Singapore has banned Mufti Ismail Menk, a renowned Islamic preacher, from entering the city-state, with the government contending that his views promote religious discord.
Menk, a Zimbabwean preacher with more than two million followers on Twitter, and Haslin bin Baharim, a Malaysian scholar, were barred from entering Singapore to give lectures on a religious-themed cruise scheduled for late November.
Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement that its decision to reject Menk’s application for a short-term work pass stemmed from his “segregationist and divisive teachings”, while Baharim promoted “disharmony between Muslims and non-Muslims”.
The ministry claimed that Menk said Muslims were not allowed to greet people of other faiths on their religious festivals.
It also accused Baharim of holding views that promote friction between Muslims and non-Muslims, whom he allegedly described as “deviant.”
“[Their views] are unacceptable in the context of Singapore’s multi-racial and multi-religious society,” the ministry said. “They will not be allowed to get around the ban by preaching instead on cruise ships which operate to and from Singapore.”
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Menk said he had faced “no issues coming into Singapore as a tourist … but will not be joining the cruise now for reasons not within my control”.
“To imply that I was using the cruise ‘to get around the ban by preaching instead on cruise ships which operate to and from Singapore’ is erroneous,” he said. “I have never been on a cruise before, let alone give lectures on board. This was purely for a humanitarian mission to Banda Aceh.”
According to Islamic Cruise, which organised the voyage, Menk was scheduled to give a series of talks on the five-day cruise, including one titled “Navigating Towards Paradise”, with proceeds from the event to be distributed to underprivileged people in Banda Aceh.
Over the past few years, Singapore has faced increasing criticism for tightening restrictions on political liberties such as free speech.
A 17-year-old blogger was sentenced to six weeks in jail last year after he “wounded the religious feelings” of Muslims and Christians.