Charlie Hebdo cartoon pulled out of Economist Singapore

From ‘Right to speak freely and responsibly must come together':Yaacob on Charlie Hebdo, 17 Jan 2015. article in CNA

Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim said he appreciates a decision by a local printer of The Economist not to reproduce a page with the latest cover of the Charlie Hebdo magazine depicting the Prophet Mohammed. “We have no doubt that there’s no such thing as freedom of expression without limits. As I have said before, the right to speak freely and responsibly must come together,” Dr Yaacob said to the media on the sidelines of the JFDI.Asia Demo Day on Friday (Jan 16),

Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs said the circulation of the cartoons will not be allowed in Singapore. He later posted on Facebook that “there are longstanding laws against causing offence to our races and religions” in Singapore. The page in the Singapore edition of The Economist was replaced with a statement informing readers that the magazine’s “Singapore printers” declined to print it. The magazine hit local newsstands on Friday.

“I think Singaporeans understand the sensitivities and we must continue to protect our racial, religious harmony. So I appreciate the sensitivities shown by the printer and I commend them for the decision,” said Dr Yaacob.

…Dr Yaacob said the Malay/Muslim community is “by and large offended” by the latest Charlie Hebdo cover. “But I think they also understood that we need to act rationally and I am quite impressed at how the community has come together to respond to this particular episode,” he said.

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Instead of the actual image, our local printer (Times Printers) agreed to allow a link directing the reader to the cartoon, only without the disclaimer ‘Click at your own risk. We are not responsible for any bloody riots taking place on the streets over this’. As the head honcho of all Muslim Affairs we’re supposed to take Yaacob’s word that ‘by and large’ a cartoon of the prophet shedding a tear expressing solidarity with the Je Suis Charlie movement is insensitive to Islam. Hebdo has published worse, of course, with images of His Most Exalted One being subject to gross humiliation and explicit violence. The creator of the latest cartoon has already explained the meaning behind it, that it wasn’t meant to poke fun but imply that the prophet would never have approved of these mindless killings. Angry Muslims elsewhere have already taken to the streets slamming the resurgence of Charlie as an act of defiance. To some, it’s an act of WAR. Well, Sacre bleu!

Since the time someone was investigated for posting an image of a pig on the Kaaba in Facebook, Singaporeans have become all too familiar with the consequences of breaching boundaries of ‘free speech’. The publisher’s ‘self-censorship’ is similar to the restraint exercised by Singaporeans from expressing their honest views about such a ‘sensitive topic’. We don’t talk about it in school, at work, even around the dinner table, letting the controversy drift by while we argue instead over the ethics of Xiaxue vs Gushcloud. Opinion leaders straddle an overcrowded fence, saying that ‘I am not really Charlie Hebdo’ and ‘Killing is bad, but free speech has its limits’. One moment we’re condemning the murderers, the next we’re saying ‘Hmm, maybe those cartoonists went too far’. The usual refrain is ‘There is no excuse for murder, this has nothing to do with religion…’. Then there’s this big ‘BUT….’.

Some go to the extent of calling out countries for hypocrisy, such as Saudi representatives at the Charlie Hebdo march, who hail from the very same place that sentenced a blogger to 1000 lashes for denigrating Islam. Maybe our publishers just really wanted to play it safe in case they get a similar mode of punishment in Singapore, or their office gets razed to the ground by insurgent syndicate members. We can’t blame them for that really, but one can’t help noticing the double-take when a public figure goes on to commend them for muzzling themselves over a cartoon that anyone can find online at the click of a mouse. In particular THIS cartoon. Our local FHM magazine has published a caricature of Jesus Christ with a shotgun previously, which in my opinion is more offensive than the Prophet with a glum face holding a ‘Je Suis Charlie’ sign. Today, FHM is still in business, though focusing more on boobs, thighs and butts, which ‘by and large’, doesn’t offend the general populace. MDA must be thanking the heavens that the publisher censored themselves otherwise they’d have some work to do. Thank you for acting ‘rationally’. Hey wouldn’t it be more ‘rational’ if you removed all links and references to Hebdo COMPLETELY? Here’s a broom and a rug, guys!

