SINGAPORE: The government said that it was necessary to take a firm stand against the viewing of the "Innocence of Muslims" film in Singapore as a matter of principle.
Speaking in Parliament on Monday, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean said the consequences of a single incident in Singapore could have a long—lasting impact on the inter—racial and inter—religious bonds here.
Mr Teo was responding to a question by Nominated MP Eugene Tan who wanted to know the reasons for the government’s pre—emptive measure of requesting Google to block online access in Singapore to the trailer for the film.
The move was despite the fact that Singaporeans of all faiths had responded calmly and there was no disharmony or feelings of ill—will among Singaporeans of different groups.
Mr Teo assured the House that the move was not a censorship of internet content.
He explained that the Home Affairs Ministry assessed both the content of the film and its possible impact in determining the request to block the trailer.
Mr Teo explained that such decisive actions assure the public that the government will act whenever the line is crossed, and there is no need for affected groups to respond in inappropriate ways.
He said: "This episode is a tragic reminder that freedom of expression does not mean that one has unfettered rights to insult and denigrate another’s religion or race.
"Rather, we safeguard this freedom only through mutual respect of the views and beliefs of others. By observing these principles, we maintain the social peace and stability we enjoy today."
The film had sparked a wave of riots and attacks in various parts of the world that resulted in injuries and deaths, both to protesters and to law enforcement officials.
Mr Teo noted the protests came very close to Singapore, with incidents reported in Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand.
To prevent violence from escalating further, the video was subsequently blocked in several countries, including Malaysia and Indonesia, following requests from those countries to Google to do so.
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