(Posted March 5, 2017, on the Facebook wall of ‘A Muslim Convert Once More’, timeline Feb. 24)
In the early months of 2017, MUIS, Singapore’s official religious monitor of the Islamic faith, was asleep at the wheel. It dropped its guard and overlooked a potentially troublemaking firebrand of an imam citing non-Quranic fiery verses in his sermon — verses that could well redound to discord among Muslims, Jews and Christians. Thankfully, a perceptive member within the flock exposed the imam in a video on his Facebook. Hats off to Mr. Nunis (aka A Muslim Convert Once More) whose timely action could well in fact be a stitch in time that saves nine. An official investigation is now underway.
The religious tranquility that has resonated down the decades since the nation’s Independence in multi-creed Singapore, could be attributed to the pro-active role of government, acting as referee to ensure not just fair play for all faiths but more importantly against any purportedly naughty foul plays.
The most recent example of religious foul play that got nipped in the bud was that of Amos Yee. But going back a little further to 2010, one would recall the controversy generated by Senior Pastor Rony Tan of the Lighthouse Church. Accordingly, Pastor Tan uttered mocking remarks about the Buddhist faith, in effect derogating it as pseudo-religion. That was enough to warrant ISD to step in to interview him which resulted in his subsequent issuance of a public apology for his faux pas. http://news.asiaone.com/News/the+Straits+Times/Story/A1Story20100209-197516.html
Faith practitioners much like competitors in sports, are naturally prejudiced against their opposite numbers. Occasionally, some overzealous ones though do get carried away and would even resort to foul play all in the name of winning for the team. It is all the more reason religion cannot simply be left to their own devices especially in a multi-religious society like Singapore.
Per Mr. Nunis’ Facebook revelation, the currently suspended imam, who is a foreign visiting cleric at Masjid Jamae on South Bridge Road, made incendiary remarks (in Arabic tongue no less) against so-called infidels (Jews and Christians) on 2 different occasions, the first going back almost 2 months on Jan. 6. http://www.todayonline.com/singapore/police-report-lodged-against-imam-alleged-offensive-remarks-jews-christians
Regrettably, all the while, MUIS the Government religious watchdog, was asleep at the wheel. But thanks to the responsive action of an enlightened, alert fellow citizen like Mr. Munis, the nation could rest a tad easier; the status quo of religious harmony here at home wasn’t compromised.
This is Terence Nunis here. That was from my father, a man who was vehemently opposed to my conversion to Islam, and it took years for him to even accept it. In his attempt to help his son, his inadvertently putting it on my Wall only exacerbated the situation. He got facts wrong, just like most people. He is an old man, with his own conditions, taking care of his wife of more than forty years, my mother, who is dying of Stage IV cancer, and is not expected to live out the year.When I converted to Islam, as far as he understood then, is that he lost a son. And now, with all the blatant untruths being happily passed around by the fashionably outraged, he thought he was going to lose his son again. I had to contact family and friends privately and tell them to let it go, and not defend me.As it is, after more than a decade of telling my parents that Islam is a wonderful religion, and hoping my mother would consider it in her last days, they saw racism and insults, people putting other converts in danger, dragging in the wider Eurasian and Christian community.Some members of the Muslim community want to argue that my reporting an untoward act makes the Muslims “look bad”. Their disgraceful behaviour, however, has done more to besmirch the reputation of the Muslims than any outright act of terrorism. As far as they see it, we have Muslims misbehaving, being excessively emotional, judgemental and even racist. Converts to Islam all over the world can see the anti-convert comments, damaging the reputation of Muslims in Singapore.In all that, two salient facts were either misreported or lost: that MUIS were informed and did nothing for more than six weeks before this act was repeated, and the offensive two lines are neither from the Qur’an nor the ahadits. So, even the simple task of reporting the truth is neglected.
Appreciate the pertinent background information you added to the thread. Briefly, a couple of follow-up comments:
1. Sorry to learn of yr mom’s terminal condition; hope you all will get to spend some quality moments together while time permits.
2. Personal inter-faith conversion has often proved to be a very thorny and touchy family matter; I’ve heard and read about what deep, enduring familial friction it brought. Trust yr dad will eventually, despite after such a long while, begin to reconcile with yr spiritual status quo through the appreciation of yr continued growth and positive contribution to your adopted faith .
