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Classification of “Red Lines: Political Cartoons and the Struggle Against Censorship” book as objectionable

Response to parliamentary questions on the considerations and significance of IMDA’s classification of the book “Red Lines: Political Cartoons and the Struggle Against Censorship” as objectionable under the Undesirable Publications Act (UPA) to the Muslim community and Singapore.

1. The book titled “Red Lines: Political Cartoons and the Struggle Against Censorship” was classified by IMDA as objectionable under the Undesirable Publications Act. It contained material that denigrated several religions and religious figures. These included caricatures from the Charlie Hebdo magazine of the Prophet Muhammad , which demean the Prophet and are extremely offensive to Muslims. 

2. We found it shocking that demeaning and insulting images of the Prophet should be published anywhere. These images had led to rioting and deaths in parts of the world, including in France, United Kingdom, Middle East, Africa, and Indonesia. Major media publications including in western countries have refrained from publishing the offensive caricatures. 

3. Muis reviewed the “Red Lines” book and found that it contained several caricatures of the Prophet, as well as others that incited discrimination against Muslims, mocked the Holy Quran, and the Prophet, and demeaned Islam. Muis determined that these images are offensive to many Muslims. Muis also said that such content that negatively depicts Islam and Muslims, or any religion for that matter, are not acceptable, and even more so in a multireligious society such as Singapore. Hence, Muis supports IMDA’s classification for this book. I am certain the Muslim community also supports this move. 

4. Beside the caricatures of the Prophet and Islam, the book also included images insulting to other religions. The authors may say that they do not intend for the publication to be insulting or demeaning, and their intention is to educate, but the Government rejects that. It is unacceptable to publish such caricatures and insulting images of the Prophet in the name of free speech, academia or otherwise. Let me reiterate that Muis determined that the images are indeed offensive to Muslims. I can only imagine the feelings of our people, Muslims and non-Muslims, if such images are allowed to be published in Singapore. 

5. In our multi-racial and multi-religious society, it is vital that we treat every religion with respect and not denigrate religious communities. Instead, we should encourage dialogue and greater understanding among different religious communities, so that we strengthen our social fabric. 

6. The harmonious race and religious relations that we enjoy in Singapore today requires constant care and attention of the Government and the society at large. We don’t want to risk anything that will begin unravelling the peace and harmony we enjoy from the due respect and consideration that everyone gives to each other. We remain committed to working closely with all our religious communities to preserve and strengthen our racial and religious harmony, which is a bedrock of our cohesive society.

7. Mr Speaker, in Malay please:

8. Tuan Speaker, buku berjudul "Red Lines: Political Cartoons and the Struggle Against Censorship" dipertikaikan IMDA di bawah Akta Penerbitan Tidak Diingini (UPA) kerana mengandungi imej-imej yang menghina beberapa agama serta tokoh agama. Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (Muis) telah menyemak buku tersebut dan mendapati bahawa ia mengandungi beberapa lukisan kartun Nabi Muhammad serta tokoh lain yang boleh mencetuskan diskriminasi terhadap golongan Muslim, telah menghina Al-Quran dan Nabi kita, dan merendah-rendahkan agama Islam. Muis mendapati bahawa imej-imej ini menyinggung perasaan ramai orang Islam. Muis juga menyatakan bahawa kandungan sedemikian yang memberikan gambaran negatif terhadap Islam dan para penganutnya, malah kepada sebarang agama lain, tidak boleh diterima, lebih-lebih lagi dalam sebuah masyarakat berbilang agama seperti Singapura. Oleh itu, Muis menyokong klasifikasi IMDA bagi buku itu. Saya yakin masyarakat Islam juga menyokong langkah ini.   

9. Selain karikatur Nabi dan Islam, buku ini turut mengandungi imej-imej yang menghina agama lain. Para penulisnya mungkin menyatakan bahawa buku itu tidak bermaksud untuk menghina atau memperkecil-kecilkan sesiapa, sebaliknya ia bertujuan untuk mendidik. Pemerintah menolak alasan ini. Penerbitan karikatur dan imej-imej yang jelas menghina Nabi mahupun agama lain tidak boleh diterima walaupun atas nama kebebasan bersuara, akademia, dan sebagainya.  Hubungan harmoni antara kaum dan agama yang kita nikmati selama ini adalah sangat rapuh dan kita perlu menjaganya bersama dengan begitu rapi dan berterusan.

 


Last updated on 12 January 2022