Maintaining Racial and Religious Harmony

Singapore is a multi-racial and multi-religious society. Therefore, racial and religious harmony is vital for Singapore’s social cohesion. This harmony does not come naturally – we need to take the effort to build trust, and acceptance between different races and religions, and protect the common space that we have.

Through our legal framework comprising laws such as the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act (MRHA) and Penal Code, as well as partnerships and engagements with various stakeholders and the community, we will continue to ensure harmony, peace and security in our multi-racial, multi-religious society.


Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) takes a strong stance against threats to Singapore’s race and religious harmony. Legislation, such as the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act, introduce powers that would allow pre-emptive action to be taken to maintain religious harmony in Singapore.

The Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act (MRHA) was enacted in 1990 to provide for powers to maintain religious harmony in Singapore.

It is based on two principles:

  1. Followers of different religions should exercise moderation and tolerance towards each other and their beliefs, and not instigate religious enmity or hatred

  2. Religion and politics should be kept separate

These principles remain relevant today. The MRHA was updated on 7 October 2019 to help MHA respond more effectively to incidents of religious disharmony, and strengthen our safeguards against foreign influence that threaten our religious harmony.

Here are the four key amendments to the MHRA:

To safeguard our religious groups[1] against malicious foreign influence that affect religious harmony, religious groups will be required to comply with the following requirements:

Leadership Composition

Key administrative leadership positions[2] must be held by a Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident, and the majority of the governing body has to be Singapore Citizens. The requirement does not apply to spiritual leaders who are foreigners, and do not hold key administrative leadership positions. MHA will consider request for exemptions on a case-by-case basis.

[1] Religious groups include registered societies, companies, partnerships, or any other body of persons that promotes religion or religious worship, or deals with religious affairs of the practice, conduct, teaching or propagation of any religious beliefs.

[2] If the religious group is a company, the key leadership requirements will be imposed on the persons in the entity that hold positions analogous to the President, Secretary, and Treasurer, such as the Chairman, Managing Director, and Company Secretary. If a religious group is a partnership, they would be the partners of the partnership.

Donations and Foreign Affliations

Religious groups can still accept donations from foreign sources. However, there will be disclosure requirements. Single monetary donations of S$10,000 or more from foreign sources must be declared.

Donations from the following foreign sources do not need to be declared, even if it is S$10,000 or more:

  • Singapore Permanent Residents;
  • Foreigners residing in Singapore on valid Employment passes or Immigration Passes issued by the relevant authorities in Singapore;
  • Anonymous donations received through donation boxes placed at religious sites;
  • Proceeds collected during collective worship or religious rites/ceremonies;
  • Non-cash donations (such as statues or ritual items); and
  • Zakat and Fitrah.

Where there is foreign influence in the religious group which undermines religious harmony and is a threat to Singapore’s peace, Restraining Orders (ROs) can be issued to religious groups to stop them from receiving donations from foreign sources, or impose further leadership requirements.

Religious groups must declare any affiliations to foreign persons or organisations in a position of control or power over the local religious group. This is purely disclosure, and the RO will not be able to compel religious groups to dissociate from their foreign affiliations.


If someone has hurt the feelings of another religious community, the Community Remedial Initiative (CRI) allows them to make amends to the affected community and learn more about our multi-religious society.

Under the CRI, the Minister for Home Affairs may offer a person who has wounded the feelings of another religious community an opportunity to perform activities to help him better understand the affected religious community, and mend ties with them. Examples of remedial actions may include a public or private apology to the aggrieved parties, or participation in inter-religious events.

The CRI is not mandatory. The alleged offender can refuse to take up this offer, and the non-completion or refusal of the CRI will not be a criminal offence. At the same time, if the offender agrees to complete the remedial actions and does so, the Minister undertakes not to refer this case for criminal prosecution.

With the Internet, offensive content can circulate much faster and wider. The updated Restraining Order (RO) will swiftly and effectively respond to offensive online content that might cause widespread religious disharmony.

Firstly, the scope of the RO is expanded to require the offender to remove the offensive online content.

Secondly, the 14-day notice period for the issuance of ROs is removed.

The safeguards remain unchanged. The individual on which the RO is served, and the religious group which the individual belongs to, will still be able to make representations to the Presidential Council for Religious Harmony (PCRH). The RO will still be reviewed by the PCRH, and the President will still have the powers to confirm, cancel or vary the RO.


Previously, both the Penal Code and the MRHA had provisions that safeguard religious harmony. With MRHA as the comprehensive act to safeguard religious harmony, the Penal Code offences that pertain to religion were consolidated under the MRHA.

The offences will cover acts that:

  • Urge force or violence on the basis of religion, or against a religious group or its members;
  • Incite feelings of enmity, hatred, ill-will or hostility against a religious group; and
  • Insult the religion or wound the religious feelings of another person.


Registry of Foreign and Political Disclosures

The Registry of Foreign and Political Disclosures (RFPD) administers the new reporting requirements under the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act (MRHA). The role of RFPD is to ensure that local religious groups meet the statutory requirements and hence, safeguarding against malicious foreign influence undermining religious harmony in Singapore.  For more information on RFPD and its e-services, you may wish to visit MHA e-Services.

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