Imam Nalla Mohamed Abdul Jameel Abdul Malik was convicted of committing an act prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious groups and was fined $4,000.
The Roman Catholic Church in Singapore has given the following responses to media queries on the incident:
Q: What does the Singapore Catholic Church think of this incident, which has happened in Singapore’s multi-religious society? What does it say about the importance of the religious teachings given out by the respective leaders?
A: Religious leaders are shepherds of their flock. The faithful look to them to interpret the tenets of faith, to lead and to guide them in making sense of this world and in living out the fullness of their religion. By virtue of the trust given them, leaders have a grave moral responsibility not only to impart good values by word and personal example, but also to set the tone for harmonious living, especially in multi-racial, multi-religious Singapore, where faith and life are often inseparable.
Peace is what every religion promotes, but peace cannot be won by conquest. It can only be realised when there is mutual respect and appreciation for each other’s differences and faith beliefs.
Religious leaders must also consider and weigh carefully what and how they speak on matters that affect other religions. If they are unschooled or unfamiliar with what other religions teach, they should keep to their own religions rather than comment on other religious beliefs and risk misinterpreting the beliefs of other religions.
Q: This case also garnered attention because someone captured a video of the imam uttering these words and uploaded it online. Does this mean religious leaders have to be more mindful than ever about what they preach today, why or why not?
A: Digital and social media are very useful tools that can be used to reach out to our congregations far beyond from the pulpit. However like all technology if used unwisely, there could be serious consequences. Religious teachers or any person in leadership should always be mindful that he or she has a responsibility to the audience that they address. History has taught us time and again how emotions can run high and out of control if a speaker knows how to manipulate an audience that is charged up or is looking for a reason to act in a certain way.
Because of the media, religious teachers must be conscious that they are no longer addressing just their believers but also to the world as well – since what they say could also be heard by others. Hence, they must be more cautious that even when they address their audience, they must not be seen as slighting other religions even as they teach their beliefs.
Q: How should the public react if they were to come across such content/videos?
A: The laws of the land are enacted to ensure harmonious living. But laws cannot achieve their end if they are not respected by the very people they seek to protect. We should all play our part so that all can enjoy the fruits of peace and harmony in our country.
Those who feel that a preacher has gone overboard should report to the authorities and not circulate the message on social media as it could rouse anger and resentment. We should leave it to the authorities to investigate before we make any sweeping conclusions.
We also must understand that some preachers lack prudence and are not intending to cause division. Not all are deliberately seeking to cause division among religions. They should be disciplined and warned.
Issued by: COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHDIOCESE OF SINGAPORE