Black metal band Watain’s anti-Christian lyrics are “so far out” that the decision to ban their Singapore performance was a no-brainer, said Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam.
He said this on Saturday to local media on the sidelines of an appreciation lunch for a drug prevention event, in response to journalists asking for more information behind the band.
“I saw (Watain’s) 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 (the concert),” said Shanmugam to Channel NewsAsia.
Watain was scheduled to perform in Singapore last Thursday but their concert was banned by the Info-Communications Media and Development Authority (IMDA) just hours before the performance.
The ban came into effect after Shanmugam’s ministry conducted further security checks before advising IMDA to go ahead with canceling the show.
In conversations with Christian leaders, Shanmugam pointed out how the leaders would oftentimes draw comparisons to how tough the government would quash anti-Islam sentiment, such as banning the Salman Rushdie book The Satanic Verses in Singapore.
“(The leaders) said what these people (Watain) are saying is far worse, it is a hundred times worse about Christianity – how come you would allow that?” said Shanmugam to The Straits Times.
“They said you treat the Muslim community differently than the Christian community.”
Shanmugam acknowledged there was “some truth” to what the leaders said but said it was not fully true “but it is an approach”.
He also pointed out to Channel NewsAsia that not all bands would be banned because they spoke about Christianity.
On a separate matter, Shanmugam cautioned that a viral photo of mostly brown-skinned men flipping the middle finger with Watain could be mistakenly seen as representing the Malay-Muslim community, reported Mothership.
The photo, Shanmugam claims, is being spread around the Christian community and alluded to the attendees not understanding the implications behind the concert.
“In a multi-racial society, (the attendees) 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,” said Shanmugam.
Two church heads also chimed in, voicing out their support for the Watain ban.
In a letter published on Saturday, Cornerstone Community Church senior pastor Rev Yang Tuck Yoong said that the band’s move to publish the middle-finger photo on their Facebook page shows an “outright defiance of the band” and is “a clear attestment” that the ban was the right move.
“We affirm the need to balance freedom of expression in various art forms in a respectful way that does not denigrate another’s faith or devalue social norms,” said Rev Yang.
Singapore’s archbishop Rev William Goh questioned the value of art that does not “inspire and renew the lives of people” and instead allows people to mock disparate beliefs “such as religious beliefs, in the name of ‘freedom of expression’”.
“It is in this context that we need to be vigilant in our discernment of what is truly art, and what is vile disguised as art,” he said in a letter published on Saturday addressed to artists and art promoters.