Mr Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap: To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development and Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs (a) in the last 10 years, how many cases have been reported to the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) for contravention of Section 139 of the Administration of Muslim Law Act; (b) how many of these reported cases have been investigated; and (c) how many individuals have been charged and convicted.
Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs & Minister for Social and Family Development:
- It is critical that we do not allow false doctrines to be propagated within our community, especially if they threaten our socio-religious peace and harmony, and our way of life in Singapore.
- 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.
- We ensure that such false doctrines do not take root in our community, through a number of ways. Section 139 of the Administration of Muslim Law Act imposes criminal sanctions on those who promulgate false doctrines. However, any attempt to apply legislation to religious matters must be 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. The Office of the Mufti will 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).
- Since 2017, Muis has also made the ARS mandatory for all asatizah who wish to teach, so the public can be confident that recognised asatizah have the requisite religious knowledge. In order to qualify under the ARS, asatizah must not teach or publicly expound any doctrine or perform any ceremony or act relating to the Muslim religion in a manner contrary to Muslim law. 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).