Ex-Singapore leader denies Islam slur
SINGAPORE’s outspoken former leader Lee Kuan Yew has denied calling Islam a “venomous religion” after leaked US diplomatic cables set off a furore in the multiracial city-state.
One of hundreds of cables from the US embassy in Singapore released last week by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks had Lee as describing Islam as a “venomous religion” in a 2005 meeting with then senator Hillary Clinton.
“This is false,” the 87-year-old Lee, Singapore’s founding prime minister and elder statesman, said in a statement.
Lee said that he looked up a foreign ministry note of the meeting, and “nowhere does it record me describing Islam as ‘venomous’, nor did I say anything which could have given that impression”.
“I did talk about extremist terrorists like the (Southeast Asian) Jemaah Islamiyah group, and the jihadist preachers who brainwashed them. They are implacable in wanting to put down all who do not agree with them,” he said.
“So their Islam is a perverted version, which the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Singapore do not subscribe to.” During the meeting, another US lawmaker in Clinton’s party had asked Lee about “how organised terrorists were internationally”, according to the leaked cable signed off by then US ambassador to Singapore Frank Lavin.
It said Lee “responded that orthodox Islam was a powerful force capable of recruiting volunteers for terrorist groups”.
Wikileaks has the full text:
¶3. (C) The problem of Islamic terrorism would not be easily extirpated, observed MM Lee. While Muslims in Southeast Asia were traditionally moderate and tolerant, they had been affected by radicalism emanating from Middle East and the spread of wahhabism from Saudi Arabia. Singapore's Muslim leaders were rational and educated in English and the GOS kept a limit on madrassah-based education. He stressed that moderate Muslims had to be encouraged to stand up and speak out against radicalism. They needed confidence that they could win. We could get to the tipping point, noted MM Lee, but he didn't know how long it would take. ¶4. (C) MM Lee said Islamic terrorists would continue to use violence until shown that their methods would not succeed. If they were successful in Iraq, they would try to topple secular governments in other countries, such as Indonesia. PM Lee said Singapore supported U.S. efforts in Iraq; it was important to get the Iraqi government working, with a security force that could take over from U.S. forces and fend for itself. ¶5. (C) Asked by Rep. Rangel how organized terrorists were internationally, MM Lee responded that orthodox Islam was a powerful force capable of recruiting volunteers for terrorist groups. He noted Singapore's experience in 2001 and 2002 in dealing with Jemaah Islamiyah's terrorist plots in Singapore and characterized Islam as a "venomous religion."
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