Former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has rejected a WikiLeaks cable claiming that he “characterised Islam as a ‘venomous religion’” during a meeting with then United States Senator Hillary Clinton in July 2005.
“This is false. I looked up MFA’s (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) filenote of the meeting. Nowhere does it record me describing Islam as “venomous”, nor did I say anything which could have given that impression,” said Lee, who stepped down from government this year after the May General Election.
Lee’s press secretary Yeong Yoon Ying issued the four-paragraph press statement on Lee’s behalf on Monday.
The WikiLeaks cable, released on 30 August, contained notes from a discussion between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, then-Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and then-Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, with Senator Clinton on the challenges of combating Islamic terrorism, the need for moderate Muslims to speak out and the importance of US’ success in Iraq.
“I did talk about extremist terrorists like the Jemaah Islamiyah group and the jihadist preachers who brainwashed them,” said Lee. “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.”
He also pointed out that he said Singapore's Muslim leaders are “rational" during the meeting and 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”.
According to the cable, then-SM Goh said democracy and Islam are compatible but there must be economic and social reform first.
He allegedly said some Middle Eastern countries had been looking at Singapore as a model for economic development and many of these countries preferred the “Singapore model” of democracy to that of the US, given the ruling People’s Action Party’s consistent electoral success.
The cable also reported Lee questioning the wisdom of pushing for greater democracy in Egypt, as he urged for a more gradual political opening in the country.
All three senior leaders allegedly urged the US to continue its major role in Asia, while Lee commented that the US was the only power capable of balancing the rising power of China.