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Unwavering commitment to maintain Singapore’s harmony

01 Apr 2019 < 1 min read

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Singapore must continue to consider hate speech unacceptable, and deal with it firmly and in the same way it has done before, said Minister for Law and Home Affairs Mr K. Shanmugam.

Delivering a ministerial statement in Parliament on 1 April 2019, Mr Shanmugam highlighted the serious consequences that can follow when countries are lax about hate speech. Citing examples from the United States, Germany and the 1950 Maria Hertogh riots in Singapore, he outlined how hate speech can denigrate and lead to deep social divides.

Mr Shanmugam also pointed out that repeated exposure of hate speech increases people’s prejudices and inclination to violence. It can also desensitise individuals and normalise behaviour that should be socially condemned.

Citing figures from the latest Institute of Policy Studies 2019 survey, Mr Shanmugam said, “Singaporeans believe in giving everyone their own religious space. Singaporeans frown upon conflicts, do not approve of offensive religious speech, insults.”

Mr Shanmugam also said the Government is neutral and proactively accommodates different groups, recognising their various histories and traditions. As such, Singapore is unwavering in its commitment in pursuing multi-racial policies. On Singapore’s pragmatic, albeit ‘messy approach’, Mr Shanmugam said it has worked so far with relative success. He emphasised, “Equality of races and religions is not the natural order of things, it has to be defended.”

With the power of social media, Mr Shanmugam said hate speech has travelled faster and further. The new Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill therefore aims to protect society against damage from online falsehoods created by malicious actors.

“When you are clear, have firm laws prohibiting hate speech, deal fairly with all communities, then you can start building a multi-racial, multi-religious harmonious society,” Mr Shanmugam stated.