NLB withdraws Malay language books on religion, to review vetting process

NLB withdraws Malay language books on religion, to review vetting process

Offensive books
A Twitter user posted photos of the books and their allegedly offensive contents. (Photo: @POZboySG/Twitter)

SINGAPORE: The National Library Board (NLB) said it will review its vetting process for potentially sensitive materials, after it withdrew a series of Malay language books on religion that was deemed controversial.

All titles under the series called Agama, Tamadun Dan Arkeologi (Religion, Civilisation and Archeology) have been withdrawn with immediate effect, pending a review by the Library Consultative Panel, said an NLB spokesperson on Thursday (Jun 8). 

Channel NewsAsia understands that this was in response to concerns raised by a Twitter user who alleged that the books' contents insulted religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism, and contained factual errors about these religions. The books were placed in the junior non-fiction section of libraries.

According to NLB, this is the first time it has received any feedback on the series. The Twitter user has since deactivated his account.

Responding to Channel NewsAsia's queries, the spokesperson explained that NLB does not vet every single book before it is acquired. "Instead, NLB uses a variety of tools such as pre-publication information from publishers and vendors and reviews from library journals to guide its selection."

In the case of the withdrawn series, NLB said it was selected based on the publisher’s synopsis that it is a factual book series on civilisations, archaeology and religions. The series, by Malaysian-based publisher Penerbit Sinar Cemerlang, was added to NLB's collection in 2013. 

The NLB also said it would review its vetting process "to strengthen the exclusion of materials that denigrate any racial or religious groups, or which promote intolerance or violence."

A search on NLB's catalogue on Thursday night showed that the series of eight books - with more than 30 copies of each book - was listed in the junior lending sections of libraries islandwide. The status of most of the books was "under review". 

NLB said eight copies of books are currently on loan and would be withdrawn once they have been returned. "We are contacting the borrowers to ask that they return the books as soon as possible," the spokesperson added. 

Source: CNA/mz