Singapore denies entry to two foreign Christian preachers over 'inflammatory' religious comments

Singapore has denied entry to two foreign Christian preachers who sought short-term work permits to speak in the Southeast Asian country because of previous "inflammatory" comments they made about other religions.

(REUTERS / Ray Stubblebine)K. Shanmugam, minister of foreign affairs of Singapore, addresses the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York September 28, 2013.

In a statement, Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs said the two Christian preachers' application for short-term work passes were denied because of previous "denigrating and inflammatory comments of other religions." One of them called Allah "a false god" and described Buddhists as "lost, lifeless, confused and spiritually barren," The Straits Times relayed.

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam also discussed the cases during a forum on Sept. 8 and explained that the government uses the same approach to all religions. The Straits Times has learned that one of the banned preachers is American Dutch Sheets.

"Just as I have banned Muslim scholars or preachers from coming into Singapore, the most recent banning has been (for) Christian preachers," said Shanmugam. "They were very Islamophobic in their statements outside of Singapore, and we decided we will ban them."

The MHA said the teachings of the two banned preachers were unacceptable in Singapore's multiracial and multi-religious society as they would harm the country's cohesion. Moreover, the ministry said approval of the Miscellaneous Work Passes was considered a privilege for foreigners.

Meanwhile, Shanmugam said the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act of Singapore would be tightened the following year to prohibit religious leaders from spreading hatred and offending those of other faiths, Today Online reported.

Shanmugam highlighted the danger that religious leaders posed when their teachings enter the political sphere. He said the burning of religious texts happen in the U.S. and their countries but was not allowed in Singapore.

Aside from that, Shanmugam warned people who plan to burn religious texts or offend other races or religion not to do it in Singapore or else they would be arrested. While the South Asian country has drawn criticism for its strict laws, the minister said the government will continue defending these regulations.