Foreign Religious Leaders May Be Banned from Entry to Singapore

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Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said in Parliament that religious leaders from other countries may be banned from entering Singapore if they teach hatred, division or intolerance among religions. According to Mr Shanmugam, these teachings are harmful to Singaporean’s diverse society, and anyone who preaches these will not be allowed to enter the country.

The ban refusing to admit these preachers does not depend on the context in which they spoke these words—whether or not it had anything to with Singapore, nor does it depend on how many followers these preachers have.

Should any visitor to Singapore wish to discuss delicate matters, whether they be political, racial or religious, he or she must first apply for a Miscellaneous Work Pass from the Manpower Ministry. This office works with other agencies and evaluates each applicant according to his or her merits.

In 2017, three visiting Muslim clerics where disallowed entry into Singapore because of the content of their preaching.

Yusuf Estes, an American Muslim preacher was not allowed to enter Singapore in November. Officials deemed that Estes’ views were opposed to the multiethnic and multi-religious society in Singapore.

In October, Haslin Baharim, originally from Malaysia, was also banned from entering Singapore. Baharim is also known as Ustaz Bollywood since he sings in a Hindi-inspired manner. In the same month, Zimbabwe national Ismail Menk was also banned from entry. Bahrain and Menk are known to have extreme and segregationist teachings.

Messrs. Estes, Baharim and Menk were supposed to have taken part in an international spiritual cruise from Singapore to Aceh that would have lasted five days. This luxury retreat had been organized by Islamic Cruise, which is based in Malaysia. Mr. Estes later joined the cruise and spoke to the passengers when the ship was at Banda Aceh.

Mr Shanmugam reiterated that entry to Singapore is a privilege for foreigners, and not a right. When questioned by Mr Faisal of the Worker’s Party whether the banned religious leaders had been given the chance to speak for themselves before being denied entry into the country, Mr. Shanmugam mentioned that the preachers had been critical of other religions and had called Allah a false god. This should be enough to cause an outright ban. Only religious leaders who would not affect Singapore’s interests negatively should be granted entry, Mr. Shanmugam said.

Many Singaporeans applauded Mr. Shanmugam for his decisive action, and showed their support.

Others derided MP Faisal for what they considered to be a senseless question.

Another netizen said that the ban must apply to preachers from other religions as well.