The irony was evident from the moment our ministers lined up to ‘strongly condemn’ the act, even sending dignitaries to march with the Parisians. The French ambassador took Singapore’s deep condolences as a gesture of support for the French people, and ‘solidarity in the fight against terrorism’. Yet, we knew that Singapore would have banned Charlie Hebdo all along, whether they’re slamming the Prophet, Buddha Jesus, or the Supreme Court for that matter, as one of our own cartoonists Leslie Chew found out the hard way. It would be a matter of time before the awkwardness hits home, when a ‘controversial’ image from the ‘survival edition’, meant to symbolise resilence against terror, is taken out because people are afraid of the consequences. By branding the latest cartoon as ‘religiously insensitive’, MDA is throwing the ‘context’ out of the window and going for the safer option of a blanket ban. The failure to appreciate context, of course, is the reason why extremists kill people in the first place, and a ban is exactly what they have always hoped to achieve.

The French ambassador may want to take a second look at our condolence signing and look for the small print that says: ‘We feel you, bro, but Charlie Hebdo is still a no-no here. Sorry’. As for us, maybe looking up ‘solidarity’ in the dictionary might be a good idea before jumping on the Hebdo sympathy bandwagon.

Llao llao discriminating against non-Mandarin speaking woman

From ‘Yogurt chain to raise hiring standards after shunning woman for not speaking Mandarin’, 15 Jan 2015, article by Joanna Seow, ST

Frozen yogurt chain llaollao has promised to improve its hiring guidelines after a local woman was allegedly turned away from a job interview because she could not speak Mandarin.

Indian undergraduate Karishma Kaur, 22, applied for a part-time role at the company’s West Mall branch on Jan 7 but said she was not given an interview as the manager spoke only Mandarin and could not interview her in English.

After she posted about the matter on Facebook, the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep) received a complaint about it on Jan 12 and is looking into the issue.

Llaollao Singapore’s country manager Edwin Ferroa said he has been in talks with Tafep “to look into how we can better the way we employ”, and added: “We don’t condone such discriminatory behaviour based on race, language or religion.”

He said that the company had already begun probing the incident on Jan 10 and found that the woman who had spoken with Ms Kaur was the wife of the store’s owner who had been helping out. She was not an actual employee.

To date, there are no anti-discriminatory laws in Singapore. The Tafep, launched by Minister Tan Chuan Jin, makes ‘guidelines’, organises workshops to teach employers about ‘fair’ hiring and if necessary, slaps ‘demerit points’ on recalcitrant companies. Since then, the agency has shamed companies for wanting directors ‘aged around 30 years’, ‘Filipinos only’, ‘Malaysian PRs’ and ‘preferred Female Chinese’. Some companies are more specific on who would make ideal employees – people who recoil at the ‘thought of having kids’. Others, while not guilty of discriminatory advertising, may drop you during the interview if you have a barely noticeable baby bump, stutter, or are openly gay.

According to the Tripartite guidelines, you are discouraged from employing people based on age, race, gender, religion, marital status and family responsibilities, or disability unless exempted by the nature of work. For obvious reasons, you need someone who’s fluent in Mandarin in order to be a tour guide for PRCs, or you’ll have to exclude Muslims if you’re dealing with Bee Cheng Hiang bakkwa. If you’re hiring masseurs, you’d have to say sorry to the guy missing both thumbs.

However, the guidelines do not say anything against hiring people based on their LOOKS. Which means Abercrombie and Fitch can get away with hiring ‘attractive’ people, Hooters can pick and choose employees with a ‘GREAT SMILE’, and our very own SIA can reject any lady below 1.58m tall. A ‘pleasant’ look, as everyone knows, is euphemism for ‘good-looking’. In my experience patronising hip ice-cream or yogurt joints, you’re more likely to be served by young women in shorts than, well, 40-ish uncles in khakis and crocs. Just look at this FB post, which claims that the company hires ‘Singaporeans or PRs only’. Apparently they missed out the ‘Speak no English OK’ requirement. According to Ms Kaur, she was told that the manager of the West Mall stall was ‘from China’. Well well, you’ve got some explaining to do, Llaollao!

