SINGAPORE, Dec 2 — A third foreign preacher, American-Muslim Yusuf Estes, was barred from entering Singapore last month in connection with a controversial Islamic-themed cruise, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said yesterday.
Estes was reportedly being considered as a speaker on the cruise after two previous candidates, Zimbabwean Ismail Menk and Malaysian Haslin Baharim, were banned from setting foot in the Republic for their “segregationist and divisive teachings”.
The 73-year-old American preacher was denied entry into Singapore on November 24 on similar grounds, with MHA citing several examples of his “divisive views” and “exclusivist practices”.
Estes, for instance, said in a video in March 2012 that it was “not part of Islam to celebrate other people’s holidays” and that it was not in the Muslim faith to wish Christians and Jews a Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah respectively.
The American, who converted from Christianity to Islam in 1991, had also published an article on his website in December 2016 which questioned the religious basis for Christmas.
“The article claimed that Christmas was ‘from the Solstice celebration, and had been going on for hundreds of years before the time of Jesus’. Hence, Muslims were advised against ‘celebrating something that even the Christians should not be doing’, as this will end up in Muslims engaging in ‘such offensive acts’ towards Allah,” the ministry said in its statement.
The MHA pointed out that the Government will not allow religious preachers of any faith to denigrate other religions, adding that it had previously rejected the applications by two Christian preachers to speak in Singapore, as they had made inflammatory comments about other religions, including Islam and Buddhism.
“Such divisive views breed intolerance and exclusivist practices that will damage social harmony, and cause communities to drift apart. They are unacceptable in the context of Singapore’s multi-racial and multi-religious society,” the ministry said.
The religious cruise left Singapore last Saturday (November 25) for Banda Aceh and returned on Wednesday. The trip first made headlines in October when MHA announced its decision to to bar Mufti Menk and Haslin from setting foot in Singapore.
The authorities had previously rejected the two men’s miscellaneous work pass applications to preach in Singapore. Mufti Menk has been banned from preaching in Singapore since 2015, while Haslin’s work pass application was rejected earlier this year.
A work pass is required to preach in Singapore, but not on a cruise ship.
A notice published on the website of the trip’s organiser, Malaysian company Islamic Cruise, said Estes and his wife Khadijah, would be on the cruise “to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary”.
However, MHA said the cruise organisers “had earlier been seeking views about Estes as a possible speaker”. The decision to bar Mr Estes from entering Singapore was made in consultation with the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), the ministry added.
Before religious speakers can preach here, Muis assesses their applications, which includes reviewing their backgrounds and what they have previously propagated.
The Asatizah Recognition Scheme recognises religious teachers and scholars who meet the minimum standards of qualification to preach and teach Islam in Singapore. And its code of ethics require religious teachers to adhere to moderate Islamic teachings, among others. ― TODAY