Skip to main content

Advertisement

Advertisement

Singapore makes 'no apologies' for tough stance against hate speech: Shanmugam

SINGAPORE – While some may criticise Singapore’s tough stance on hate speech, it makes "no apologies" for its approach and will continue to do so to prevent hate speech from “normalising”, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said he will table a motion that will touch on hate speech as well as race and religious relations in Parliament in early April.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said he will table a motion that will touch on hate speech as well as race and religious relations in Parliament in early April.

Follow us on Instagram and Tiktok, and join our Telegram channel for the latest updates.

SINGAPORE — While some may criticise Singapore’s tough stance on hate speech, it makes "no apologies" for its approach and will continue to do so to prevent hate speech from “normalising”, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said.

Against the backdrop of a rise in hate speech worldwide, including some reflecting Islamophobia sentiments, Mr Shanmugam said that he will table a motion that will touch on hate speech as well as race and religious relations here in Parliament in early April.

At the annual retreat of the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) on Tuesday (March 19), Mr Shanmugam spoke again about the recent comments made by Australian senator Fraser Anning, which he described as hate speech.

When such hateful comments are made and reported, it “normalises” hate speech, he said.

“It makes it acceptable that you say this (hate speech). Somebody else criticises it but you continue saying it. Then more people say it, it becomes fair game. Everybody attacks somebody else’s religion.”

Hours after the deadly shootings at two mosques in New Zealand’s city of Christchurch, Mr Anning said that the attacks reflected the “growing fear” of Muslim immigration and that the real cause of the bloodshed was the decision to allow “Muslim fanatics” to immigrate to New Zealand.

The shootings, which have been labelled terrorism acts, took place during Friday prayers on March 15 and left 50 people dead.

For Singapore, strict laws are needed to curtail hate speech, Mr Shanmugam stressed.

Laws to curb hate speech include the Sedition Act, where any individual found guilty of promoting feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes could be fined up to S$5,000, or jailed up to three years, or punished with both, for a first offence.

Some critics said that such laws also stifle free speech, a point noted by Mr Shanmugam on Tuesday as he explained why Singapore needed these laws.

“Many people criticised us in the last 50 years for the way we approach hate speech,” he said, but Singapore will continue to take a “no nonsense” stance when it comes to race and religious relations.

“We make no apologies for the approach we take and we will continue to take a tough approach.

“That is, I think, the only way to make sure everybody can go about their business, do what you want, achieve your full potential, profess whichever faith you want, pray to whichever God you want. That’s your right, we protect that right.”

Mr Shanmugam was speaking to an audience comprising religious leaders from the Muslim community as well as members of the RRG. Formed in 2003, the RRG is a voluntary group comprising Singaporean Islamic scholars and teachers who seek to rehabilitate radicalised individuals and dispel misinterpretations by extremists groups.

In his 20-minute speech, Mr Shanmugam also spoke about tabling a parliamentary motion to have a proper debate on hate speech as well as race and religious relations in Singapore.

Asked by reporters later to elaborate on this, Mr Shanmugam said that previous generations of leaders have similarly put forward their approach on how to deal with hate speech and get the buy-in from society. Such positions, however, are “not cast in stone”, he added.

“It’s a continuum from political hate speech to religious hate speech to other types of hate speech you find in literature or entertainment. The impact is different depending on the type of hate speech,” Mr Shanmugam said.

“How do you draw the lines? I think that’s important. And I think that for this generation, we also need a proper debate in Parliament — have views expressed, set out the Government’s position comprehensively and contextualise it... that will, I think, allow us as a society to see where the lines ought to be drawn and whether they need to be redrawn.”

Read more of the latest in

Advertisement

Popular

Advertisement

Stay in the know. Anytime. Anywhere.

Subscribe to get daily news updates, insights and must reads delivered straight to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, I agree for my personal data to be used to send me TODAY newsletters, promotional offers and for research and analysis.