Dr Wan Rizal: To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development and Minister-in-charge for Muslim Affairs what are the deciding factors in prosecuting individuals who are found to be practising and spreading deviant teachings under Section 139 of the Administration of Muslim Law Act.
Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs & Minister for Social and Family Development:
- Muis takes a very serious view on the propagation of false doctrine, especially if it threatens our socio-religious peace and harmony, and our way of life in Singapore. At the sitting on 4 January 2021, I addressed the matter of how Muis adopts a multi-pronged approach to counter individuals spreading deviant teachings in the name of Islam.
- To recap, Section 139 of the Administration of Muslim Law Act (AMLA) imposes criminal sanctions on those who propagate false doctrines. Any attempt to apply legislation to religious matters is carefully considered. As this is a religious matter, the Office of the Mufti and the Fatwa Committee are first consulted in dealing with such matters. Thus far, the religious authorities have advised that other approaches be adopted first, such as beginning with counselling, depending on the severity of the situation. If the perpetrators responsible for sharing false doctrines are registered under Asatizah Recognition Scheme (ARS), the Asatizah Recognition Board may cancel their ARS recognition. All ARS asatizah are also required to regularly upgrade and update their religious knowledge, and their suitability for accreditation is periodically reviewed. If they are unfit to be asatizah, such as if they breach the Code of Ethics, their ARS status will be suspended or cancelled. Therefore, Muslims should seek religious guidance only from ARS-recognised asatizah; the list of which can also be found on the Muis website (https://www.muis.gov.sg/ARS-and-IECP/ARS/ARS-certified-Teachers).
- The Office of the Mufti will also continually remind Muslims in Singapore against erroneous teachings and misinformation through Friday sermons as well as coverage in mainstream news (both print, broadcast and digital). Muis also publishes fatwas on the Muis’ website (https://www.muis.gov.sg/officeofthemufti/Fatwa).
- In the last ten years, Muis has received five complaints about individuals allegedly promulgating false doctrines. Any purported evidence of deviant teaching received by Muis is presented to the Fatwa Committee to assess whether the allegations of false doctrine are true. Muis and the Fatwa Committee investigated and addressed all of the complaints through the combination of issuing fatwas, counselling, and public education. Should there be a case where the propagation of false doctrine is egregious, for example, if the person spreading the false doctrine is recalcitrant even after counselling, then Muis may file a police report under Section 139 of AMLA. If a police report is lodged, Police will investigate the case accordingly based on the facts of the case and consult Muis on the religious matters entailed.