Maintenance of Religious Harmony in Singapore – Walking the Line
Are you aware of the existence of a Declaration on Religious Harmony in Singapore? The Declaration on Religious Harmony was issued in 2003 by the national bodies of all mainstream religious groups in Singapore. The Declaration, albeit judicially non-binding, serves as a basis for Singaporeans to regularly reflect on the state of religious harmony from time to time and on the steps we can take to deepen our ties and understanding with other communities.
The Declaration is as follows:
We, the people in Singapore, declare that religious harmony is vital for peace, progress and prosperity in our multi-racial and multi-religious Nation.
We resolve to strengthen religious harmony through mutual tolerance, confidence, respect, and understanding.
We shall always
Recognise the secular nature of our State,
Promote cohesion within our society,
Respect each other's freedom of religion,
Grow our common space while respecting our diversity,
Foster inter-religious communications,
and thereby ensure that religion will not be abused to create conflict and disharmony in Singapore.
It may also interest you to know that, in Singapore, there are legislative measures against acts that provoke or incite religious intolerance or animosity. Below are some examples of such statutory laws:
Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act
This law was passed in 1990, empowering the Government to restrain religious leaders or members from any acts that will cause ill feelings between different religious groups.
For an offence of breaching a Restraining Order, the offender shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years, or to both. For a second or subsequent offence, the punishment upon conviction is a fine not exceeding $20,000 or an imprisonment term not exceeding 3 years, or both.
Penal Code (Section 298 and Section 298A)
These two sections of the Penal Code read as follows:
Uttering words, etc., with deliberate intent to wound the religious or racial feelings of any person
298. Whoever, with deliberate intention of wounding the religious or racial feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person, or makes any gesture in the sight of that person, or places any object in the sight of that person, or causes any matter however represented to be seen or heard by that person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 years, or with fine, or with both.
Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion or race and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony
298A. Whoever —
(a) by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, knowingly promotes or attempts to promote, on grounds of religion or race, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious or racial groups; or
(b) commits any act which he knows is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious or racial groups and which disturbs or is likely to disturb the public tranquillity,
shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 years, or with fine, or with both.
Under the Sedition Act, it is seditious to, inter alia, promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population. The offence includes the uttering of seditious words.
Offenders shall be liable on conviction for a first offence to a fine not exceeding $5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years or to both, and, for a subsequent offence, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years.
Undesirable Publications Act
Under the Undesirable Publications Act, a publication is objectionable if it describes, depicts, expresses or deals with, inter alia, matters of race or religion in such a manner that the availability of the publication is likely to cause feelings of enmity, hatred, ill-will or hostility between racial or religious groups.
For offences involving objectionable publications, the offender shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both.
We hope you find the brief information above informative. If you are interested to know more about initiatives and programs concerning racial harmony in Singapore, you may check out the site at www.onepeople.sg. If you wish to learn more about the different racial groups and religions in Singapore, please log on to www.singaporeunited.sg.
Date of document: 5 Oct 2012
The contents in this document are intended for informational purposes only, and the document shall be read in its generality. The contents shall by no means be construed as legal advice.