LMAO

LMAO!

Another notable absence from the guide is discrimination against one’s ‘sexual orientation’. You’re unlikely to get a job as a Sunday school teacher if you’re a transgender, nor have we heard of openly gay colonels in the SAF. Goldman Sachs, however, has a team dedicated to hiring LGBT staff, which one could counter-argue to be discriminatory against heterosexuals. What about ‘political beliefs’? Just ask Cherian George. Or ‘dietary habits’, like say I only hire vegetarians for my Animal Rescue company because of my belief that anyone who loves animals shouldn’t be eating them as well?

As an employer, it’s easy to slide from ‘discerning’ to ‘discriminatory’. The harsh truth is no one who cares about the survival of their business is just going to hire any Tom, Dick or Harry willy-nilly for the sake of universal equality. If you want to publish a politically correct ad for a beer server in a kopitiam, for example, following the guidelines strictly would mean something like ‘Wanted: A human being (nope, even ‘waitress’ is frowned upon). With a working brain’. Which is a waste of not just your candidate’s time, but yours as well. As for the hugely popular frozen yogurt chain, I doubt this series of events would turn the business cold, though you may want to familiarise yourself with yogurt flavours in Chinese the next time you order.

Muslim woman demanding full refund for pigskin shoes

From ‘Muslim seeks refund for shoes lined with pig skin’, 24 June 2014, article by Melissa Lin, ST

A MUSLIM woman who bought a pair of $279 shoes was incensed to find out, after wearing them for six months, that the shoes were lined with pig skin. Administrative assistant Nur Najwa Abdullah, 43, is demanding a full refund from foot care chain Happy Walker, claiming that the sales staff had told her the shoes were made of calf skin.

Ustaz Firdaus Yahya, manager of the Darul Huffaz Learning Centre which promotes understanding of the Quran, said: “In Islam, anything related to pork, such as the meat or skin, is considered unclean.”

Islamic experts say while the use of pig-skin products is not considered a sin, a Muslim should go through a cleansing ritual if he or she has used the product….She complained to the Happy Walker outlet and told the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) about it. Muis advised her to discard the shoes and wash her feet with water and clay, a ritual cleansing.

If I were the manager of a shoe shop and someone asks me for a FULL refund for religious reasons, my natural reaction is to determine if I have in fact inflicted spiritual duress on the complainant and if the offence were indeed in accordance to what the scriptures prescribe. Granted, this Unhappy Walker customer was misinformed about the nature of the product, but MUIS have already declared that it’s ‘not a sin’ and Happy Walker was willing to offer half the money back out of goodwill. I would assume a 6-month old $279 pair would still be in good working condition, so this isn’t returning a ‘defective’ product, so much as a defective lapse in communication and understanding of how Islam works when it comes to dogs and swine. A waste of a perfectly good pair if MUIS’s recommendation is throwing the wretched filth away, short of burning it with fire.

Curious about what our Islamic authority has to say about touching nasty, forbidden things, I browsed a MUIS’ FAQ webpage, but came away with more questions than answers. Here’s a sample:

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 11.08.31 PM

Does ‘hides’ include chemically treated, tanned leather?
If the pig and my hand are both dry, do I still need to wash the affected area 7 times?
How do I know if the earth/sand I use is not also contaminated with heavy Najis? Does MUIS have an analytical lab to sniff out najis compounds?
How pure should ‘pure clean water’ be? Will tap water do? Or do I need an entire lab apparatus to distill water for the purposes of ritual cleansing?
If I accidentally exposed my mouth and gums to pig-hair toothbrushes do I have to gargle with 6 parts water and 1 part water/earth too?

Pigs aside, what struck me most were these answers below as to whether it’s OK for a Muslim to TOUCH a DOG.

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So is it OK to touch a dry dog with a dry hand and not cleanse after that?
Do I need to wash if I touched dried dog saliva in a cab?
Do I need a measuring jug to measure exactly 6 parts water and 1 part water and earth?
Must the water be pure and distilled as well?
If I step on fresh dogshit with shoes on, do I need to purify the dirty shoe?
If I step on dogshit with bare feet can I wash with soap first before doing the ritual wash?
Does ‘dog’ include coyote, wolf and dingo?