3. In any religious setting, there are always extreme elements interspersed across the spectrum. It is heartening to note though, Southeast Asia has not turned out to be a hotbed of fundamentalism. Where Islam is concerned, in the world’s most populous Islamic nation in this region, there is encouraging evidence of moderation and tolerance — Ahok will likely be returned as the Christian mayor in the capital Jakarta this April notwithstanding the devious machinations of radical forces at work against his faith. And while the state of race/religion/politics in Malaysia can be tenuous, the fundamentalist outliers in that nation are by and large kept in check. As for the tiny red dot, the successful maintenance of harmonious co-existence among the various religions here is a feather in the government’s cap.
4. The current controversy issuing from the video should be resolved in yr favor barring any hitherto untold story. Despite the displeasure (to be expected naturally) of some fellow worshippers consequent on yr revelation, overall, the community at large clearly rallies behind what you did for good reason. Not that it really matters here, but I’m still a little unclear as to whether it was yr dad or you who posted the above video coupled with the commentary … what is this ‘it’ when you wrote about ‘his inadvertently putting it on my Wall’?
5. I passingly read yr critical comment on Wahhabism which you analogized it to being a hijack (my paraphrase) of the Vatican by Westboro Baptist Church. And if I may hazard to opine here, Muslims have reasons to begrudge Christians their Protestant movement of the 16th century courtesy of a Catholic renegade; the resultant Lutheran Reformation did profoundly help shape the growth and expansion of the Christian franchises the world over, reaping today the fruits of the largest faith following for its brand. Islam like most other major religions is based on the written text; all written words are subject to tendentious interpretations bar none. It’s always a regrettable phenomenon when a religion is held hostage by orthodox elements within. Wahhabism and Salafism are 2 examples of what may be termed reactionary strains within the faith that have arrested its growth as a universal religion; such fundamentalism has had not only ossified many an Islamic custom and institution for the worse but also has had radicalized its base towards violence globally. Alas, the state of Islam in the 21st century leaves much to be desired, ever beckoning and encoring the return of the likes of Atatürk to the world stage — IMHO.
Thank you very much for your kind words and consideration for my parents. I appreciate that.The video could not have been recorded by my father. He is not a Muslim and did not attend the prayers. It was recorded by a Muslim. Also, he would not know how to record it.All pertinent information and more has been Porto the authorities. I know you will understand that I cannot comment in depth on it. Nevertheless, I have faith in the system. And I have faith in our secular government.Wahhabism is less an analogy of Protestantism as a whole, and more that of a reactionary, literalist interpretation of the religion with elements of bigotry, misogyny and hate. It is the underlying ideology of every major Islamist terror group. It is not so much that they have ossified the religion as that they have taken it in the direction of engaging in perpetual war against “disbelievers”. You and I are “disbelievers”.
There was no set rate for jizyah, although historically, it was almost always lower than zakat. This meant that the non-Muslims paid less taxes than if they were under the Byzantines of Persians.
With regards zakat, there are two kinds of zakat: zakat al-fithrah, and zakat al-mal. The former is collected only at the end of Ramadhan, just before the prayer for ‘Iyd al-Fithr, or known locally as Aidilfitri. This zakat, charity tax, is to ensure the poor and destitute had food at the end of the fasting month. The price is equivalent to one staple meal.
Zakat al-mal, the zakat on wealth, is from the savings and excess. One fortieth of this tithe is taken, as long as the excess was above a specific amount known as the nisab, and there for at least a year, the period known as the hawl.
The tithe is distributed to the poor, the destitute, the stranded travellers, used for the emancipation of those in bondage, the ones who collect and distribute the zakat, the debtors, the seekers of truth, and those traveling in the way of God.
In Singapore, zakat may be paid to MUIS or its designated collectors, or one may give directly to those in need.
A Muslim Convert Once More As a former Catholic theologian, I was never impressed with Protestantism. The way I look at it, people like Luther and Calvin took something nuanced and made it simplistic. The only good that really came out of the Reformative was the Counter-Reformation.
I take theology seriously, and I have sat in Bible study groups by Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists and others. These people interpret the Bible according to their whims and fancies, calling it being “moved by the spirit”; I prefer a scientific approach. That is why I read it in Koine Greek, Latin and Hebrew. There has to be a historical context to everything.
In the same vein, I have a very dim. Jew of Muslim Reformation and its bastard child, Wahhabism. I am extremely hostile to the Wahhabi sect. It is not a coincidence that every major terrorist group and every attack is perpetrated by this heretical sect. We eliminate Wahhabism, by destroying, banning its literature and proscribing its preachers, and we have addressed more than 90% of “Muslim” terrorism.
April 8, 2017