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Public question if Singapore is a Christian country after Minister K Shanmugam said Watain concert cancelled following Christian community’s reaction

Last month, Watain’s concert in Singapore was cancelled at the eleventh hour following negative feedback given by many Christian after its initial approval, said Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam.

In addition, a survey done by government feedback unit Reach also found out that two in three supported the cancellation, he mentioned. Among Christians, 86 per cent were supportive of the move to disallow the concert, the Reach poll found.

The Swedish metal bad was scheduled to perform at the EBX Live Space along Pereira Road on 7 March, but the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) made an announcement just hours before the show saying that it’s disapproving the gig due to security concerns bought up by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

Speaking in his ministerial statement on hate speech in Parliament on Monday (1 April), Mr Shanmugam said that IMDA first received the application from the concert’s organiser in December 2018, and MHA rejected the application after reviewing and considering it.

IMDA then requested MHA to reconsider its position, and proposed detailed requirements for the concert. These included an R18 rating, no religious symbols used during the concert, no references to religion in the band’s on-stage dialogue, no performing of content that denigrates any faith or promoted any cult practices, and no ritualistic or satanic act. Following that, IMDA issued the restricted licence on 5 March.

Although Mr Shanmugam thought that it would be acceptable if Watain did not perform offensively in Singapore, but days after giving the green light, “MHA received reports of mainstream Christians being offended,” he said.

“Given that many Christians felt this was deeply offensive, denigrating, MHA advised IMDA to cancel. It was my decision that MHA should so advise IMDA. My officers and I took into account the reaction of the Christian community…and the broader security implications of that reaction, both in the medium and longer term,” the Minister explained.

Although Mr Shanmugam acknowledged that some Singaporeans disagree with the ban of the concert, but he said, “It is not about whether the Government should tell you what music you can or cannot listen to. You can listen to a Watain concert through Spotify, for example, at least as of now.”

He added, “The issue here is about whether Government should give Watain licence to perform publicly in Singapore. And the Government has a responsibility to not just the individuals who like Watain music, but also the majority of Singaporeans who would be offended.”

After reading his explanation, many netizens highlighted their unhappiness on Channel NewsAsia’s and The Straits Times’s Facebook pages where over 450 comments were received. They questioned why the Government decided to cancel the concert just over feedback given by a minority group in Singapore. They even wondered if Singapore is a Christian country as it accepted the concerns raised by just one minority group.

Some even mocked and said that the survey conducted by Reach was perhaps done in a church, which explains the results. Others noted that the survey results may be false as the majority of people were in fact not surveyed.

Apart from that, a large group of netizens said that due to this ban, many people are now being introduced to Watain. In other words, the Swedish band is gaining free publicity because of the concert cancellation that happened in Singapore.

Facebook user Georg Zoeller felt that the Government should be proactive, rather than reactive to outrage culture. Although he said that the ban might be the right decision, but the Government shouldn’t make religious group decide on that and “influence policy making in their favour”. Instead, the Government should make their decision much earlier and be transparent about it, and frame it as a long term policy rather than reactivity. If they fail to do so, “outrage and being offended becomes a backdoor for social policy influence which should not happen in a secular state”.

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