Adjunct Professor at the Department of Architecture at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Mr Tay Kheng Soon was called in for questioning today (28 Aug) by the police, following a report made as a result of a Facebook discussion on a picture of the Genocide Memorial in Armenia, which he had posted on Facebook on 15 July this year.
It appears that the police report was made as a result of his description of the photograph:
I reported what I saw, and learnt of the 1,500,000 Armenian Christians who were exterminated by the Ottoman Turks in 1911. It was a case of convert or die.
Mr Tay said that a Facebook user by the name of Azhari Ali had accused him of “unfairly singling out Islam”, in reference to the Ottoman Turks, “even though I had no such intention”.
Mr Tay told the police that in his discussion with Mr Azhari, he posited the following:
[…] no sacred text of whatever religion can be taken literally. Because once such text is rendered in human language the denotations and therefore connotations of language cannot be avoided and therefore texts have to be interpreted in context and meaning.
To go by literal interpretation fails to recognise that times and social practices have changed and therefore readings of texts have also to take into account new conditions.
Mr Tay then urged the Chief of Police and the Minister of Home Affairs to “together establish guidelines to ascertain what should be appropriate responses to complaints made by the public as to their import.”
He added that “if a complaint is substantive, meaning that the issue complained about is of such importance which might lead to violence and major social unrest, then action is called for not otherwise.”
Mr Tay also expressed his disappointment against the complainant, who he believes “has used the police as a weapon against people whose views don’t agree with them”, and hoped that “modern Singapore has matured enough to accept robust, sincere and polite discourse”.
He has also credited his police interlocutor for conducting her investigations “very professionally and courteously, which made the encounter with the law rather pleasant” to his relief.
Subsequently, Mr Tay had posted the following: