Wuhan virus: Shanmugam rails against racist Facebook post made by local religious teacher

PHOTO: Reuters

In times of crisis, some people let their inner bigot out and blame an entire group of people for the calamity. 

It’s been clear over the past few weeks that the ongoing Wuhan coronavirus outbreak has allowed another kind of plague to spread alongside at just the same rate: racism. 

Minister of Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam isn’t letting any of that run freely. In a Facebook post this morning (Feb 7), with the number of confirmed infection cases hitting 30, the minister railed against xenophobia expressed online — particularly the racist views of a local Islamic religious teacher. 

Outing the man’s name in full (Abdul Halim bin Abdul Karim), Shanmugam denounced the “unacceptable” comments he made against Chinese people. As reported by Fathership.co, the religious teacher accused the Chinese of not being as hygienic as Muslims, implying that the coronavirus came from China because its people don’t wash up thoroughly after defecating. 

[Coronavirus , Abdul Halim and his racist , xenophobic post] I said on Sunday that the response of Singaporeans to the...

Posted by K Shanmugam Sc on Thursday, February 6, 2020

While that particular post can only be seen by his own network, he followed up with another Facebook post — this time a public one. In it, he affirms his belief that the coronavirus outbreak in China is punishment by God for “their oppressive treatment of the Muslim Uighurs”. 

“To me the retribution is clear, as clear as the Qur'an has narrated about all the earlier retributions and punishments that Allah has rained down upon the people of Ad, Thamud, the followers of Firaun and so many others as a warning for all people, Muslims and non-Muslims,” Abdul ranted. 

Sad to say that several people agreed with his sentiments. 

Taken to task

Citing past incidents where the government took action against racial attacks — regardless of the race being targeted — Shanmugam assured that the Ministry of Home Affairs is looking into Abdul’s post. 

“We took action because if such comments are normalised, with regular attacks along racial lines, then inter-racial relations will worsen – and the minorities will in fact be worse off,” he wrote. 

Nonetheless, the minister pointed out that such provocations are exhibited by minor segments of each community. He praised other local Islamic organisations and religious teachers for speaking out against racism and xenophobia in the midst of the evolving coronavirus situation. 

“Now is not the time to blame anyone, or to look it as a punishment or retribution to specific nation or race — now the virus is already at our doorstep, blaming or reflecting the outbreak at this moment could delay the valuable help,” wrote Singaporean religious teacher Mohamad Ghouse Khan Surattee on Facebook. 

In this recent virus breakout , I would like to remind myself and also to my friends that this virus outbreak should be...

Posted by Mohamad Ghouse Khan Surattee on Wednesday, February 5, 2020

ilyas@asiaone.com