SINGAPORE: An imam under police investigation for allegedly making remarks against Christians and Jews during his Friday sermon at a mosque has apologised, saying he is “filled with great remorse” and stressing that the supplication was not an extract from the Quran.
His lawyer Noor Marican said Imam Nalla Mohamed Abdul Jameel made the apology at the Harmony in Diversity Gallery at Maxwell Road on Friday morning (Mar 31), in front of Christian, Sikh, Taoist, Buddhist, Hindu representatives, as well as members of the Federation of Indian Muslims.
A transcript of his apology is as follows:
TO ALL SINGAPOREANS.
I AM FILLED WITH GREAT REMORSE FOR THE INCONVENIENCE, TENSION AND TRAUMA THAT I HAVE CAUSED TO THIS PEACEFUL COUNTRY.
MY ACTIONS WERE NOT COMPLEMENTARY TO THE ETHOS AND ESSENCE OF THIS YOUNG YET GREAT NATION.
WHAT I DID, WAS DONE WITHIN THE LIMITATIONS OF MY PERSONAL EXPOSURE AND ADAPTABILITY. I HAD RECITED THE ADDITIONAL SUPPLICATION IN ARABIC, WHICH WAS TAKEN FROM AN OLD TEXT THAT ORIGINATED FROM MY VILLAGE IN INDIA. IT WAS NOT AN EXTRACT FROM THE HOLY QURAN.
AS A RESIDENT HERE FROM A FOREIGN LAND, I SHOULD HAVE PRACTISED MY FAITH IN ACCORDANCE WITH, AND APPROPRIATE TO, THE SOCIAL NORMS AND LAWS OF THIS COUNTRY. I FULLY ADMIT THAT MY SAID ACTIONS HAVE NO PLACE, WHERESOEVER, IN THIS EXTREMELY MULTI-RELIGIOUS AND MULTI-CULTURAL SOCIETY.
THIS EPISODE HAS EDUCATED AND ENLIGHTENED ME, AND I AM DEEPLY THANKFUL TO GOD FOR THIS REALISATION. I AM ALSO VERY RELIEVED THAT THE SOCIETY HAS REMAINED CALM. I AM GLAD THAT THE POLICE HAD GIVEN ME THE FULL OPPORTUNITY TO EXPLAIN MYSELF DURING THE INVESTIGATIONS.
I FULLY RESPECT THE LAWS OF THE LAND AND APPRECIATE THE CONCERNS OF HER PEOPLE. I AM TRULY SORRY THAT I HAD OFFENDED YOU, AND I MUST BEAR FULL RESPONSIBILITY FOR MY ACTIONS, AS PART OF MY DUTY TO ALL SINGAPOREANS AND RESIDENTS.
In response to media queries, the Ministry of Home Affairs said: “We note the apology. It is not appropriate to comment at this juncture because investigations are not finalised.”
The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) acknowledged the imam’s apology as well, but also did not want to comment further, until after investigations are concluded. It had said in a statement last month that “there can be no room for discourse that promotes intolerance, enmity or violence against other communities”.
APOLOGY COULD BE STRONG MITIGATION FACTOR: LAWYERS
Lawyers Channel NewsAsia spoke to said that the imam’s apology could be a strong mitigation factor if the case is brought before a court.
Mdm Halijah Mohammad, from Halijah Mohamad and Company, said: “Legally, he could still face charges based on the Racial Harmony Act and Sedition Act, but the apology could be the difference between him getting a jail term and being fined. It shows he is remorseful of his transgressions.”
Another lawyer, Abdul Rohim Sarip, from A Rohim, Noor Lila and Partners, agreed saying the apology might help the imam “a great deal”. “His apology will factor in to what punishment he gets. There is also the possibility that the police will not pursue the matter further – in which case the apology is the end of it.“
Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam had said in Parliament religious preaching that encourages violence or pits one religion against another will not be tolerated in Singapore.
Video of the imam’s remarks uploaded to social media sparked widespread debate, with some criticising the uploader for whipping up tensions between religious groups, and others saying he was right in bringing the matter to light.
Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim had called for calm in the Muslim community and said “on such sensitive matters, it would be better to go to the authorities in the first instance, rather than online”.