Singapore: Newly-banned Islamic books contain undesirable, harmful teachings

Two of the publications which have been banned here in Singapore. — Picture via Google
Two of the publications which have been banned here in Singapore. — Picture via Google

SINGAPORE, Oct 31 — On the same day that two Islamic preachers have been barred from setting foot in Singapore, the authorities also announced that four Islamic books, all from Indonesia, have been banned here as they contain “undesirable and harmful teachings” which have the potential to sow discord between Muslims and non-Muslims.

In a statement yesterday, the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) said that the teachings found in the books — published in Jakarta between 2011 and 2016 — can cause “social distancing, distrust, hatred and even violence among people of different faiths and religious views”.

With the ban to take effect from today, it will be an offence to distribute the books, have them in possession, or come into possession of those publications but failed to hand them over to the police. Those convicted could face a fine, jail term or both.

Communications and Information Minister Dr Yaacob Ibrahim said the government “strongly condemns” the use of such publications to “espouse destructive ideologies and promote enmity between communities”.

“We will not hesitate to take firm actions where necessary. But we cannot do this alone. We need the support of everyone to safeguard Singapore against extremism by staying alert to radical individuals or teachings and reporting them to the authorities,” he added.

Separately, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) also denounced those books as propagating “problematic religious positions” which are extremely exclusivist.

After conducting a thorough assessment of the books, Muis said in a statement yesterday that they contravene the code of ethics under the Asatizah Recognition Scheme (ARS).

The publications, it added, are “contrary to the ethos of the Singaporean Muslim identity and diametrically opposed to the progressive and inclusive religious outlook of the Singapore Muslim community”.

“Muis found that the publications advocate problematic religious positions that are extremely exclusivist in nature as well as dangerous because they clearly promote enmity, strife and potentially violence between Muslims and non-Muslims, and attack the modern, democratic nation-state,” said the statement.

The ARS recognises religious teachers and scholars who meet the minimum standards of qualification to preach and teach Islam in Singapore.

Among others, the ARS code of ethics require religious teachers to adhere to moderate Islamic teachings as well as exhibit a sound grasp of religious knowledge while being mindful of contextual considerations in the interpretation of religious teachings.

Muis noted that the authors of the books have presented a “binary view of the world” that presents Islam and Muslims as at odds against those who are not part of the religion.

Instead of contextualising their analysis and interpretation of Islamic teachings to the modern world, the books project a “simplistic, inward-looking and skewed understanding of Islam”, it added.

Pointing out that the books do not promote a peaceful, moderate understanding and practice of Islam in multi-cultural societies, Muis said: “This, in the long run, may lead to an insular, exclusive Muslim community that seeks to isolate themselves rather than integrate with the larger society.”

The move to ban the four books comes five months after the authorities prohibited nine publications by Singaporean preacher Rasul Dahri, who had also his application for the ARS rejected by the Asatizah Recognition Board.

Announcing this earlier in June, the MCI had said Rasul’s books contain extremist views, including remarks denigrating other religious groups. And in some publications, he rejects the idea of a secular state and calls on Muslims to establish an Islamic state. — TODAY

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