Jakarta. Singapore provided more details about the reason behind its refusal to allow entry of Abdul Somad Batubara, saying on Monday that some of its citizens have been investigated for following “extremist teachings” by the Indonesian controversial Muslim preacher.
In a lengthy media statement explaining the government’s stance on the issue, Singaporean Home Affairs Minister Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam said that Somad doesn’t respect Singapore’s sovereignty by implying that the city state is part of Indonesia.
“Some of the people that the ISD [Internal Security Department] have investigated in Singapore for radicalization, one of the things we picked up was that they were watching videos of Somad and following his preaching,” Shanmugam said according to the transcript uploaded on the Home Affairs Ministry website.
“One of them was a 17-year-old detained under the Internal Security Act two years ago, in January 2020. He had watched Somad’s YouTube lectures on suicide bombing and the young boy began to believe that if you fought for ISIS, and if you are a suicide bomber, you can die as a martyr and receive rewards in heaven. So you can see, Somad’s preaching has real-world consequences.”
Somad, 45, was denied entry upon arrival at Singapore’s Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal from Batam accompanied by his wife, their child, and four other people last week.
The cleric later appeared in several interviews at home to denounce the refusal and demand an apology from Singapore.
“He says Singapore is a, I quote, ‘Melayu land’ – Tanah Melayu, claims that people in Riau see Singapore as part of their land, because of Singapore’s history as part of the Temasek Malay Kingdom,” Shanmugam said.
“So this is all part of Indonesia, a larger Tanah Melayu. And therefore, our sovereignty is irrelevant. We are not a separate country from his perspective,” he added.
Shanmugam, who is also the minister for law, said Somad’s supporters have called for cyberattacks on Singapore, government websites, and social media accounts and also called for a boycott of Singapore products and for Indonesians to stop visiting Singapore, “all because we exercised our right to deny someone entering into Singapore”.
A social media user even threatened a 9/11-style attack on Singapore before his account was disabled, he said.
“Somad has publicly promoted extremist, divisive teachings … He has claimed that suicide bombing attacks are legitimate, and they are legitimate martyrdom operations. This kind of support for violence, in our view, is very dangerous,” Shanmugam said.
“He has labeled non-Muslims as ‘kafirs’ (infidels) – that’s most of you here, and most Singaporeans. He has preached that Muslims should not accept non-Muslims as their leaders, given that he says non-Muslims could conspire to oppress Muslims and, I quote, ‘slit their throats'. You consider that acceptable in Singapore?”
“If someone said this in Singapore, the Internal Security Department will be visiting him or her, and they will be behind bars. So the language, the rhetoric, as you can see, is very divisive – completely unacceptable in Singapore,” he said.
Shanmugam said Somad was denied entry for his divisive teachings, not his religion, and that he is not the only person not given an entry permit to Singapore.
“We take a zero-tolerance approach and even-handed approach towards any form of hate speech and divisive ideologies. And it is not directed at any specific individual, any specific religion, or any specific nationality. Our position applies equally to all,” he said.
In 2017, two foreign Christian preachers were banned from preaching in Singapore after making derogatory comments towards other religions, he said.
“In 2018, we banned an American Christian preacher, Lou Engle, from preaching in Singapore. He had also made derogatory comments about Islam,” Shanmugam said.