In a recent Straits Times article, K Shanmugam talked about “zero tolerance for hate speech”.
He even went on to say, “In the US, their idea of free speech means you can burn the Quran, attack Muslims, attack others. Here we have zero tolerance for people who make bigoted, divisive statements,” he added, “If a person makes such statements, the ISD (Internal Security Department) will talk to him, and where necessary take further action. You burn the Quran, or any other holy book, you go to jail – no two ways about it…”
For the most part, I agree that there should be consequences if someone attacks people of a certain group and just wants to incite hate, but the contradictory thing is that Singapore does not have any hate speech laws. Maybe instead of using the ISD we could introduce laws protecting marginalised minority groups?
Not just on a race or religion stand point either. It should be made to include other vulnerable groups like the LGBT community. After all the same minister did say, “The Government will protect its people against any threat of violence, regardless of their race, religion or sexual orientation,”
If that is the case maybe what we need as a country are proper hate speech laws protecting marginalised minority groups.
Also invoking the ISD seems to be more of a Trump move. Instead of locking up and build a wall to people with differing views. We should be educating and having conversations to promote mutual understanding. Don’t get me wrong hate speech should be punishable, i just don’t think the ISD is the best way to do it.
Singapore as a country should move past using the ISD just because someone says something we don’t like.
The minister also said
“We have built something precious, fragile but precious.”
Why does it have to be fragile?
Is the social fabric that thin?
Even after Amos Yee did disrespectful things to the Quran, did Singaporeans start rioting?
Was there violence on the streets?
I think that our peace and spirit of acceptance is stronger than the minister gives us credit for. Singaporeans for the most part are sensible and logical. Which is why we need more discourse and conversation on issues of race, religion and sexual orientation. We need more dialogue instead of building walls around the issues and not allowing them to be touched at all. Locking up people who disagree is how ignorance grows.
Address the issue by addressing the issue because when you lock up the offender you lock up the issue as well.
In the past 50 years with all the education Singaporeans have been receiving it is impossible for the government to act like Singapore’s people are fragile and might riot at any given time if the wrong thing is said. We have moved past the kampong days, even our recent riot had to be imported.
Even when the people in your own cabinet say racist things you don’t see Singaporeans taking to the streets.
When Denise Phua describes foreign workers as “ Walking time bombs” did Singaporeans start burning cars? or when former PAP MP Choo Wee Khiang, said Little India was “in complete darkness” because of the Indians . Did Indians start attacking Chinese people?
Or how about when PAP MP are openly homophobic saying that gay sex was akin to “shoving a straw up your nose to drink.”
Was there chaos in our society?
Singapore as a society needs to grow and move past using the ISD to handle troubling individuals, instead we should have Singaporeans showing solidarity whenever such ugliness rears it’s head. Like the outpouring of support towards Muslims and the anti islamophobia campaigns right after the Orlando shooting.
The government needs to trust its people to ensure peace and that such radical hateful rhetoric will have no place in Singapore.
Freedom of speech means that we as Singaporeans need to speak out against such hate when the time arises.
I appeal to the government, trust your people and let us make sure that such hateful rhetoric will not be taken seriously, like how Singaporeans ignore the racist statements made by the PAP. We Singaporeans will ignore the harmful, hateful rhetoric but also respond and call it out if need be.
We as a people can stand together, regardless of race, language, religion, or sexual orientation.
Benjamin Matchap is currently a student in broadcast media from LASALLE College of the Arts. Ben is also a parkour enthusiast in his free time.