Singapore—On March 8, Friday, The National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) issued a letter thanking the Government for cancelling the concert of Swedish black metal band WATAIN just hours before it was scheduled to be held on March 7.
The letter from the NCCS was addressed in particular to Mr K Shanmugam, the country’s Minister for Home Affairs, for his “swift and decisive action.” He had recommended to the IMDA that the concert, titled “WATAIN live in Singapore” be canceled due to its “anti-Christian” messages.
The letter reads, “NCCS shares in MHA’s serious concerns over what WATAIN represents and stands for. We fully agree with the MHA’s assessment that the band’s history of denigrating religions and promoting violence has the potential to cause enmity and disrupt Singapore’s social harmony.”
The NCCS further wrote that they consider the band’s “sacrilegious attacks” on Christianity through their songs to be “particularly disruptive and hurtful to the cause of religious harmony.”
Moreover, the Council expressed consign that the group’s “open endorsement of satanic violence” might have negative effects on the young people of Singapore.
The NCCS ended their letter by saying, “Overall, our worry is that the worldview of WATAIN promotes works against the common good and the building of social order.”
On the side of the country’s Catholics, William Goh, the Archbishop of Singapore wrote a pastoral letter that praised the Government for being “enlightened.” Though he did not mention the Swiss band by name, the context of the pastoral letter was unmistakable, since the Archbishop mentioned government leaders who possess the “courage and moral integrity” in ensuring that arts promoted in Singapore do not “degrade into something banal, destructive and divisive”.
And while Archbishop Goh acknowledged that Catholicism should respect “differences in taste and values,” he also stressed the “moral duty” and responsibility Catholics have to make sure that people can live together peacefully with mutual respect.
Because of this, art forms cannot sow divisions in society through sowing “hatred, violence and disrespect”, or glorifying a “culture of death, suicide, individualism, intolerance, and promiscuity”.
At least one more Christian leader has also publicly lauded and thanked the MHA for canceling WATAIN’s concert. Reverend Yang Tuck Yoong, the senior pastor of Cornerstone Community Church has said that it had the same view as Mr Shanmugam that the Swiss band might possibly upset “Singapore’s public order, and religious and social harmony.”
Speaking at a Dadah Itu Haram event wherein he thanked volunteers who helped with the campaign against drugs in the Malay-Muslim community, he said, “I saw (Watain’s) lyrics – its four-letter words on Jesus Christ, on Christianity, on religion, abusing the cross – everything that is so far out that I can’t see how we could have agreed to it.”
While this matter was not particularly relevant to the community he was addressing, he said that it was important to discuss it openly.
He narrated that Christian leaders have told him he is “very, very strict when it comes to anti-Muslim, anti-Islamic messages.” He has even banned noted writer’s book The Satanic Verses, though it has been lauded in literary circle.
”They said what these people (Watain) are saying is far worse, it is a hundred times worse about Christianity – how come you would allow that? … They said you treat the Muslim community differently than the Christian community.”
Mr Shamnugam said, ”I looked at it and I thought that there is some truth to what they say. I won’t say that it is completely true but it is an approach.”
The Home Affairs Minister bought attention to a picture on WATAIN’s Facebook account wherein the cancellation of the concert was lambasted, saying it showed “mainly young Malay men showing the one-finger sign with WATAIN.”
He added, “I think they went to the concert, got angry, they are all showing the one-finger sign. In a multiracial society, they don’t understand that the concert is anti-Christian, it criticises Jesus and Christianity and churches and they talk about burning churches and so on.
If we had a concert like this about Islam, there is no way we would have allowed it. If a group of Chinese went and showed the finger sign and said that we should allow it – how would you all have felt? It is the same.”