Published: 12 January 2022
1. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is concerned about insensitive caricatures in the publication “Red Lines: Political Cartoons and the Struggle against Censorship”, which portray the Prophet Muhammad and other religious figures in a demeaning manner. The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) had earlier assessed the publication to be objectionable under the Undesirable Publications Act as the book contains images that denigrate religions, including the reproduction of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons of Prophet Muhammad. Such images, even if intended as social commentary or for discussion on the issue of censorship, nonetheless have the potential to cause offence to various religious communities.
2. The Government will assess and take action as necessary, in respect of publications which attack or insult any religion, or which may be perceived as insulting or attacking any religion. This is so regardless of whether the authors intended such insult or attack. Whether and what action will be taken, will depend on several factors, including the nature of the insult, attack, the extent of the publication and the likely impact on our population. In a multi-religious society such as ours, we must proactively protect our religious harmony. We must and will intervene to protect everyone – whether from a majority or minority religious group – from threats, hate speech, deeply offensive speech, violence, etc. In the same vein, people living in Singapore must show respect for each other’s religion.
3. We have made clear that we will not allow Charlie Hebdo types of cartoon to be published in Singapore, regardless whether the cartoons are about Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, or other religions. The caricatures in the “Red Lines” book will in our view, be deeply offensive to different religious groups, regardless of why these cartoons are dealt with in the book, and regardless of the authors’ intent in publishing them.
4. The multi-racial and multi-religious harmony that we enjoy in Singapore today is not the “natural order” of things. It is a state that we have worked hard to achieve and carefully nurtured over many decades.