In the debate on hate speech held in Parliament on Monday (1 April), Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam spoke about the risks of hate speeches in Singapore, especially when it is considered derogatory, offensive or insulting to a particular race or religion.
An illustration of song lyrics deemed offensive was handed out during the parliamentary sitting and had gone viral overnight after it was shared by Workers’ Party Member of Parliament Chen Show Mao on his Facebook later that day.
The offensive lyrics included snippets from popular songs such as Nine Inch Nails’ “Heresy”, Ariana Grande’s “God Is a Woman”, Hozier’s “Take Me To Church” and Lady Gaga’s “Judas”.
The post received plenty of comments and questions from netizens with many of them asking whether these songs were examples of content that would be prohibited in Singapore.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday (2 April), Mr Shanmugam has clarified that the songs are not examples of content to be banned, but merely used as examples as part of his speech that not all content found offensive would be banned.
“People who did not listen to the speech may misunderstand that the list contains songs which have been banned (!) or are going to be banned (!)” he wrote. “All of that is untrue.”
“I made the point that people may find many things offensive. And gave the list as an illustration. Doesn’t mean that it can all get banned, just because some people find it offensive. That is also a point I made in the speech,” he explained.
Freelance journalist and Chief Editor of NewNaratif, Kirsten Han, shared a TodayOnline article of the news on Facebook and wrote: “Sure the songs won’t actually be banned, but the issue is that this stupid list exists in the first place.”
Mr Chen told Mediacorp in response to their queries that his post titled “Lesson of the Day” is to share something new he had learned that day. He commented on his post that “all the lyrics cited are deemed offensive speech” in the context of the ministerial statement.
However, he also included questions for consideration such as “should we allow unrestricted offensive speech in general mainstream discourse, in religion, politics, media and entertainment, even if it is not hate speech?” and “If we agree that there have to be restrictions on offensive speech even when it is not strictly speaking hate speech, what should be the extent of the restrictions?” etc.
He shared Mr Shanmugam’s response and TOC’s report on the news in the comments as well.
This was not the first time Singapore expressed their concerns over controversial song lyrics. Back in 2016, Madonna was not allowed to perform “Holy Water” due to its “religiously sensitive content” during her first concert in the country, as part of the Rebel Heart Tour.