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What if I have chronically sweaty palms?
Can I swim, bathe, play sweaty sports with someone who eats pork?
Can my child play with toys in the image of a pig but made of non-porcine material?
How small are these ‘particles’ you speak of. Crumbs, or molecules?
Can I drink from the same bottle as a pork-eater?
What happens if I get bitten by a mosquito that just sucked dog’s blood?
If my non-Muslim friend became vegetarian just a day ago, how long must I wait before not a trace of pork filth is retained in his body?

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WHY CATS?

Wear white campaign a protest against homosexuality

From ‘Religious leader launches Wear White online campaign’, 19 June 2014, article by Rachel Au Yong, Nur Asyiqin Mohamed Salleh, ST

AN ISLAMIC religious teacher has launched an online campaign asking Muslims to wear white next Saturday evening to protest against homosexuality and defend traditional family values. Ustaz Noor Deros, 28, is behind the Wear White Facebook page and website and is asking Muslims to “return to fitrah” – the Arabic word for “natural” – and support “what is good and pure”.

The Muslim month of Ramadan starts on Sunday next week and the first evening prayer to mark the fasting month will be held on Saturday evening. That Saturday is also when the Pink Dot picnic – an annual event promoting “the freedom to love” regardless of sexual orientation – will be held. It is organised by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Mr Noor, who teaches religious classes at Hajar Consultancy Services in Joo Chiat, writing on the campaign website, said: “The natural state of human relationships is now under sustained attack by LGBT activists.” He said that holding the Pink Dot event on the eve of Ramadan showed their “disdain for Islam and the family”.

…The campaign symbol is a white droplet against a black background, which some supporters are now using as their Facebook profile picture.

The objective of Wearwhite is to help Muslims return to their ‘natural disposition‘. From a biological perspective, the natural disposition of any man or woman, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist or Hindu, is not to preserve ‘traditional values’, but that of a savage ape, one all too capable of betrayal, deceit, adultery, rape, cruelty, greed and murder and reluctantly domesticated by the products of his own invention: society, religion, ethics, the rule of law.

At least another Muslim academic was honest enough to call a spade a spade, that the LGBT movement is a CANCER that needs to be excised without sugar coating it with images of babies. The wear white contingent is on a mission to vanquish, and Minister Tan Chuan Jin, despite his lack of patience for the Blood Stained Singapore racists, xenophobes and bigots, is predictably silent when it comes to people forming factions under the banner of heaven rallying against another group of human beings, some of whom even believe in the same God as the ‘fitrah’ fanclub. It’s fitting that the Wear White logo resembles a teardrop, because all this is, well, plain sad. Brother against brother with another brother for a lover.

White is also the theme at Chinese funerals, the colour of mourning. It is the pretentious dress you put on when you’re heading out for Diner en Blanc. For the Wear White brigade, it’s a holy pledge of incorruptibility and all things ‘good’ and ‘natural’. Not too far off from why white is the colour of choice for these jokers below too.

They wore white before #wearwhite

Or these dudes from a top-ranking school. Don’t you dare call these boys ‘elitist’.

RI’s natural disposition

White is also the standard garb for a bunch that look like they have an oversized dunce cap pulled over their faces, and go around spooking little children.

Stay Kluxy always

Curiously, Lawrence Khong and his church ilk have decided to join forces with the Muslim brethren to champion the cause of ‘virtue and purity’. As they say, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.  Oh how times have changed since the Crusades. Lay down your sword, Muslim warrior, and give your infidel Christian brother a hug. Let’s drop all this Allah-name-calling nonsense. All is forgiven as we sing ‘What a Wonderful World’ together.

The FCBC Christians have also adopted the white theme, though for their scrapped ‘Red Dot Family Event’, the original plan was to wear RED. Considering what you get when you blend red and white, it’s understandable why the Khong army changed their colour theme. This, fellow Singaporeans, is multi-racial, religious harmony in action, and all it took to bring two monotheistic faiths together is an all-pink gay party. Not since leaders of various religions and denominations got together to pray for Bedok Reservoir have you seen a collaboration like this.

