Protests over NUS don's Facebook post

SINGAPORE - A Malay Studies academic at the National University of Singapore (NUS) has drawn protests for referring to lesbianism as "cancers" and "diseases", sparking concern from the university.

Associate Professor Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied from the NUS Department of Malay Studies posted a note on his Facebook page two weeks ago to outline his take on liberal Islam, which, he noted, is now supporting the lesbian movement.

He urged scholars and religious teachers to speak up against progressive Islam ideologies and practices such as lesbianism.

Parents and school teachers "must detect early signs of waywardness from their children and students", he wrote.

"All social diseases must end at home, if not, in schools," he added.

He ended by saying: "Together, we will stop these cancers in their tracks."

His comments drew fire from three past and present NUS students, who posted a letter of protest on Facebook on Thursday.

Prof Khairudin's note reflected "hostility towards sexual minorities, and which we believe is unbecoming of a university professor", they said.

The trio - political science graduate student Benjamin Seet, political science and philosophy undergraduate Khairulanwar Zaini and former NUS law student Melissa Tsang - took issue with Prof Khairudin for using words like "cancers".

They said it is "tantamount to hate speech".

They called for him to withdraw his statements, apologise and to go for counselling to gain an understanding of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.

They also had more than 150 signatures in support of their actions as of Friday.

The Straits Times understands that the letter writers will meet faculty members from the NUS arts faculty today.

Prof Khairudin amended his post to remove the offending words by Thursday afternoon.

When contacted, he said NUS will issue a statement and he did not have comments to add.

The controversy comes amid an ongoing debate over a sexuality advisory posted online by the Health Promotion Board.

It drew flak from several religious groups for seemingly normalising gay relationships.

An NUS spokesman said it is reaching out to the letter writers and Prof Khairudin "to better understand the concerns and to help address the issues at hand".

"We appreciate that there will always be a diversity of perspectives surrounding issues that are complex and multifaceted.

"We hope that such conversations will remain respectful and sensitive at all times," she added.

While the Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Association said Islam prohibits homosexuality, its executive director Mohammad Yusri Yubhi Yusoff said it also frowns upon the use of insults on those who have committed a forbidden act.

Instead, Islam "encourages Muslims to engage instead of ostracising them", he said.

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