SINGAPORE: Film's portrayal of Islam distorted, say Singaporeans

Singaporeans feel uneasy about controversial portrayal of Muslims in Dutch-produced movie

The Straits Times
Sunday, March 30, 2008

By Alex Liam

Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng said freedom of expression does not give anyone the licence to insult another's religion or race.

He was responding to media queries on the film Fitna released by Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders.

'The film Fitna is offensive to Muslims. It is regrettable that the producer Geert Wilders chose to release it,' said Mr Wong, who is also Home Affairs Minister.

'I am confident that Singaporeans will react to this film in the same rational and calm manner as they did in similar previous incidents, for example, the publication of the Danish cartoons. They value the racial and religious harmony that we now enjoy.'

The cartoon controversy occurred in 2006 when newspapers in Denmark, France, Germany, Italy and Spain published caricatures of Prophet Muhammad.

Singaporeans told The Sunday Times that Fitna did not depict Islam properly.

Full-time national serviceman Sean Tan, 19, who viewed it on the Internet, said: 'It maliciously links Islam with extremism.'

Raffles Junior College student Andre Chong, 17, said Fitna came across as a subjective piece of work that unfairly portrayed violence and bigotry as being specifically unique to Islam.

Madam Nur Ruhana, 40, an administrator with the Al-Iman Mosque's madrasah department, felt that Singaporeans were sensible enough not to be influenced by the movie.

She said: 'I don't think it will cause major racial tensions here. The Mas Selamat case has proven that even Muslims have helped in the search for him.'

The Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers' Association (Pergas) honorary secretary Ustaz Zulkifli Osman said reacting emotionally 'will only support the prejudiced world view of people like Mr Wilders and the extremists'.

The National Council of Churches of Singapore also deplored the film.

It said: 'Such portrayal totally distorts the fact that there are millions of peace-loving and tolerant Muslims.'

The film generated comments in online forums, with some netizens saying that the film was nothing to be upset about while others felt it riled Muslims unnecessarily.