Coronavirus: Even private remarks that hurt racial feelings are uncalled for, says Masagos

Making remarks which hurt the religious or racial feelings of any community is uncalled for even if done privately, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli said yesterday.

Referring to recent online posts by religious teacher Abdul Halim Abdul Karim, Mr Masagos told The Sunday Times the Government is serious in dealing with hate speech.

Mr Abdul Halim wrote in a Facebook post on Jan 29 that the coronavirus was retribution by Allah against the Chinese for their oppressive treatment of Muslim Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang province. He said in a separate post that Chinese people are not as hygienic as Muslims.

The religious teacher has apologised on Facebook for his remarks, which he said were never intended to be made public, even as the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) are investigating the matter.

Mr Masagos was speaking to The Sunday Times after delivering the opening speech at the inaugural M3 Forum held at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The forum was organised by self-help group Mendaki, Muis and the People’s Association Malay Activity Executive Committees Council to discuss ways to improve on services to the Malay/Muslim community.

Mr Masagos, who is also Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, told The Sunday Times that enhanced measures have been taken by the National Environment Agency since the outbreak alert status was raised to orange.

“Ultimately, maintaining cleanliness and hygiene is everyone’s responsibility,” Mr Masagos said. “We should not just be maintaining good hygiene standards in a crisis.”

At a separate event at the National Library yesterday, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said that while enhanced measures at schools may affect learning, online resources and smaller classes might be used to make up for any shortfall.

Last Friday, the Ministry of Education announced measures such as suspending inter-school activities and external activities until the end of the March school holidays.

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