[COVIDWatch]: Was ‘Divine Displeasure’ from the Penal Code removed with the closure of mosques?

By June 9, 2020 June 11th, 2020 COVID-19, Health

We have been alerted to a comment posted on Ustaz Dr Nazirudin Mohd Nasir’s Instagram post dated 5 June.

Dr Nazirudin is the current Mufti appointed at the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS).

Here’s a screenshot of the comment on his post:


The comment translates to:

“Has anyone noticed? When mosques were closed, the section on “Divine Displeasure” was removed from Chapter 224 (Penal Code)”.

On 12 Mar, MUIS announced that all 70 mosques in Singapore would be closed for at least five days for cleaning and disinfection in a bid to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

Four days later, MUIS announced an extension of the closure after contact tracing revealed that five infected individuals had visited at least 10 mosques in Singapore. On 24 Mar, MUIS announced that mosques would be closed “until further notice amid a heightened risk of COVID-19 transmission in the community”.

Since then, mosques across Singapore have remained closed.

What is the section on “Divine Displeasure”?

“Divine Displeasure” is found under Section 508 of the Penal Code, and is a law that has been in place since Singapore’s first Penal Code which started in 1872.

There isn’t a whole lot of information about what it entails, but according to an article on The Straits Times on little known laws in Singapore, it makes it illegal for someone to “cause or attempt to cause any person to do anything that he is not legally bound to do, or to not do anything which he is legally bound to do, by inducing that person to believe he or someone close to him will become ‘an object of divine displeasure’ if he does not listen to you”.

Essentially, it is illegal to trick someone into thinking that he would be “cursed or make divine beings unhappy” if he did not obey you.

Going back to the claim made by the individual who commented on Ustaz Dr Nazirudin Mohd Nasir’s Instagram post, we did a quick check on the most updated version of the Penal Code and while it is indeed true that Section 508 on “Divine Displeasure” has been removed, it was repealed by Act 15 of 2019, with effect from 1 Jan 2020.

The Criminal Law Reform Act 2019, which was read the first time on 11 Feb 2019, had repealed Section 508 on grounds that “it is no longer relevant in today’s context”.

Given that Section 508 has been repealed since 1 Jan 2020, we rate the claim that the removal of it from the Penal Code ties in to the closure of mosques due to COVID-19 as false.

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