Still, if you want to return to what’s truly ‘natural’, don’t wear black, red, white, pink or turquoise. Wear NOTHING AT ALL, instead of hiding the Lord’s/Allah’s fleshy creation behind the tyranny of clothes. Now that’s one protest parade that I’d be interested in watching.

AN ISLAMIC religious teacher has launched an online campaign asking Muslims to wear white next Saturday evening to protest against homosexuality and defend traditional family values.

Ustaz Noor Deros, 28, is behind the Wear White Facebook page and website and is asking Muslims to “return to fitrah” – the Arabic word for “natural” – and support “what is good and pure”.

The Muslim month of Ramadan starts on Sunday next week and the first evening prayer to mark the fasting month will be held on Saturday evening.

That Saturday is also when the Pink Dot picnic – an annual event promoting “the freedom to love” regardless of sexual orientation – will be held. It is organised by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Mr Noor, who teaches religious classes at Hajar Consultancy Services in Joo Chiat, writing on the campaign website, said: “The natural state of human relationships is now under sustained attack by LGBT activists.” He said that holding the Pink Dot event on the eve of Ramadan showed their “disdain for Islam and the family”.

He urged Muslims to “stand up and defend the sanctity of family” and wear white to the first terawih prayers that day.

His is not the first group to attempt a protest against the Pink Dot event this year. Christian group Touch Family Services wanted to hold a family picnic on the same day but cancelled the event after the Urban Redevelopment Authority rejected its application to hold it at the Padang.

According to the Facebook pages of the Wear White community and Mr Noor, the campaign was launched two weeks ago and discussions took place at the Hasanah Mosque in Jurong East.

The campaign symbol is a white droplet against a black background, which some supporters are now using as their Facebook profile picture.

– See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/news/singapore/more-singapore-stories/story/religious-teacher-launches-wear-white-online-campaign-20#sthash.ySfZTRpO.dpuf

Red Dot Family Event not allowed at Padang

From ‘Refusal to allow pro-family event at Padang puzzling: Khong’, 10 May 2014, article by Joy Fang, Today

TOUCH Community Services founding chairman Lawrence Khong yesterday criticised the Ministry of Social and Family Development’s (MSF) move to reject an application by an affiliate of his organisation to hold a pro-family event at the Padang. Responding to TODAY’s queries, Mr Khong — who has regularly spoken out against homosexuality — said he was disappointed with the ministry’s move. He added: “I am puzzled by MSF’s restrictions on TOUCH to organise (the event) and also confused with their position on family.”

As part of the organiser’s proposal, participants had been asked to wear red to the event which was to be held on June 28, the same day as Pink Dot — an annual event held at Speakers’ Corner in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, where participants wear pink. The organisers had considered calling the event Red Dot Family Moment 2014 but it settled on #FamFest 2014.

On Wednesday, the media reported that the MSF had rejected the application by TOUCH Family Services as it deemed the event unsuitable for the Padang. The ministry proposed alternative sites, but the organisers declined as they felt that the alternative locations, which were in the heartlands, were less accessible.

Mr Khong, who is also a senior pastor at Faith Community Baptist Church, stressed that the event was meant to promote family values. He said: “#FamFest 2014 is about defending the family against the onslaught of sexual infidelity, divorce, family violence and media that promotes sexual immorality including the homosexual agenda.”

…TODAY understands that TOUCH Family Services had booked the venue with the Singapore Recreation Club and applied for approval from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the police to hold the event. The voluntary welfare organisation also tried to engage the MSF as a partner for the event. The proposal was rejected by the URA last month.

The organisers had rejected suggestions that the event was pitted against Pink Dot. The red theme was inspired by Singapore’s national colour and the SG50 tagline Celebrating The Little Red Dot, while the date had been chosen because it is the last Saturday of the June school holidays and also the weekend when the annual National Family Celebrations traditionally culminate, they said.

The Padang has been traditionally used for sporting events and other activities which are generally FUN by nature, whether it’s a Zombie Run or a Justin Bieber concert. Even the organiser for this year’s waterless Songkran festival managed to book the place, but withdrew due to poor ticket sales. How did a celebration of the Thai New Year get the green light but not TOUCH’s Family extravaganza?

