Imam apologises for insensitive remarks, clarifies that remarks were not from Quran

SINGAPORE - The Islamic religious teacher who made controversial remarks about Christians and Jews has apologised for his actions.

In February, a video emerged online of an imam at Jamae Mosque who, after a sermon, reportedly recited a prayer in Arabic that said "God help us against Jews and Christians", among other things.

On Friday (March 31), Imam Nalla Mohamed Abdul Jameel, who made the remarks, apologised to a group of leaders of various religious groups, including those from the Christian faith, at a closed-door meeting organised at the Harmony in Diversity Gallery on Maxwell Road.

The gathering was organised at the imam's request.

"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," said the imam in a statement.

He said: "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.

"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," said the 47-year old religious teacher from India.

He clarified that the additional supplication he read, "God help us against Jews and Christians", was not from the Holy Quran, but was from an old Arabic text which originated from his village in India.

"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," he added.

The apology on Friday came about a month after Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said in Parliament that the police were investigating the imam as well as the actions of the parties involved, including those who filmed and publicised the video.

The video, which was posted by investment associate Terence Nunis, a Muslim, had sparked a storm in the Muslim community who felt it was taken out of context and cast them in a negative light.

The video gained traction online and offline, and the imam was placed on leave while the police investigated the video.

The episode prompted Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim to call for calm and unity. He had said in a Facebook post: "There is no space in Singapore for extremism or exclusivism because we uphold values of mutual respect and harmony. We utterly reject any speech or actions that foster ill will between communities. This is the Singapore way."

The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), which is assisting police in the investigations, also said this month there can be no room for discourse that promotes intolerance, enmity or violence against other communities.

Singapore's top Muslim leader, Mufti Fatris Bakaram, also said in a Facebook post this month that while the community holds fast to its faith, it has to ensure its religious texts are read appropriately and not misunderstood, as this would smear the good name of Islam and Muslims here.

Both Mr Shanmugam and Dr Yaacob, who is Communications and Information Minister, also stressed that while it was right to blow the whistle on wrongdoing, some sensitive matters may be better reported directly to the authorities rather than aired online.

This article was first published on Mar 31, 2017.
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