Allowing metal band Watain to perform would affect religious and social harmony: Shanmugam
SINGAPORE: Allowing Swedish black metal group Watain's concert to be held in Singapore would be against "public order interest and affect our religious and social harmony", said Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Thursday (Mar 7).
Earlier in the day, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) announced it was cancelling the group's show scheduled for Thursday evening, as advised by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
IMDA had initially allowed the concert with a rating of Restricted 18 (R18).
"Previously, permission had been given with strict conditions imposed that there should be no offensive songs, that the audience should be limited to I think only 200 or so, and several other conditions," said Mr Shanmugam.
"Nevertheless over the last few days, there were lots of concerns expressed, and if you look at the band they do have a history - very offensive towards Christians and Jews, and supportive of violence, including encouraging the burning of churches.
"They’ve even said they encourage any terrorist acts committed in the name of the band, and various other statements which are quite offensive," he added.
After conducting a "further security assessment" on Wednesday, MHA "decided that in light of the responses that the band has evoked and taking into account of course the history which we know, it will be against public order interest and will affect our religious and social harmony if we allow the concert to go ahead", said the ministry.
"So we advised IMDA, and IMDA has proceeded to cancel."
Mr Shanmugam also said that the general approach the Government takes with a music event involves asking if what the band is going to do would be considered offensive in Singapore.
"Is it going to be offensive? Is what they are going to do offensive in Singapore? Is it going to be contrary to our rules, laws? Is it going to be against public security, public order?
"I think to some extent you can look at what they've done elsewhere. It's got to be really case-by-case," he said.
Earlier this week, a Rachel Chan lodged an online petition calling for a ban on Watain, as well as another Swedish metal group Soilwork. Soilwork's concert is scheduled to take place in Singapore this October.
"Their subliminal messages in their songs include death and suicide," Ms Chan had written on the petition page.
When asked if the petition - which had racked up more than 16,000 signatures by Thursday afternoon - influenced MHA's decision in any way, Mr Shanmugam said: "The petition per se did not influence the decision. As I said, it was an assessment made by the ministry, with security as well as public order assessment.
"But certainly the reactions - and we've been discussing with senior clerics, we've been discussing with people in the community - and our assessment took into account their viewpoints. We also discussed with our own MPs as well."
Mr Shanmugam said no action will be taken against the concert organisers as they "have not done anything wrong".
On who would bear the costs of the cancellation, he said: "I think that has to be looked at."