If there’s one similarity between Red Dot and Pink Dot it’s that both themes are inspired by national colours. Pink Dot explains that pink is the colour of our ICs, and it’s what you get when you mix red and white. Due to constraints of the venue, however, Pink Dot only allows foreigners to ‘observe’ the event but not participate in the highlight: The formation of a pink circle. I wonder what formation #Famfest had planned for, maybe a heart shape, or better still an outline of Singapore with a heart at its centre. Maybe our PAP can hold their own party to celebrate more than 50 years of total supremacy and call it White Dot to complete this trilogy of colours.

Lawrence Khong describes #Famfest as if it were a war campaign to defeat the enemies of his Church – sexual immorality and gay activism – rather than what should really be a relaxed carnival atmosphere. If they had lightened up on the ‘Values’ and war analogies, #Famfest would have just been deemed as a typical fun day out, for kids to run about with their parents rather than sitting around hearing some pastor ranting about the virtues of a heterosexual marriage like a general rousing his troops for battle.

But what’s more puzzling than the hashtag in #Famfest is the number of parties you need to seek permission from if you need to host any event at the Padang, whether it’s an atas mass picnic or a seniors’ game of rounders. According to the Terms and Conditions on the SRC website, you need to seek a total of up to SIX agencies  and  get 3 licences/permits  even PRIOR to getting approval from the SRC itself.

a) Urban Redevelopment Permit/s if applicable. (URA)
b) Public Entertainment Licence (PELU)
c) Composers & Authors Society of Singapore Ltd (Compass)
d) Artist impression of type of set-up and layout
e) Fire Safety Bureau (FSB) Licence
f) Building and Construction Authority Permit/s if applicable (BCA)
g) Singapore Land Authority (SLA)
h) Land Transport Authority (LTA) if applicable

And that’s excluding the MSF and the POLICE which TOUCH took extra steps to notify.

Interestingly, one of the conditions is that the event must not be political or religious in nature, and TOUCH’s chairman is both a pastor and an unabashed supporter of S377A. But ultimately it was URA and the Ministry who rejected the application, for reasons unclear. Isn’t it SRC’s call to decide if an event is ‘unsuitable’ for the grounds? To be fair, I would demand an answer myself looking at the amount of time and effort I had to waste just to book the damn place. If you made it so difficult to secure the Padang, why even allow third party events to be held there at all. No wonder the NDP is held only every 5 years at the venue. It probably takes the same amount of time to get the necessary permits as to plan the entire parade, full dress rehearsal included.

 

 

 

Noah movie is a gross distortion of the biblical story

From ‘GV notice for Noah is misguided’, 18 April 2014, Mailbag, ST Life! and the ‘Rock of Ages’ Facebook post, 12 April 2014.

(Kam Tin Seah): I was intrigued by the notice put up by Golden Village (GV) at the screening of Noah in Singapore. It read: “The film Noah is director Darren Aronofsky’s version of the story of Noah. “Noah is inspired by the Book of Genesis. Though artistic licence has been taken, we believe the film to be true to the values and integrity of the biblical story.”

…Any informed person would have gathered from the media that since the release of Noah on movie screens, it has raised objections. Malaysia and Indonesia have banned the screening of Noah. Given such controversies, what does the notice intend to achieve?

I proffer that it will precipitate the divide between the money-making motive and religious conviction. Worse, it may be perceived by many as an intention to taint the minds of those who are unaware of the historical context and divine purpose of the flood as told in the Bible. This assaults the very tenet of respect for and practice of religious freedom enshrined in Singapore’s constitution.

Is it wrong to make movies only for profit? Not really, insofar as they do not show disrespect and distort the sacredness of any religious belief or racial norm. I beseech GV to immediately remove such a misguided notice from all the screening venues of Noah.

(Pastor Les and Adeline Chia): The Noah film is another example of the postmodern spirit at work. The film claims to tell the biblical story of the Flood but disappointingly, it does not stay true to the biblical narrative. Instead both the script writers and the director take excessive artistic license and reframe the story. The final product is a gross distortion of the original biblical account.

