home Affairs before deciding to ban a foreign religious leader from speaking in public, reports Today Online.
The Minister says it is a matter of concern even if the "radical intolerant or segregationist teachings" are heard by a small number of people as it builds "anger among the different faiths."
While responding to Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Zaqy Mohamad's statement about whether such bans will be effective as these preachings are freely available on the Internet, Shanmugam said that the government faces some limitations in preventing access.
However, they will ensure that they do not make it easier for radical speakers to reach the Singapore public directly and influence them in any way. He emphasizes on the fact that entry into Singapore is a privilege and foreigners should not consider it their right. Access will only be granted if no harm is caused in any manner to the citizens of the city-state.
Already, three Islamic foreign preachers have been banned from public speaking in Singapore. They are Mufti Menk from Zimbabwe, Haslin Baharim from Malaysia and Yusuf Estes from the US. Two Christian speakers were banned as well, on account of calling Allah a "false God" and terming Islam as "evil".
To obtain permission for public speaking in Singapore on matters of religion, race or politics, one requires a Miscellaneous Work Pass from the manpower ministry.
Shanmugam also stated that context is irrelevant when it comes to divisive speech as people often fail to grasp the context while interpreting them. So, if a hate-monger has said something offensive previously and then tries to enter Singapore, he will be stopped based on his past actions.
The Minister has earlier spoken out on public matters as well. He urged citizens to keep out Islamophobia from the country. Speaking on this subject, he said that this irrational prejudice against Islam arises from a failure to understand the religion's true teachings, which is peace and spirituality.
And although he admits that few Muslims are extremists and propagate hate towards other religions, it is to be noted that such people exist in all religions and should not be the basis on which the whole community is judged.