Parliament: Look at broader consequences, says Shanmugam

Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam recognises that some Singaporeans disagree with the move to ban Watain's concert, but asks that they consider whether they would be willing to accept the broader consequences of their position.

"The larger picture is not about whether the Government should tell you what music you can or cannot listen to. You can listen to Watain through Spotify, for example, at least for now," he said.

"The issue here is about whether the Government should give Watain a licence to perform publicly in Singapore. The Government has a responsibility not just to the individuals who like the music, but also the majority of Singaporeans who would be offended."

If Watain was allowed to perform, there would not be grounds to ban others with similar messages. "You will then still have a lot of hate speech in the mainstream, through entertainment," he added.

He asked if those unhappy with the ban would be willing to agree that hate speech and hate music can cause deep divisions, and that over time, the fault lines of race and religion could become greater.

"Would they be willing to say: I accept that... similar concerts and entertainment attacking Islam, Buddhism and other religions should also be allowed?"

Mr Shanmugam also asked if they would allow "Malay power" music, which calls for an end of immigration to Malaysia and for non-Malays to be expelled, and draws inspiration from Nazi Germany.

 
 
 
 

Should "Chinese power" music, which does not exist now, be allowed? Why not go further, he said, citing the Danish cartoons that denigrated Prophet Muhammad and saw violent global protests.

Those who are willing to accept the consequences will be in the small minority, Mr Shanmugam said. "I don't think many Singaporeans will support that position."

He also noted that the Government "can't and won't ban everything" but will be "fair, even-handed, and it has to be practical".

But he reiterated that where hate speech and offensive speech that vast numbers in any community find deeply wounding are concerned, the Government will not hesitate to take action. "I hope we would always have a Government that insists on doing the right thing to protect any community in Singapore, no matter how small, no matter what the majority might feel."

Eddino Abdul Hadi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 02, 2019, with the headline 'Look at broader consequences: Shanmugam'. Print Edition | Subscribe