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IMDA: MHA consulted about Watain concert before approval

IMDA ultimately agreed with MHA's recommendation to cancel the concert.

Sulaiman Daud | March 12, 12:12 pm

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The Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) came up with a public response to opinion letter writers, who questioned why the show by black metal band Watain was approved in the first place.

On March 12, IMDA’s Cluster Director (Communications and Marketing) Karen Low wrote a public letter in response to three separate letters that were published by the Straits Times in their Forum section on March 11.

Asked why IMDA gave approval

The ST forum letters all asked why IMDA allowed the concert to go ahead in the first place.

Stephen Chua:

“Watain has a well-known track record of insulting religions and inciting violence.

Given our multi-religious society and efforts to maintain religious harmony, I fail to understand how IMDA gave its permission, even if it came with stringent restrictions.”

Sattar Bawany:

“The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) has much to answer for.

Why did IMDA approve the concert in the first place, given that an online search would reveal the band’s repertoire of anti-Christian songs, stage set-ups involving Satanic imagery and concert antics that include adorning the stage with rotting animal meat.

Shouldn’t IMDA have sought the guidance of the Ministry of Home Affairs from the start, given the band’s history of performing in a manner inconsistent with the Government’s policy of preserving public order and its potential to cause enmity and disrupt Singapore’s religious and social harmony?”

Lim Boon Seng:

“Second, why did IMDA grant the permit in the first place, given that its statement showed that it knew “Watain is known for its Satanist views, and some of their previous controversial performances involved animal carcasses and throwing pig’s blood on its audience”?

IMDA also appeared to be aware of the band’s history of denigrating religions and promoting violence, which has the potential to cause enmity and disrupt Singapore’s social harmony.

Such alarming red flags should have prevented Watain from getting the permit to perform here from the beginning. And what the band stands for is common knowledge.”

IMDA explained their process

First, Low thanked the letter-writers for their feedback. Then she said:

“IMDA had consulted relevant parties including the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) before classifying the Watain concert.

Given the band’s history and concerns expressed by MHA, IMDA allowed the Watain concert with a rating of “Restricted 18 (R18)”.

IMDA also imposed stringent requirements including the removal of songs which are religiously offensive, that the band could not make references to religion or use religious symbols, and that no ritualistic acts were to be performed on stage.

This is consistent with IMDA’s treatment of similar performances in the past.

In assessing and classifying content for arts performances and concerts, IMDA aims to protect the young from unsuitable content, maintain community norms and values, and safeguard public interest, while enabling adults to make informed choices.

On March 7, the day that the Watain concert was due to take place, MHA asked IMDA to consider cancelling the Watain concert due to new and serious concerns about public order, and ground reactions relating to social and religious harmony.

After careful consideration, IMDA agreed to do it.”

IMDA agreed with MHA’s request

So in a nutshell, IMDA consulted MHA even before the concert was classified.

The show was allowed to proceed with strict conditions imposed, which the band agreed to.

On the day of the show, MHA asked IMDA to consider to cancel it due to “new and serious” public order concerns, as well as reactions from the ground.

IMDA agreed.

MHA’s advice

At this point, it might be helpful to recall what Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said about the approval process.

During his public statement to the media on March 7, the day the concert was supposed to go ahead, he made the following points:

  • IMDA approved the concert, albeit with the strict conditions imposed.
  • However, due to concerns expressed over the “past few days”, MHA conducted a further security assessment on March 6.
  • In light of the band’s history of advocating violence and insulting religions, the decision was made to stop the concert.

Shanmugam also emphasised that the online petition started on March 6 to ban Watain from performing (and also a non-Satanist metal band called Soilwork) that garnered over 15,000 signatures did not influence MHA’s decision.

Anti-Muslim material was similarly banned before

On March 9, at the Dadah Itu Haram appreciation lunch, Shanmugam elaborated further on MHA’s decision to cancel the show:

“I saw the lyrics – it’s 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.”

Shanmugam added that Watain’s music contains anti-Christian messages that were as bad as anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic messages that were also banned.

He also revealed that Christian preachers told him that the Watain things Watain said is “far worse” than the Danish cartoon about Prophet Muhammad and the Satanic Verses book by Salman Rushdie, and both were banned in Singapore.

The preachers told him that “what these people are saying is far worse, it is a hundred times worse about Christianity”, and they asked him, “how come you would allow that?” inferring that the Muslim community was treated differently compared to the Christian community.

MHA’s decision won praise from several religious leaders, including the National Council of Churches, the Catholic Church, and Cornerstone Community Church.

Related stories:

Shanmugam reveals more info behind decision to cancel Watain’s performance in S’pore

Catholic Church & Cornerstone Community Church praise government for move to cancel Watain concert

Watain responds to S’pore banning metal concert by keeping Satanic branding message on point

Swedish black metal band Watain angry & fans disappointed S’pore cancelled show

Top image from IMDA and Watain’s Facebook pages.

About Sulaiman Daud

Sulaiman believes that we can be heroes, if just for one day. His favourite Doctor is Peter Capaldi's Twelve and his favourite person is Jürgen Klopp. He also writes about film and pop-culture, which you are very welcome to read here.

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