Community regulation, not prosecution for "No Pork" podcasters

In my previous post, “‘No Pork’ podcast shows racism is alive and well in Singapore”, I criticised the makers of that podcast for being racist. I also took issue with bloggers who re-circulated the clip while endorsing its brand of humour. Finally, I was saddened by the reaction of so many Singaporeans (including some people I know) who thought it was funny and saw nothing wrong with that clip. I saw all this as evidence that Singaporean society — particularly the Chinese majority — has a long way to go to come to terms with, and tackle our prejudiced attitudes with regards to race and religion.

Now that the news of the clip and the reaction has gone mainstream, with the Straits Times and TODAY newspapers both reporting it, I thought I should state my stand on what I feel the authorities should or should not do in reaction to this.

Although there are some grounds to charge the makers of the clip under the Penal Code (Section 298), I do not think this is the appropriate course of action that the police and the Attorney General should take.

Firstly, it appears the clip was made with humour in mind, not with a “deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person”, as is stated in the Penal Code. While it revealed the podcasters’ immaturity, insensitivity and their prejudice, Singapore does not have any laws against racist attitudes, per se. In any case, it seems the recording was staged, and there was actually no Indian-Muslim involved in it.

Secondly, this incident has proven the ability of Netizens to self-regulate — at least to some extent. After being flagged as inappropriate by a YouTube user, the popular video hosting site took down the clip, presumably because it violated their terms of service clause, which prohibits “speech which contains slurs or the malicious use of stereotypes intended to attack or demean a particular…religion…”. It also provoked a strong reaction by many bloggers like Speranza Nuova and blog readers (who posted comments) who felt that the clip was demeaning to Muslims.

I would imagine that if the police were to take action against Ximiwakoz, the goon who posted the clip, it would be mainly to demonstrate to the Muslim and Indian communities that the Government does not tolerate racial and religious prejudice, and to prevent any strong reactions from those communities in response to the clip. I believe that our society has progressed since the 1960s, and the authorities should not fear anything other than a measured and rational response to such relatively minor incidents.

Having said that, I do hope that Chinese community leaders will take note of this incident, and speak out against prejudiced attitudes towards minorities, which are so prevalent in the Chinese community.

Teachers should show the clip to their students to impress upon them that this is inappropriate behaviour, whether in public or in private. It is wrong, not just because we live in a multi-racial society, but because prejudice against other races, religions and socio-economic classes is intrinsically immoral.

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

11 thoughts on “Community regulation, not prosecution for "No Pork" podcasters”

  1. well, just as a reflection on this.

    i received the links to that podcast from an Indian friend, who actually found it quite comical.

    the podcasts was part of a set of pranks – they also made some pranks with a Hokkien coffeeshop owner. the whole conversation was in Hokkien, thus i guess it wasn’t “promoted” as much as the Indian stall one.

    I see the pranks as more of a making fun (whether its in good taste or otherwise, thats a separate conversation) of Indian/Bangladeshi foreign workers.

    I think the Prophet cartoons issue is an issue we need to be more sensitive about rather than this.

    I’m a Muslim and as it is, i think we as a community should just keep on moving and tackle things as they come. a podcast on an Indian muslim stall worker won’t break our society down. Look at the bigger picture and solve things on the macro level.

    I’m uncomfortable that the whole world and other communities have to walk on eggshells with our community – that they have to constantly worry about offending us. Sigh – just live and let live. There are so many bigger things out there that we should worry about – like… 7% GST! :-p

    aygee

  2. Hi aygee,

    Thanks for sharing your perspective on this. I only learned about the Hokkien prank sometime after I had written these posts. I have yet to listen to it. However, I would say that it sort of softens the offense a little. Personally don’t like being overly uptight about political correctness. I think we can “laugh with each other” about some stuff (including racial jokes), but we should not be “laughing at” others in such a mocking and derisive way.

    I agree with you that such a podcast will not break down our society, nor was I concerned that Muslims will get overly offended.

    However, with all due respect to Muslims and Indians, I was not trying to defend their rights or sensitivities. My intention was to point out to the Chinese community that, in general, their level of prejudice against minorities (whether intentional or due to ignorance) is unacceptable. There is this basic lack of respect for people from backgrounds other than their own (race, religion, socio-economic class), which I think is a result of poor upbringing and poor community values in this area.

    Sigh…7% GST…announcement tomorrow. The doctor prescribes bitter medicine without consultation.

  3. on your point about the Chinese community’s general level of prejudice: you say its a result of poor upbringing and community values.

    Well, it happens when you’re a majority. When you’re a majority, there is no great onus to integrate. The same reason some Aussies treat the Chinese in down under, or white Americans with the blacks in some towns, etc. When i visit my relatives in Malaysia, i cringe when i hear the conversations they have when they talk about the Chinese community.

    I seem to get this impression that just about EVERYBODY in the international community is very clear that the GST rise was to counter a planned drop in Corporate taxes.

    Yet the Govt is pushing this Welfare spin to Singaporeans – yet i have not seen any strong objections to this story.

    and all that jazz about getting the younger MPs allowed to voice their objections…Dr Vivian Balakrishnan…do you actually accept this Welfare story, if you’re not a PAP man?

    sigh…and they ask why one wants to quit Singapore.

    Aygee

  4. Pork is divine.

    If muslims are so offended by pork, maybe they should try it for a change.

    They might just change their minds.

    Beast

  5. Beast – I deleted your 12:11 post only because of your use of vulgarities. PLEASE DO NOT USE VULGARITIES ON MY BLOG!

  6. -“Pork – no animal is more used for nourishment and none more indispensable in the kitchen; employed either fresh or salt, all is useful, even to its bristles and its blood; it is the superfluous riches of the farmer, and helps to pay the rent of the cottager.”

  7. I am just furious that the minority wants to impose its culinary rules on the masses.

    Sure, have their halal food and whatever. But try imposing your rights on me…….and you will see me bitch to no end.

    And why is it that we have to respect someone else’s religion like its some kind of sacred entity? Political parties can be criticized, presidents too, but why not religion? Why is it offensive to criticize religion?

    When Muslims start stoning women, Catholic priests start playing with altar boys……they don’t deserve to be criticized?

    There are no sacred cows in the world of the libertine.

    Beast

  8. -“Pork – no animal is more used for nourishment and none more indispensable in the kitchen; employed either fresh or salt, all is useful, even to its bristles and its blood; it is the superfluous riches of the farmer, and helps to pay the rent of the cottager.”

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