MDA confirms ban on Christ film

The Media Development Authority (MDA) has confirmed that the film, The Last Temptation of Christ, is banned in Singapore.

The censorship authority informed Mr Martyn See, who had submitted the film to the agency for rating in June, of the ban on Wednesday. (See See’s Facebook posting here.)

The1988 film, based on a 1955 book by Nikos Kazantkakis, portrayed the Christian religious icon, Jesus Christ, as having had an affair or a sexual relationship with his follower, Mary Magdalene.

The film, when released, met with protest in some countries, including the United States and the Philippines.

In Singapore, the film was condemned by the heads of the National Council of Churches and the Union of Chinese-speaking Churches of Singapore.

One of the most notable critics of the ban on the book, however, was Singapore’s former Minister of Culture, S Rajaratnam.

“The banning of a memorable book which the vast majority of Singaporeans have ignored for some 30 years without serious damage to their health and mind is unlikely to bring Singapore crashing down,” he wrote in one of his letters to the Straits Times then.

Mr Rajaratnam said his persistence in speaking against the ban “is not over the banning of one book but concern over the cast of mind and motive that led to the banning.”

Rebutting the government’s reason that the ban was imposed to ensure religious harmony, Mr Rajaratnam said, “[The] best way of ensuring racial and religious harmony would be by compelling the hysterical minority to ‘empathise’ with the sane majority.”

He added, “The reason why Singapore has so far been an exception to what is becoming a world-wide rule is that this Government had the courage always to be on the side of sanity against the intolerance of the hysterical.”

In 2011, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, George Yeo, explained why the government had chosen to ban The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, which Muslims found offensive, but allowed The Last Temptation of Christ, the book.

The Straits Times reported Mr Yeo as having said, “So we got questioned. Our reply was the Christians are less likely to riot.”

With the MDA’s response to the submission by Mr See, it is now clear both the book and the film are banned here.

Mr See had also submitted other films for rating by the MDA.

He was informed of the MDA’s decision as follows:

BANNED – The Last Temptation of Christ (Martin Scorsese)

BANNED – Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (Pier Paolo Pasolini)

R21 (Disallowed on DVD) – Pink Flamingos (John Waters)

BANNED – Lee Kuan Yew Is Finally Dead! (Amos Yee)

PG – A Day in the Life of a Minister (K. Shanmugam)

Pending – The Fajar Pioneer Generation (Martyn See)