Minister Shanmugam was very clear during his speech in Parliament recently. Singapore will not tolerate religious preaching’s that encourages violence.
Singapore racial and religious harmony is fragile, but precious.
This comment came after a truncated video clip was uploaded on FB, showing an Imam allegedly reciting verses of the Quran which is hateful towards the Jews and the Christians.
The imam used the Arabic word “fanswurna” – which means “to overcome” or “to grant victory over” – when he spoke about Christians and Jews, a word the uploader said was problematic when used in relation to other religions.
There was some major pushback from the community, after the Minister made those comments, particularly because, the community knew the person who uploaded the video had a malicious agenda, and rejects mainstream Islam.
Mufti Fatris Bakaram was in a tough spot. He is an extremely important community resource for Muslims.
He knew, the nuances in those verses, just like the many others in the community. It’s a verse found in many passages in the Quran and Muslims all over the world commonly read as du’a (supplication) in their daily prayers.
Of course, religious texts must never be used to justify violence, discrimination, etc. But how do you tell people that they cannot read the meaning literally?
In today’s context, it is not enough to be a praticing Muslim, society expect them to be able to articulate their faith and practice well, and assure people that they are not radicals, fundamentalist, etc.
The Mufti knew we can’t just reject the verses in the Quran but neither can he assure Singaporeans that people will not misunderstand its meanings.
It didn’t help that, individuals were also calling all kind of hurtful things, using abusive language against the Mufti. Twisting his words, twisting the hearts of others.
This is where the wisdom of the Mufti came through.
In a time where people were quick to publish their thoughts and comments on FB to defend the Imam and to confront Terence, Mufti did what others should have done in the first place.
He paused and took a step back, to reflect.
He then suspended his FB account and went offline for a day.
He is only human, of course he gets angry and emotive, but he let the insults continue. Why add fuel to fire? Why reason when the heart is clouded with emotions?
He guarded his tongue, when it was easier to use his position, and knowledge to put down the detractors.
When people realised that he had gone offline, they speculated that perhaps the police had brought him in too, for questioning.
Many came forth, humbly offering their explanation, and reassuring the community that there is no need for such divisiveness, or to confront Terence.
Let him be, they said.
The Mufti returned online today.
He did not use harsh words to condemn anyone and his post was so soothing to read (in Malay) that I am sure, it calmed the fire, in many people hearts.
He humbly explained that, the issue had been blown out of proportion, that Singaporean Muslims have to be steadfast in their beliefs, reject using Islam and the Quran to justify aggression, and to be aware of the climate that we live in, to always be careful and to uphold the good name of Islam and the Muslim community.
He even stopped short of apologising, for the worry he caused when he went offline.
Such humility. Such etiquette from the Mufti of Singapore.
He made us feel so embarrassed, for jumping to conclusions.
Tuan Mufti, Singaporeans still have a lot more to learn about managing diversity, if only, we could all be a bit more like you.