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.
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:
Followers of different religions should exercise moderation and tolerance towards each other and their beliefs, and not instigate religious enmity or hatred
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 organisations against malicious foreign influence that affect religious harmony, religious groups will be required to comply with the following requirements.
Key administrative leadership positions must be held by a Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident. Spiritual leaders can still be foreigners. MHA will consider requests for exemptions on a case-by-case basis.
Religious groups can still accept donations from foreign sources. However, they must declare single monetary donations of $10,000 or more from foreign sources.
Donations from the following foreign sources do not need to be declared, even if it is $10,000 or more:
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 the person 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. It will not be a criminal offence for the alleged offender to refuse or fail to complete the CRI. At the same time, if the offender completes the remedial actions, the Minister undertakes not to refer this case for criminal prosecution.
With the Internet, offensive content can circulate much faster and wider. We have updated the RO to swiftly and effectively respond to offensive online content that might cause widespread religious disharmony.
The safeguards remain unchanged:
Currently, both the Penal Code and the MRHA have provisions that safeguard religious harmony. To make the MRHA the comprehensive act to safeguard religious harmony, the Penal Code offences that pertain to religion will be consolidated under the MRHA.
The offences will cover acts that:
Besides the offences pertaining to religion in the MRHA, it is also an offence under the Penal Code to:
The Penal Code also provides powers for the courts to sentence an offender to enhanced punishment if a person is convicted of a specified offence, which is racially or religiously aggravated.
Download the MRHA infographic (.pdf, 469KB)
For more information on the MRHA, read:
View speeches on race and religion in Singapore:
View surveys on race and religion in Singapore: