Home Book publication Red Lines book banned for its offensive religious content, not because of its political nature: Joséphine Teo

Red Lines book banned for its offensive religious content, not because of its political nature: Joséphine Teo

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SINGAPORE: A recently banned publication in Singapore was banned because of its “offensive religious content”, not because of its political nature, Communications and Information Minister Joséphine Teo said on Wednesday (January 12th).

The book Red Lines: Political Cartoons and the Fight Against Censorship, written by Professor Cherian George and cartoonist Sonny Liew, was banned from distribution in Singapore in November, three months after its launch in the United States.

Responding to a question from MP Tin Pei Ling (PAP-MacPherson) about whether the political nature of the publication’s cartoons had a role to play in the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) decision, Ms. Teo said the Political cartoons in themselves are not the problem, as some are already in circulation.

“It is very clear that Red Lines has been banned for its offensive religious content,” Ms. Teo said.

She added that over the past five years, six other publications had been deemed objectionable by IMDA for “denigrating various religious communities”. Of these, none were about politics, she said.

“They contained either offensive and damaging comments about other religions or controversial religious teachings that could provoke malice and hatred among different religious groups in Singapore,” she said. “Red lines is reprehensible for similar reasons. “

Ms Teo said the post contained “several objectionable images” that were racially and religiously offensive.

She said Singapore’s stance on such content is well known, adding that Alkem – the Singaporean distributor of Red Lines – had also expressed concerns that some of the images in the book were objectionable when he contacted IMDA. for the first time.

Following the ban on IMDA, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) has expressed support for its decision.

MUIS said it examined the publication and found that it contained several caricatures and drawings of the Prophet, as well as cartoons that incite discrimination against Muslims, mock the Holy Quran and demean Islam.

Responding to a question from Deputy Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim (PAP-Chua Chu Kang) on ​​the considerations and importance of IMDA classifying the book as reprehensible for the Muslim community, Minister of Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli – who is also the minister in charge of Muslim affairs – said the book contained material denigrating several religions and religious figures.

“These include the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad from Charlie Hebdo magazine, which humiliate the prophet and are extremely offensive to Muslims,” ​​he said.

“We found it shocking that humiliating and insulting images of the Prophet were published anywhere. These images have caused riots and deaths in parts of the world, including France, the United Kingdom, the Middle East, Africa and Indonesia. The mainstream media, including in Western countries, refrained from publishing the offensive cartoons, ”he added.

“MUIS has also stated that such content which negatively portrays Islam and Muslims, or any religion for that matter, is not acceptable, let alone in a multi-religious society like Singapore,” he said. declared. “Therefore, MUIS supports the IMDA classification for this book. I am sure the Muslim community also supports this movement.

“The authors can say that they do not intend the post to be insulting or demeaning, and their intention is to educate, but the government rejects this. It is unacceptable to publish such insulting cartoons and images of the Prophet in the name of freedom of expression, academic or otherwise, ”he added.

REVISED VERSIONS MUST BE HOLISTICALLY RE-EVALUATED

Asked by Ms Tin and MP Sitoh Yih Pin (PAP- Potong Pasir) whether an edited version of the book would be considered by IMDA for publication and distribution in Singapore, Ms Teo said that the removal of offensive content would not automatically publish Authorized for Distribution.

“The revised versions should be reassessed holistically, and none of the editors have sought to do so,” she said, referring to the six publications previously banned by IMDA.

“At this point, Alkem and the authors have not confirmed their specific plan on dealing with offensive content. If and when they do, they can contact IMDA to assess the suitability of a revised version of Red Lines for distribution in Singapore, ”she said.

She added that IMDA maintains a database of such publications, which book importers and distributors can refer to, to ensure that publications deemed objectionable are not challenged in Singapore.

The authority had also previously advised members of the public not to share offensive images that denigrate religions and religious figures.

Under the Unwanted Publications Act, anyone found guilty of importing, selling, distributing, making or reproducing a objectionable publication can be fined up to S $ 5,000, imprisonment for up to one year, or both.