MCI asks NLB to review vetting process for divisive material following withdrawal of books

The series of Malay language books called Agama, Tamadun Dan Arkeologi has been withdrawn by the National Library Board after concerns about their contents were raised.
The series of Malay language books called Agama, Tamadun Dan Arkeologi has been withdrawn by the National Library Board after concerns about their contents were raised.ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - The National Library Board (NLB) has been asked by the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) to review its vetting process for divisive material, The Straits Times has learnt.

This follows NLB's withdrawal of a series of books flagged for having controversial content.

The New Paper (TNP) reported on Thursday (June 8) that NLB will be withdrawing a series of Malay language books called Agama, Tamadun Dan Arkeologi (Religion, Civilisation And Archeology) after a local Twitter user posted photos of the books on Sunday.

The series of eight books were found in the NLB's junior non-fiction section. Each book focuses on a different religion or civilisation, such as Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and Hinduism.

One of the books has, on its cover, children wearing yarmulkes, smiling as they hold machine guns. In it, there are declarations of how the third world war will "start in the Middle East between Israel and the neighbouring countries, which are the Arab states".

The NLB had told TNP that it will "withdraw the books immediately" and will "will call upon the Library Consultative Panel (LCP) to review the series".

"While NLB will do our best to ensure that our collection does not cause offence, we are unable to vet every single title before putting the books on the shelves," it said.

It explained to The Straits Times on Thursday (June 8) that NLB libraries use a variety of tools such as pre-publication information from publishers and vendors, and reviews from library journals to guide their selection of materials for the libraries.

 

"In the case of this series, it was selected based on the synopsis by the publisher that it is a factual book series tracing the development of civilisations, archaeology and religions. The books were made available in our libraries in 2013," said the NLB.

Ms Han Liang Yuan, Press Secretary to the Minister for Communications and Information, told The Straits Times that MCI agrees with NLB's decision to pull the books from its shelves and said it has asked NLB to review its vetting process for potentially divisive and sensitive materials.

She said: "As a multi-cultural and multi-racial society, we do not condone materials that denigrate any racial or religious groups, or which promote intolerance or violence. The cultural and racial harmony that our people enjoy today has taken us generations to build. This must not be taken for granted.

"We thank the member of public and The New Paper for raising this particular series to our attention."

A check on NLB's catalogue shows that the status of the books have been changed to "under review", except for a few copies which are currently on loan.