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The Imam with religious leaders
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Singaporean imam questioned over anti-Semitic comments
In Singapore, racism is not dealt with kid gloves; this was proven by the authorities after an imam, who spoke against Jews and Christians, was required to report to the local synagogue and apologize profusely.
Representatives of all religions in the country arrived Sunday at the Magen Avot Synagogue of Rabbi Mordechai Abergel, the island's chief rabbi, to hear a Muslim imam apologizing for anti-Semitic remarks. The court handed down his sentence on Monday: a $4,000 fine.

 

 

For a month now the affair has been stirring up the small yet influential republic. It began in February, after a video clip showing the Muslim Imam Nullah Muhammad Abdul Jamil, praying and saying, "Allah will help us against the Jews and the Christians." The video soon became viral.

 

Rabbi Abergel with the Imam (Photo: The Straits Times)
Rabbi Abergel with the Imam (Photo: The Straits Times)

 

But while in Israel such an expression would have stirred some light public protest, in a country where spitting out gum incurrs a heavy fine—the religious leader's harsh statement could not be overlooked: the police announced opening a criminal investigation, and Buddhist, Christian and Muslim clerics held a meeting with the senior members of the Jewish community.

 

Jamil was forced to publicly state: "I am remorseful for the inconvenience, the tension, and the trauma that I caused to this peaceful country." He also made it clear to the synagogue and media that his statements against the Jews and the Christians were not a quoted from the Quran, but rather from "an ancient text originating in India, in the village from which he came to Singapore."

 

The event was published in the last few days with great prominence in the local media. The widely distributed Singaporean newspaper Straits Times reported that the 47-year-old Muslim leader had made it unequivocally clear that he understood he must practice his faith according to Singapore's social norms and rules.

 

Yakoub Ibrahim, the Minister for Muslim Affairs, stated that the apology was clearly accepted by leaders of all religions in Singapore, including Muslims. But the story did not end with that: the authorities made it clear that they perceived the incident very seriously. The police announced that they had completed the investigation and transferred the material to the justice system, where it would be decided whether to prosecute the Imam.

 

At the same time, the authorities are considering deporting Jamil from a country with a predominantly Buddhist population, while Christians and Muslims make up a small minority of about 15 percent. Incidentally, the Jewish community is particularly small, with only 1,500 people, in a country with a population of about 4.5 million.

 

Singapore's Chief Rabbi Mordechai Abergil refused to comment on the affair. "This is sensitive in some respects, both on the side of the authorities and on the side of the community. The story is well known in Singapore. He asked for forgiveness, and one must read between the lines," he said.

 

(Translated and edited by N. Elias)

 

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