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Protests at Singapore’s embassy in Jakarta, consulate-general in Medan over decision to deny entry to preacher: Reports


JAKARTA: Protests were held at the Singapore embassy in Jakarta and the Singapore consulate-general in Medan on Friday (May 20), after Indonesian preacher Abdul Somad Batubara was denied entry to the country and sent back to Batam earlier in the week.

According to Indonesian media outlet Detik, the protest in front of the embassy started around 2.20pm (local time) with protesters carrying the Indonesian flag and handing out pamphlets.

The protestors, who are members of the the Islamic Sharia Ideology Defenders (Perisai) called for condemnation of Singapore’s decision to deny entry to the preacher.

They also demanded for the Singapore embassy in Jakarta to provide a clarification over the incident and to apologise openly. The group also called for Singapore’s ambassador to Indonesia to be asked to leave the country.

Local district police chief Agung Permana reportedly said 50 officers were deployed to maintain order.

Protesters continued to demonstrate despite the rain. They disbanded around 4.10pm (local time), according to the Detik report.

"The actions by Singapore suggest that they are openly accusing Somad of being a radical. Somad is accused by Singapore of being a terrorist,” a protester Muhammad Saleh was reported as saying by Detik.

Over in Medan, CNN Indonesia reported that the protesters, who are members of the Alliance of Islamic Organisations of North Sumatra, carried varying banners, including some indicating that the Singapore ambassador to Jakarta should be expelled.

A representative from the group reportedly said that Singapore’s decision had hurt the feelings of Muslims and affected Indonesia’s sovereignty.

"We are a big country. Singapore is a small country. (Both) should stand upright together," he reportedly said.

"He is not a criminal. In fact, he is quote and unquote, a high-class citizen because he is an intellectual … Everything he said is based on strong academic grounds. Don't let assumptions make someone to be treated unfairly," he added, according to CNN Indonesia.

Medan police chief Valentino Alfa Tatareda told CNA that the protest was peaceful and attended by around 100 people.

“We didn't deploy that many officers to safeguard the protest. There was no excessive security. Some officers were only deployed to redirect traffic,” he said.

On Tuesday, Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said that Somad, who arrived in Singapore on May 16, was denied entry and sent back to Batam on the same day with six other people who travelled with him.

Somad has been known to preach "extremist and segregationist" teachings, which are "unacceptable in Singapore’s multi-racial and multi-religious society", MHA said in a statement.

"For example, Somad has preached that suicide bombings are legitimate in the context of the Israel-Palestine conflict, and are considered 'martyrdom' operations.

"He has also made comments denigrating members of other faith communities, such as Christians, by describing the Christian crucifix as the dwelling place of an 'infidel jinn (spirit/demon)'," said MHA.

Somad has also publicly referred to non-Muslims as “kafirs”, or infidels, added MHA.

The statement added: "While Somad had attempted to enter Singapore ostensibly for a social visit, the Singapore Government takes a serious view of any persons who advocate violence and/or espouse extremist and segregationist teachings.”

On Wednesday, Singapore’s Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) said that the social media accounts of a number of political office holders and government agencies have been spammed by Somad’s supporters.

Indonesia’s counter-terror agency subsequently told CNA that Singapore’s decision to deny entry to Somad is an important lesson for Indonesia to take precautions in prohibiting radical views.

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