Some supporters of Indonesian preacher Abdul Somad Batubara have made threats against Singapore that linked the 9/11 attacks against the city-state, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam told reporters today (May 23).
Somad, along with his six travel companions, were denied entry into Singapore on May 16 and sent back on a ferry when they arrived at the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal from Batam.
Since then, Somad’s supporters have staged protests in Indonesia criticising Singapore’s decision to ban Somad from the country. His supporters have also left spam messages on the social media accounts of Singapore’s political office holders.
One comment threatened to attack Singapore “like 9/11 in New York 2001”
Shanmugam cited one example of a comment made on one of Meta’s social media platforms that demanded an apology from Singapore’s leaders.
It gave 48 hours for an apology to be made, failing which, a threat was made to expel Singapore’s ambassador in Indonesia from the country.
The comment also threatened to “send Islamic Defender Troops, Prosperous Justice Troops and Ulama Defender Troops to attack your country like 9/11 in New York 2001”, and to expel Singaporeans in Indonesia.
Shanmugam said Meta has since removed the comment and disabled the account for violating community standards.
He also highlighted other comments, some which called for Singapore to be “bombed” and “destroyed”.
Shanmugam also said that two events management companies were targeted, and had their websites defaced — something that the Ministry of Communications and Information previously mentioned.
In response to media queries, Shanmugam said that the threats should not be dismissed “completely”.
“Parallels have been drawn with 9/11, parallels are being drawn with Singaporeans being led by non-Islamic leaders, and that Singapore should be attacked, Singaporean interest should be attacked,” he added.
17-year-old detained under ISA had watched Somad’s lectures
Shanmugam also revealed that some of the people that the Internal Security Department (ISD) had investigated in Singapore for radicalisation had watched Somad’s videos and followed his preachings.
He said one of them was a 17-year-old boy who was detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in January 2020.
The boy had apparently watched Somad’s YouTube lectures on suicide bombing, and believed that if he fought for ISIS and was a suicide bomber, he would die a martyr and receive rewards in heaven.
“So you can see, Somad's preachings have real world consequences,” said Shanmugam.
The minister said Somad’s public teachings were “extremist”, “divisive” and “completely unacceptable in Singapore”.
According to Shanmugam, Somad has claimed that suicide bombings attacks are legitimate, has labelled non-Muslims as infidels, that Muslims should not accept non-Muslims as leaders and that Muslims should conspire to oppress non-Muslims and “slit their throats”.
“Racial, religious harmony, we consider fundamental to our society and most Singaporeans accept that,” Shanmugam added.
Somad using denied entry into Singapore for “maximum” publicity
Sharing his perspective, Shanmugam said Somad’s denied entry into Singapore had given him publicity.
“So he is making maximum use of the publicity and he is now, in my view, engaging in more publicity stunts,” he added.
In a YouTube video posted on May 18, Somad said he will not give up trying to visit Singapore.
In that same video, he claimed that Singapore was “Malay land” as it was part of the Temasek Malay Kingdom, making Singapore “similar” to Riau, where he is from.
Shanmugam said that according to Somad, Singapore’s sovereignty was “irrelevant” and it was “not a separate country”.
Shanmugam said that Somad’s comments has “riled up” his supporters in Indonesia.
“His supporters have called for cyberattacks on Singapore, on Government websites, social media accounts, boycott of Singapore products, and for Indonesians to stop visiting Singapore, all because we exercised our right to deny someone entering into Singapore,” he added.
Singapore’s zero-tolerance approach towards divisive ideologies “applies equally to all”
Shanmugam also recognised the Indonesian government’s “very proper” response that it is up to Singapore to decide who can enter the country.
He also expressed his gratitude to the “many Indonesians” who have defended Singapore’s actions.
Shanmugam reiterated that Singapore takes a “zero-tolerance approach and even-handed approach towards any form of hate speech and divisive ideologies” and it is not directed “at any specific individual, or any specific religion, or any specific nationality”.
“Our position applies equally to all,” he added.
He highlighted how Singapore had banned two foreign Christian preachers from preaching in Singapore in 2017, as they had made derogatory comments towards other religions.
In 2018, Singapore also banned American Christian preacher Lou Engle from preaching in Singapore, as he had also made derogatory comments about Islam.
“We will not allow persons like Somad any opportunity to build up a local following or engage in activities that threatens our security and communal harmony,” he added.
Shanmugam also found it “very interesting” that Singapore was not the only place that Somad had been denied entry.
He pointed out that Somad was denied entry into Hong Kong, Timor Leste, and several other European countries, such as the U.K., Germany and Switzerland.
“I wonder if Somad's supporters also threatened China, because he was refused entry into Hong Kong, and threatened the other European countries? Or is it only that Singapore gets special mention and they are brave enough to threaten Singapore, but not the others?”, Shanmugam added.
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Top photos via @ustadzadbdulsomad/Instagram and K Shanmugam Sc/Facebook
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