On 16 May, Indonesian preacher Abdul Somad Batubara was denied entry into Singapore due to concerns over his teachings.
While he duly went back to Batam that same day, it seems he’s undeterred.
In fact, he has said he may try to visit Singapore again.
In a YouTube interview with Indonesian journalist Karni Ilyas posted on Wednesday (18 May), Somad explained why he wanted to visit Singapore.
He said his recent attempted visit here was for his wife and children to get to know their ancestors.
My grandmother has brothers, children and grandchildren who live in Singapore.
Somad also described Singapore as “Malay land”. This is similar to Riau, where he is from, he added.
Located just south of Singapore, the Riau Islands are a province of Indonesia that comprises some 1,796 islands, including Batam and Bintan.
The preacher also added that people in Riau see Singapore as part of their land.
That’s because Singapore was part of the Temasek Malay kingdom — way back in the 13th and 14th centuries.
Both Singapore and the Riau-Lingga archipelago were also part of the old Sultanate of Johor in the 16th century, according to BiblioAsia.
For the abovementioned reasons, Somad won’t give up trying to visit Singapore, he said in the interview, adding,
To say that I’m tired of going to Singapore is the same as saying I’m tired of going to Minangkabau.
The Minangkabau people are the largest ethnic group on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Their traditional homeland is in the west-central highlands of the island, according to Britannica.
Days after the interview with Somad, a protest was staged by his supporters in Jakarta and Medan.
The protest outside the Singapore embassy in Jakarta on Friday (20 May) afternoon lasted about two hours, reported Channel NewsAsia (CNA).
It was organised by the Islamic Sharia Ideology Defenders (Perisai), which condemned Singapore’s denial of entry to Somad.
In Medan, protesters from the Alliance of Islamic Organisations of North Sumatra gathered at a mosque and marched towards the Singapore consulate-general.
They wanted Singapore to be held accountable for “deporting” Somad, and carried banners with messages like “boycott Singapore products” and “expel Singapore ambassador”.
Upon the protesters’ request, Mr Richard Grosse, Singapore’s Consul-General in Medan, met Dr Hassan Maksum, the head of the Indonesian Ulema Council in Medan.
In a media statement on Saturday (21 May) in response to the protests, Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said they’d already set out our position on the matter in a previous statement on 17 May.
They also noted that a visitor’s entry into Singapore is “neither automatic nor a right”.
Instead, the ministry added,
Each case is assessed on its own merits.
Singapore’s Government also takes “a serious view” of anybody who advocates violence and/or espouses extremist and segregationist teachings.
MFA concluded that the situation at our overseas missions in Indonesia is being closely monitored.
The protests showed that Somad’s supporters weren’t content with just flooding the social media accounts of Singapore’s leaders, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
The backlash came after Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) cited the preacher’s “extremist and segregationist teachings” as the reason for denying him entry into Singapore.
He has also made disparaging comments about other faith communities in the past.
While everyone has freedom of religion in Singapore, we don’t tolerate any form of religious extremism.
That’s because we’re a multi-religious society, and we can’t afford to let anything threaten this harmony.
Thus, while Somad may have relatives in Singapore, he won’t be able to see them here.
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