Kuala Lumpur – Singapore’s minister of law and home affairs on Friday accused a Muslim religious teacher of making racist and xenophobic anti-Chinese comments about the deadly coronavirus outbreak that has killed 636 people and infected over 30,000.
In a Facebook post, K Shanmugan said his ministry will investigate Abdul Halim Abdul Karim over comments suggesting that coronavirus is divine retribution for China’s policies in its western Xinjiang region, where human rights groups allege that around 1 million Muslim Uighurs have been detained in camps.
The minister described as thoroughly racist Karim’s suggestion that coronavirus has spread because of Chinese personal hygiene habits, adding that society has to take a clear stand against such comments.
Singapore has confirmed 30 cases of coronavirus with over 400 people in quarantine.
While around three-quarters of Singapore’s 5.7 million population are of Chinese descent, who tend on the whole to follow other religions, 14 per cent of the wealthy city-state’s mixed ethnic population including Malays and Indians are Muslim.
In a statement about coronavirus, the Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Association asked co-religionists to not attribute any unfortunate incident that has happened to the actions of any party.
Tens of millions of people across Asia are descended from Chinese migrants, while the past decade has seen a surge in outbound Chinese tourism to neighbouring countries.
However, the coronavirus outbreak has seen a rise in anti-Chinese sentiment across Asia, with over 1 million people signing online petitions started in late January calling for Chinese visitors to be banned from South Korea and Malaysia.