Minister Shanmugam: Watain’s black metal concert against public order interests
The petition did not influence the decision.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said that Swedish metal band Watain were not allowed to perform in Singapore out of interest for public order, and religious and social harmony.
Speaking to reporters on March 7, Shanmugam referred to the Info-Communications Media Authority of Singapore announcement that the concert had been cancelled.
IMDA had initially allowed the concert to go ahead, albeit with strict conditions imposed.
This included the condition that “no offensive songs” were allowed to be played, and the audience size was limited to 200 people.
Concerns over violence, religiously offensive statements
However, there have been “a lot of concern” expressed over the past few days. Shanmugam added that the band has a history of:
- Being offensive towards Christians and Jews.
- Being supportive of violence.
- Encouraging the burning of churches.
- Encouraging any terrorist act committed in the name of the band.
- Various other offensive statements.
Therefore, MHA conducted a further security assessment.
“So, MHA did a further security assessment yesterday and decided that in the light of the responses that the band has evoked, and its 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 allowed the concert to go ahead.
So we advised IMDA, and IMDA has proceeded to cancel (the show).”
Petition did not influence decision, but general reaction did
A petition was started on Change.org on March 6 calling for the band to be banned.
It had garnered over 15,000 signatures by the morning of March 7, the day of the concert, and had allegedly been sent to Culture, Community and Youth Minister Grace Fu.
Asked if the petition had any bearing on the authorities’ decision, Shanmugam said this was not the case.
“The petition per se did not influence the decision, as I said it was an assessment made by the ministry, security as well as public order assessment, but certainly the reactions.
IMDA has been discussing with the senior clerics, we have been discussing with the people in the community, and our assessment took into account their viewpoints. We also discussed with our own MPs as well.”
Shanmugam confirmed that action will not be taken against the concert organisers, as they have not anything specifically wrong.
When asked about the costs now that the show has been cancelled, he said that it has to be “looked at”.
Different from banning extremist preachers
In response to queries about how this was current ban is different from banning extremist religious preachers, Shanmugam said he did not want to draw a moral equivalence between preachers and music bands.
Shanmugam said MHA’s stance on preachers was that if they took positions that were offensive against other religions out of Singapore, then they would not be allowed to preach in Singapore.
However, for music and art performances, he said the authorities would assess if what they were going to do in Singapore would likely contravene our rules and laws on public security and order.
“I think to some extent you can look at what they have done elsewhere. It’s got to be really case by case.”
Top image by Andrew Koay.