'Very offensive' Facebook post on Quran and Bible under investigation by police: Shanmugam

(SCREENCAP: K Shanmugam Sc/Facebook)

SINGAPORE — A Facebook post insinuating that Christian and Islamic religious texts can be “used during toilet paper shortages” is being investigated by the police while access to it has been disabled in Singapore by the social media giant, said Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Friday (20 March).

The post, published by a Facebook page that calls itself the “NUS Atheist Society”, contained a photo of the Bible and Quran placed side-by-side with the caption: "For use during toilet paper shortages.”

Panic buying by masses during the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in daily essentials, such as toilet paper and instant noodles, going out of stock in many places around the world.

On his own Facebook page, Shanmugam called the post “very offensive” to Muslims and Christians.

“We take a serious view of these types of statements. Police are investigating,” he said.

He added that police and the Infocomm Media Development Authority have asked Facebook to disable access to the post in Singapore.

“We highlighted how such offensive remarks have no place in multi-racial and multi-religious Singapore. Facebook looked at it and has disabled access to the post,” said Shanmugam.

The Ministry of Home Affairs said on Friday that it has received a number of complaints about the post. 

When Yahoo News Singapore visited the NUS Atheist Society page, the original post cannot be viewed even when accessed via a virtual private network.

However, its owner had posted a screencap of a Facebook notification reportedly alerting them that access to the photo has been limited in Singapore due to local legal restrictions.

In response to queries from Yahoo News Singapore, Facebook said that it had received a request on Wednesday from the government to block access to a piece of content here.

“After careful review, we determined this was a lawful request and complied accordingly,” said the social media giant. 

(SCREENCAP: NUS Atheist Society/Facebook)

According to the page’s description, it is owned by a person who claims to be “Christopher Hitchens”. The person wrote that the National Singapore University, or NUS, has no official atheist group to date.

The real-life Hitchens was the late English-American author and social critic who was best known for his hard-hitting views against mainstream religions.

In response to Yahoo News Singapore’s queries, the university clarified that it has no relationship with the NUS Atheist Society and it is not affiliated to the Facebook page.

“The contents posted by the NUS Atheist Society do not represent the views, opinions, and position of the university,” said the NUS.

It also added that it had reported the page to Facebook last year and again on Thursday. On both occasions, it had requested for Facebook to look into the legitimacy of the account.

In response, Facebook had said “the content on the reported site does not appear likely to confuse people as to source, sponsorship or affiliation, and they are unable to act on our report at this time”, the university said.

“We will continue pressing Facebook to get the group to drop all references to NUS.”

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