The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has received a number of complaints about a Facebook post suggesting the Bible and the Quran as alternatives to be used in the event of toilet paper shortages. Toilet paper is one of the daily essentials that has been bought in bulk in the midst of the Covid-19 outbreak. This matter is currently being investigated by the police.
Facebook has since disabled access to the post. At the same time, MHA has stated that members of the public should not post any remarks which are prejudicial to the maintenance of racial and religious harmony in Singapore.
Additionally, the National University of Singapore (NUS) has stated that it has no relationship with the NUS Atheist Society and that the Facebook page is not affiliated to the university. Even though they have reported this to Facebook, NUS reports that Facebook has declared that the content on the reported site was not likely to confuse people as to its affiliation and so Facebook refused to take any action.
Read the full article on Channel News Asia: Police investigating offensive NUS Atheist Society post on Facebook: MHA
Hate speech on race and religion, whether online or offline, is particularly detrimental to the fabric of Singapore’s society since the nation enjoys both ethnic and religious diversity. It is deeply offensive to refer to the sacred texts of both Muslims and Christians as potential toilet paper. Particularly at a time when the nation is dealing with the impact from the Covid-19 outbreak, it is even more critical to emphasise peaceable harmony and to promote a sense of unity.
It seems peculiar that Facebook does not agree that consumers would confuse “NUS Atheist Society” as being affiliated with the National University of Singapore (NUS). NUS has already complained twice to Facebook about the legitimacy of the account, but to no avail. It is not inconceivable that a university would have a society dedicated to atheism. What would it take for Facebook to require the group or page to drop the reference to NUS?
Questions for further personal evaluation:
- What is the line that separates online hate crime and healthy religious debate?
- Why do you think NUS is so insistent on distancing itself from the content of “NUS Atheist Society”? What damage does NUS suffer from the potential confusion?
- ‘prejudicial’: harmful to someone or something; detrimental
- ‘affiliated’: (of a subsidiary group or a person) officially attached or connected to an organization