We understand from the bible that Noah was a righteous man, blameless among his people and he walked with God (Genesis 6:9). God Himself has singled out Noah as one of the three most righteous men apart from Job and Daniel (Ezekiel 14:14). But the film gives Noah a dark twist. It portrays him as a complicated, uncaring and evil person.

…In the film, the character of God is also distorted. God is portrayed as evil and unmerciful. Noah was led to believe that God intended to eliminate humans altogether. So, in obedience to God, he tried to kill his granddaughters but failed. And he sort of apologised to his Creator, “I can’t. I can’t do it. I am sorry. I am sorry.” Noah was just too compassionate to carry out God’s cruel plan. He was more loving than God.

I watched the film and found it surprisingly entertaining, especially for a non-believer. Aronofsky’s previous work include Black Swan and Requiem for a Dream, and anyone familiar with his narrative and visual style will walk into the theatre expecting something radically different from what we’d imagine from the Bible. Yes, it’s a distortion of the gospel ‘truth’ and it has elements of typical Hollywood blockbuster fare, but with Paramount’s disclaimer, I thought it would be a simple matter of one man’s interpretation of events and their meaning vs another, since even the most devout people have different takes on the Bible anyway. No ‘biblical film’ has been spared this testament poison that is ‘artistic licence’, whether it’s the Passion of Christ, Prince of Egypt or the Ten Commandments. If you were to make a film about the Bible literally word for word, it’d probably bore people, Christians included, to death. You’d have people nitpicking on the colour of Moses’ skin, the number of lashes on Jesus’ back and the type of wood that Noah used to construct his vessel.

Aronosky, incidentally, is a Jew, and had consulted texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls for the plot. It appears that what the above writers are disappointed about is not so much about how certain characters in the movie resemble fantasy beasts from LOTR (no spoilers, I swear), but how one of the most famous prophets in the Bible has been portrayed more like, well, a flawed HUMAN BEING. In the film we see a stoic, violent, fatherly, drunk, fat Noah played by Russell Crowe, a chosen one devoid of any humour whatsoever that all other plot devices (Methuselah, evil villain, snakes, sex in the forest) around him had to make up for his stony conviction and austerity. If Noah were evil, and his God were equally evil, then it only makes sense since God ‘made Man in His image’. If you wanted a biblical superhero, go watch Son of God.

The word ‘God’ was not mentioned once in the movie, with the writers opting for the more universal ‘Creator’ instead. In the film, the Creator comes across as merciless, stubborn and vengeful, and the ROA pastors were upset that Noah was above all His genocidal tendencies. Well, what’s new here? Isn’t this the same God who annihilated Sodom and Gomorrah? The same God who commanded one to go ‘smite Amalek..slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass (Samuel 15:3)? One moment He appoints you to shepherd everything that ‘creeps and crawls’, and the next He slaughters your camels and asses.  Wouldn’t He be more of a Destroyer of Worlds than Creator in this instance?

What about God being portrayed as Morgan Freeman in a comedy with a similar Ark-building theme, Evan Almighty (Malaysian Muslims called for its ban, naturally). Are Christians saying that it’s OK if Noah is played for laughs, but unacceptable if it’s supposed to be a serious movie?

The writers stop short of calling for Noah’s ban entirely, though ROA concluded by urging their followers to educate the masses on what really happened in the build up to the Ark. MUIS also acknowledged that there were ‘alternative narratives’ of the prophets and indivudal discretion is advised. Isn’t this, then, what ‘religious freedom’ is all about? Would you rather have the general viewer watch a pedantic, preachy deluge of a movie that’s the cinematic equivalent of stuffing a Bible down your throat?

From the perspective of the movie industry, Noah is a resounding success, and it’ll take some convincing of the Christian community that Noah, as compared to more overtly religious films like Passion and Son of God, is more likely to pique the interest of non-believers, atheists even, to read up on Genesis than any other ‘biblical’ film in recent memory. If there’s one statement that I agree with the ROA pastors, it’s this:

In conclusion, I think that the Noah film is a great opportunity to engage people that would not otherwise want to talk about God.

Amen to that.

