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.