In a Facebook post on Friday, Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam slammed the comments made by Abdul al-Halim on January 29, saying that they were silly, can be rebutted by reference to other examples and xenophobic.
He added that he has asked the Ministry of Home Affairs to look into the matter. Separately, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore said it is also investigating the teacher.
Shanmugam said in his Facebook post that Halim’s comments were “thoroughly racist”, as he had stated that Chinese people do not wash properly after defecating and were not as hygienic as Muslims, and suggested that had caused the virus to spread. He said such comments were “quite unacceptable from anyone, let alone someone who is supposed to be a religious teacher”.
“Abdul Halim’s comments against Chinese in general [including Singaporean Chinese] are simply unacceptable – and these can’t be left alone,” Shanmugam said.
“When other preachers have made unacceptable remarks, they have been taken to task. For example, two pastors were taken to task, in recent years, for comments which were [by comparison] less offensive.”
The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore told Today Online that the post “expresses views that do not represent the Muslim community”.
It added: “Islam does not allow its followers to hurt the feelings of others in the name of the religion. Given that the 2019 novel coronavirus does not distinguish between nationality, race or religion, we would like to urge all parties to express views with consideration, and show care to those affected.” Ali Mohd, chairman of the Asatizah Recognition Board, said that religious teachers should act responsibly when sharing information or responding to queries from the community, whether in classes, lectures, or on their personal social sites. “We should not assume that a tragedy is indeed God’s retribution for a specific race or nation. We do not know the real reason or the wisdom behind God’s actions,” he said in a statement.
People wearing protective face masks wait at a pedestrian crossing in Singapore on Tuesday.
People wearing protective face masks wait at a pedestrian crossing in Singapore on Tuesday. Photo: AFP
Deputy Mufti designate Murat Aris added: “Religious leaders and teachers must counter the irresponsible practice of using the spread of the novel coronavirus in many parts of the world to spread divisive and xenophobic views such as attributing the spread of the virus to the cultural practice of a certain community.”