By Yasmeen Banu
In recent weeks, the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) topic has sparked numerous controversial comments, from pastors to academic scholars, since Health Promotion Board braved same-sex relationship questions.
Much recently however, besides Lawrence Khong, Associate Professor Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied created a whirlwind of concerned, angry, and for the most part, upset students over his views on lesbianism.
On the 20th of February, Associate Professor Khairudin made a post on Facebook answering a question about liberal Islam and its support for lesbianism.
The Associate Professor at National University of Singapore (NUS) condemned the movement and although he had reasonable suggestions to discourage such behaviours, the tone in which the reply was made was perceived as outwardly strong and untactful.
Amongst his recommendations of “winning the heart of the misled youths”, Associate Professor Khairudin suggested using the power of technology and involving parents and school teachers to detect early signs of “waywardness from their children and students”.
He end his post by likening lesbians to “cancers” and using the term “social diseases” in his reply sparked concern, especially from NUS.
Two current NUS students and a former student lodged a complaint soon after seeing the post on the professor’s Facebook page, claiming that he had described “alternative modes of sexual orientation” as “wayward”, and as “cancers” and “social diseases” to be “cleansed”.
A petition for students from NUS was created to express their concerns about Professor Khairudin who “recently authored two Facebook posts (“Liberal Islam, Lesbianism and the likes of it” and “When Liberals Become Oppressive”) that display a trenchant hostility towards sexual minorities” and which “we believe is unbecoming of a university professor.”
The second post was removed and Associate Professor Khairudin subsequently did multiple edits to his other post and removed the alleged offensive terms towards lesbianism such as “cancers”, and “social diseases” amongst others that the students pointed out.
On the 5th of March, NUS provost Tan Eng Chye said Professor Khairudin acknowledges “poor judgement” in his posts on sexuality, and that his comments “on his views of lesbianism ‘contained provocative, inappropriate and offensive language'”.
“I have counselled Associate Professor Khairudin, who has acknowledged that whilst his only intention had been to convey his point of view, his original posts reflected poor judgement in the tone and choice of words. He has since amended or removed these posts,” said Professor Tan.
He added that “both staff and students of NUS were reminded to “show restraint, due care and respect with their words and actions, particularly when communicating online.”
Associate Professor Khairudin took the opportunity to make clear his views on his Facebook page, stating, that “while the media has provided coverage for the LGBT supporters, so far, little coverage has been provided to those that are not for LGBT.”
He continued to say that his post “Liberal Islam, Lesbianism and the likes of it” is still on his page, though it has been altered, and the change was done “in view of the sensitivities on the ground which I am fully aware of.”
His position as a Muslim about LGBT “remains clear and is in line with the view of Muslims scholars such as the one made by PERGAS.” He maintains that there is “no disagreement in Islam on the prohibition of homosexuality”.
Associate Professor Khairudin added that he “fully subscribe to Islam’s guidance and stand firm that homosexuality is a challenge that needs to be addressed through reasoned dialogue and education.”
While NUS has openly criticised Associate Professor Khairudin’s actions, it remains to be seen if the situation will blow over. Blogger Alex Au has remarked that the Professor’s use of words borders on hate speech. It is not clear is any charges will be raised against the Professor, although he has removed the offending words from his Facebook post.
Meanwhile, the Fellowship of Muslim Students Association has issues a statement in support of Associate Professor Khairudin, commending him for having the courage to speak his mind as an academic.
A Facebook page set up in support of the Professor has garnered more than 5,000 likes, and a counter-petition has also been created, aimed at the students who started the initial petition against the Professor and demanding that they “withdraw their petition and apologize to Professor Syed Khairuddin, as well as undergo counselling to further understand the issues and challenges confronting the student-teacher community.”
The original petition by the current and former NUS students against Associate Professor Khairudin has since ended. To our knowledge, the students have thus far not made any response to the Professor’s edits to his Facebook post or the statement by NUS.
Image from AsiaOne