Library Consultative Panel supports move by NLB to remove controversial book series

The National Library Board (NLB) will be withdrawing a series of Malay language books from its libraries "immediately", after concerns about their contents were raised.
The National Library Board (NLB) will be withdrawing a series of Malay language books from its libraries "immediately", after concerns about their contents were raised.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Three weeks after the National Library Board (NLB) removed a controversial series of Malay language books for young people from its shelves, an independent panel tasked to review the eight titles said it supports the move as the series "has the potential of creating religious and racial tensions among readers and the community".

The Agama, Tamadun Dan Arkeologi (Religion, Civilisation And Archaeology) series, which had been available in the junior non-fiction section in libraries since 2013, was flagged in June for containing anti-Semitic rhetoric and seemingly glorifying violence in the name of Islam.

One book in the series, for example, contains a picture of a Muslim boy wearing what appears to be a suicide vest, surrounded by masked adults.

The books came to light after a Twitter user in Singapore shared photos of them, prompting the NLB to withdraw the books, and call on the panel to review the series.

The Library Consultative Panel, which consists of 19 members from a cross-section of society, provides recommendations to the NLB on its review of library materials. It said in a statement on Monday (July 3) that it found "questionable statements and photos applied in an inappropriate manner" and supports the NLB's decision to withdraw the books from its collection.

The NLB said in June that it was reviewing another 130 titles by the Malaysian publisher, Sinar Cemerlang, and had made them unavailable for loan in the meantime.

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim has said that it is "not possible" for the authorities to go through every piece of reading material, but that the Government and the NLB would learn from the episode.

The Government had asked the NLB to review its vetting process for sensitive and divisive content following the incident.

The NLB said in response to queries that its vetting process and the other titles by Sinar Cemerlang are still under review.