With one week to go before Pink Dot, the largest pro-LGBTI rally in Singapore, an Islamic religious teacher earlier this month launched an online campaign to protest against homosexuality and the Pink Dot event.
Led by Ustaz Noor Deros, a religious teacher, the group said in a press statement on its web site that the WearWhite (#wearwhite) movement is a response to their 'observations of the growing normalization of LGBT in Singapore.'
Their video on YouTube, which features 10 unnamed individuals and was released earlier this week, has since been made private.
Theatre actor Najib Soiman, who appeared in the video, demanded to be removed from it after it emerged that the video was to protest against homosexuality. He told The Straits Times that he thought the video was meant to celebrate Ramadan and encourage young people to return to the mosques. The official video was later edited to leave out Najib.
The group appealed to Muslims not to participate in the Pink Dot rally on 28 June. It further called on Muslims to wear white to attend the first evening prayer on the same day which coincides with the eve of the first day of the fasting month of Ramadan.
With the Muslim group’s campaign making the mainstream news on Friday, anti-gay pastor Lawrence Khong said in a Facebook post that he’s ‘so happy that Singapore's Muslim community is making a vocal and visual stand for morality and Family.'
He added that his church Faith Community Baptist Church and the LoveSingapore network of churches will join the Muslim group's call to protest next weekend to 'champion virtue and purity for the good of our nation.'
In a rare statement that addresses LGBT issues, Singapore’s highest Islamic authority the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) stated that it does not approve of the 'pervasiveness' of the LGBT lifestyle, and cannot agree to efforts promoting it.
The authority however also cautioned Muslims against adopting a 'confrontational approach', or 'vilifying' those who are involved in LGBTI lifestyles, or events such as Pink Dot.
It added that programmes in mosques 'must not be seen as a movement to oppose them [LGBTIs]'.
In a separate statement, the Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Association (Pergas) on Friday said in a Facebook post that saying Muslims 'should not attend any event which promotes and supports transgression'. It also strongly urges the community not to 'ostracize any LGBT individuals', but to instead, 'demonstrate love and concern for our brothers and sisters who identify with the LGBT cause by reaching out and offering continuous moral guidance.'
Rev Yap Kim Hao, a former bishop of the Methodist church in Singapore and Malaysia, and one of Singapore's most outspoken LGBTI advocates has commended the MUIS's statement.
'It is not often that there is public recognition of the existence of LGBT Muslims. It is no longer a closed issue and there is this effort to reach out to them. This is the case within the Christian community and there is much public discussion and significant change of views across these many years.'
'[The statement] recognizes the pervasiveness of what is regarded as LGBT lifestyle which they do not promote. There is the offer of help in the way they understand now that LGBT should abstain from sexual acts and overcome such inclinations. It does not alienate and expel them but prevent them from distancing from the mosque and religion itself. I do not detect condemnation and harsh judgment.'
The tone of the advisory is 'conciliatory' and 'has to be appreciated,' Rev Yap said in a Facebook post.
Sylvia Tan is a reporter for Gay Star News and member of the Pink Dot Sg organizing committee.