'Nothing wrong' with Islamic cruises: S'pore asatizah
Local Islamic leader describes his experience on a religious-themed cruise
Religious-themed cruises such as the Islamic Cruises that made headlines here yesterday have "nothing wrong" with them, according to an accredited local asatizah, or Islamic leader, who has taken part in them.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, Ustaz Zulkiflee Bachik, who was invited to be a featured speaker at a similar cruise in September last year, spoke of his experience.
"What we did on the cruise was build rapport among the different Muslim travellers. We prayed together, had lectures together and then ate together while experiencing something good," said the 49-year-old.
"Nothing on the cruise touched on anything that was problematic or in a grey area."
On Monday, the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a press release that foreign preachers Ismail Menk of Zimbabwe and Malaysian Haslin Baharim have been banned from entering Singapore, after it learnt that they were engaged to preach at one such cruise that will depart and end in Singapore this month.
The preachers were previously barred from preaching in Singapore.
This 25th edition of the cruise, organised by Malaysian company Intratama Travel Consultant & Tours, is touted on its website as a five-day "spiritual voyage to Banda Aceh".
It is also advertised as "the most awaited cruise ever to Banda Aceh", highlighting events like on-board interaction with "world class" Islamic singers, documentary screenings and visits to different places in the Indonesian city.
When TNP tried to reach the organisers for a commentyesterday, the company's receptionist repeatedly said its manager was unavailable for contact.
Yesterday afternoon, Mr Menk announced on Facebook that he would not be joining the cruise "for reasons not within (his) control".
He also dismissed claims that he was getting around Singapore regulations by preaching on cruise ships.
Ustaz Zulkiflee, who was a featured guest on the 18th edition of the cruise that went around Malaysia, said the organisers had invited him to join the cruise.
"It is a highlight to get together to pray on the ship, in a different environment, and it allowed the attendees to build close relationships with one another," he said.
But not everyone agrees.
An Islamic scholar who did not want to be named told TNP that such cruises are mainly motivated by the desire to make money.
Said the scholar: "By getting someone popular in Islamic social media circles to attend, they will get more sign-ups and more profits.
"Often, the people who sign up for such cruises are in it to take pictures with these almost-celebrities, which is why they are featured so prominently in the advertisements."
In response to TNP queries, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) said it has "no input" with regard to religious-themed cruises.
Said a spokesman: "Muis' mandate is to ensure that Islamic instruction and guidance for the Singaporean Muslim community is appropriate and consistent with the Singaporean context and the values of the Singaporean Muslim Identity.
"This has been outlined in the code of ethics of the Mandatory Asatizah Recognition Scheme. "
Malaysia not banning preachers, says DPM Zahid
KUALA LUMPUR Malaysia's Home Affairs Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said yesterday that the country will not stop two Islamic preachers from speaking in public, following Singapore's move to bar the two men from entering the Republic.
Singapore on Monday barred Zimbabwean Ismail Menk and Malaysian Haslin Baharim as their hardline teachings ran counter to Singapore's multi-cultural and multi-religious values.
Dr Zahid, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister, said the duo has so far not caused any tensions among Malaysia's various religions or ethnic groups.
"So far, these two religious speakers have not suggested anything that goes against our understanding of cultural and religious diversity to the point of causing social, racial and religious tensions in Malaysia," he was quoted as saying by the Bernama news agency.
"Thus far, Malaysia is satisfied with what they are doing and does not intend to take similar action (as Singapore's) as they are not wrong in our eyes."
Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs said on Monday that the decision to bar them was made in consultation with the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), the Singapore Tourism Board and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore.
It said both men had been engaged to preach on a religious-themed cruise departing from Singapore on Nov 25 and returning on Nov 29. - THE STAR