Plans for 'proper debate' on issues like hate speech, race and religion in Parliament next month: Shanmugam

Plans for 'proper debate' on issues like hate speech, race and religion in Parliament next month: Shanmugam

There are plans to have a “proper debate” in Parliament on issues such as race, religion and hate speech early next month, according to Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Tuesday (Mar 19).

SINGAPORE: There are plans to have a “proper debate” in Parliament on issues such as race, religion and hate speech early next month, according to Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Tuesday (Mar 19).

READ: Societies have to 'face squarely' the reality that Islamophobia is rising, says Shanmugam

Speaking to the media after his speech at the 15th Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) retreat, Mr Shanmugam said it is important for people to look at the different facets of these issues and decide, as a society, where the lines of acceptability are. 

He pointed out that such positions have been put across years ago but this should be revisited. 

“I think it is important that a comprehensive position is put forward for debate (in Parliament),” the minister said. 

“So that society can see where we are and each generation has got to decide on its own. (These positions) are not cast in stone.

“What is the right level, what is the right approach (towards these issues) has got to be decided by debate; that’s the right approach,” Mr Shanmugam said, adding he plans to have a motion introduced in April. 

His comments come on the heels of the deadly shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, which left 50 worshippers at two mosques dead and dozens injured. 

Citing the incident, Mr Shanmugam pointed out in his speech at the RRG retreat that the Christchurch shooter had posted a 74-page manifesto filled with hate speech against Islam. 

Mr Shanmugam also again condemned the Islamophobic comments made by Australian senator Fraser Anning, who had said that the attacks highlighted the growing fear of increased Muslim presence and that New Zealand’s immigration programme invited Muslim fanatics into the country.

“(Mr Anning’s) speech, which I think is among the very worst thing I can think of … as I said, if he was in Singapore, he’d have been arrested. We don’t allow this,” the minister said. 

“When more people speak like this … the media carries stuff like these, and there’s entertainment that’s got hate speech, it does something to society; it normalises hate speech. It makes it acceptable that he said this,” Mr Shanmugam warned.

He added: “If you say it, and somebody else criticise it but you continue saying it, and more people say it, it becomes fair game and everybody attacks somebody else’s religion. What happens in society?”

This is why organisations like the RRG are useful as they help tackle misguided and violent ideologies and provide access to a legitimate source of religious knowledge, Mr Shanmugam said.

He also called on the other segments of societies to do their part to fight hate speech.

Source: CNA/rw(ms)

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