Mr Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs what are the processes involved before the Ministry decides to ban a foreign religious preacher from entering Singapore.
Mr Zaqy Mohamad: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) whether the criteria used in banning foreign preachers of different faiths take into account the location and environment in which their speeches justifying their bans were made; (b) whether these views have been or would have been applied to their sermons in Singapore; (c) what is the estimated number of congregants who follow the banned preachers; and (d) whether the Ministry finds the move effective given that their speeches and sermons are still pervasive through other mediums such as the Internet.
Sir, please allow me to take questions 6 and 7 together.
- We hold a clear position on the preaching of intolerance and we do not allow any teachings that seek to divide our society along religious lines.
- Second, we should also be clear that a foreigner's entry into Singapore is neither automatic nor a right. It is a privilege. It will only be granted if we assess that his entry will not harm Singapore's interests. So in this context, a foreigner who wants to deliver a talk in Singapore, if the talk is related to religion, race or politics, he has to obtain a Miscellaneous Work Pass (MWP) from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), because the issues are sensitive. MOM will consult other agencies in its assessment of MWP applications, and each application is assessed on its own merits, through a process.
- From a security perspective, one of the principles is that the foreigner should not have antecedents of radical preachings and teachings. For example, if he has advocated violence, or promoted segregationist and intolerant teachings that are inimical to our multi-racial, multi-religious society, he will not be allowed in.
- It is not material whether their previous comments were made in relation to Singapore, or whether they intend to touch on these issues when they speak here. If they hold those views that are inappropriate and unacceptable in our context, then it is not in our national interest to give them a platform in Singapore, whether to propagate their teachings or to build up their followings.
- It is also not material to consider how large their following is in Singapore. We should be concerned if even a small number in Singapore take in their radical, intolerant or segregationist teachings. We should not allow them to preach or speak here to spread these viewpoints among Singaporeans, and build up anger among the different faiths.
- Mr Zaqy Mohamad asked about the effectiveness of banning such foreigners given the accessibility of digital platforms.
- There are obviously limits to the extent to which we can prevent access to such content, in particular through the Internet. But this does not mean that we should make it even easier for such foreigners to spread their views more directly and personally to Singaporeans, and build a following here, by allowing them to come into Singapore and giving them a physical platform. Preaching and grandstanding live and in person, is quite different a proposition from doing so on the Internet.