Singapore’s ex-Prime Minister and founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, has called Islam a “venomous religion,” according to a recently released Wikileaks cable.
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.”
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.
Lee rejected the WikiLeaks cable claim by saying that it’s false. According to Channel News Asia, he reiterated that nowhere does it record him describing Islam as “venomous.” However, he did talk about radical Islamic fundamentalists such as the Jemaah Islamiyah, and reinforced that Singapore Muslim leaders are rational, as “moderate” Muslims are urged to be critical of Muslim “radicals.”
From Lee’s press secretary:
The cable claimed that in my meeting with Senator Clinton, I had “characterized Islam as a ‘venomous religion’. This is false. I looked up MFA’s filenote of the meeting. 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 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. So their Islam is a perverted version, which the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Singapore do not subscribe to.
I also pointed out that our Muslim leaders are rational, and that the ultimate solution to extremist terrorism was to give moderate Muslims the courage to stand up and speak out against radicals who have hijacked Islam to recruit volunteers for their violent ends.