Singaporean radical fighting against Syrian regime

From ‘S’pore man under probe for ‘going to fight in Syria”, 23 Mar 2014, article by Priscilla Goy, Sunday Times

Singaporean man is being investigated for allegedly going to Syria “with the intention to undertake violence” in the ongoing armed conflict there, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said yesterday. Haja Fakkurudeen Usman Ali, a 37-year-old supermarket manager, is a former Indian national who obtained his Singapore citizenship in 2008.

A member of the public informed the authorities of his alleged trip to fight against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime after he had left Singapore last November. The MHA confirmed it is investigating the allegations.

The ministry also said the authorities established that Gul Mohamed Maracachi Maraicar, a 37-year-old Indian national and former Singapore permanent resident, helped to radicalise Haja and assisted him in his plans to participate in armed violence in Syria.

Gul, who worked as a system analyst here, was investigated under the Internal Security Act. He was deported and banned from entering Singapore for his role in abetting and aiding Haja. When The Sunday Times asked when Gul was investigated or deported, an MHA spokesman said it “does not comment on operational matters”.

The initial reaction to such news is how on earth did we allow such budding extremists to become citizens and PRs in the first place, fanatics who would rather sacrifice themselves in another country than take up arms to defend ours. But ‘radicalisation’, sometimes of the ‘DIY’ kind, could happen to anyone with a passion for ‘militant jihad’, Singaporean or not.

It happened to Abdul Basheer in 2007, a bright law grad and lecturer who graduated from Raffles Institution and National Junior College and was an employee at Drew and Napier. Having succumbed to ‘MTV-style’ recruitment websites espousing extremist Islamic ideology, Abdul was seduced into joining the Taleban to fight in war-ravaged countries such as Afghanistan against infidels (He was later re-arrested in 2012 for pursuing the same agenda). Henceforth the term ‘self-radicalisation’ was born, along with related terms that threaten to glorify self-service terrorism: The ‘DIY’ terrorist, the ‘Lone Wolf’, the Jihad Rambo.

In 2010, a full time NS men followed in Abdul Basheer’s footsteps. 20 year old Muhammad Fadil was exposed to online Jihadist propaganda, and ‘deeply radicalised’ by the lectures of personalities such as Anwar al-Awlaki and Sheikh Feiz Muhammad, whose videos you can download freely off Youtube (Feiz Muhammad has been suspected to be the inspiration behind the Boston marathon bombers). I can’t tell if these clerics were directly urging youths all over the world to buy a ticket to Pakistan and take up arms in Arabic, though it seems to boil down to a matter of selective interpretation. MDA and MFA should be doing more to ban inflammatory martyr recruitment sites, rather than forcing news/opinion sites to close down over licensing requirements, or blocking sites that encourage marital affairs or medical marijuana.

To ‘radicalise’ someone is a term that has been in use locally since 1987. Third Stage, a drama group, was accused of ‘radicalising’ the public with ‘Marxist propaganda’, producing ‘satirical plays’ which put the Singapore’s political system in a bad light. And these guys were put on watch by ISD presumably because at the time the pen was deemed mightier than the sword. You didn’t need to fly to terrorist school or even know how to load a bullet, you just needed to produce provocative government-bashing drama in order to be labelled ‘leftist’ or ‘radical’, capable of subverting people into overthrowing their rulers.

Trust religion to corrupt a word that once described a good thing (a radical idea, change) into one suggesting extremist violence. It’s likely that ‘radical’ has its roots in politics, used way back in 1846 to describe the act of questioning authority by ‘despots’ and ‘rulers’. Sometime in the 80’s, radical became ‘cool’ or ‘awesome’, and for a time abbreviated to ‘rad’, as popularised by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, who subscribe to the ‘ideology’ of fighting crime, skateboarding and eating pizza. Today, you’d have to be careful about using the word in case the ISD comes knocking on your door searching your laptop for ‘radicalising’ material.

All this tight-lippedness over this mysterious Gul Mohamed Maracachi Maraicar seems shady though. There’s no information of his previous arrest or deportation as far as I could find online other than he and Haja being ‘village friends’, unlike the media spillage that surrounded Abdul Basheer and Fadil. I hope it’s not too radical to ask: Why?

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