Singapore has banned a book on censorship over “offensive images” including controversial cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed, authorities said Monday.

The city-state is majority ethnic Chinese but has a sizeable Muslim minority, and has strict laws to curb hate speech and actions promoting ill-will between religious or racial groups.

Red Lines. Photo: Red Lines.

The book, “Red Lines: Political Cartoons and the Struggle Against Censorship” is banned from distribution in Singapore, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) said on Monday. 

It has been deemed “objectionable” because it contains reproductions of cartoons published by French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, which led to violence and protests overseas, the regulator added.

“The offensive Charlie Hebdo cartoons first appeared in 2006 and have been widely labelled as irresponsible, reckless and racist,” it said in a statement.

The book also contained denigratory references to Hinduism and Christianity, the IMDA said.

Anyone convicted of importing, selling, distributing, making or reproducing an objectionable publication faces a fine of up to 5,000 Singaporean dollars (US$3,700), imprisonment of up to a year, or both. 

Singapore. File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

“Red Lines” is by Cherian George, a Singaporean media professor now based in Hong Kong, and Sonny Liew, an award-winning Singaporean cartoonist. 

Published in August, it features interviews with censored cartoonists around the world and explores censorship in graphic form.

In response to the ban, George said the authors “did not agree with how Charlie Hebdo used cartoons that promoted anti-Muslim attitudes in Europe”.

“We showed a small number of them as examples of hate speech,” he said in a statement to AFP. “The intention was to educate readers about how some cartoons can harm vulnerable minorities in the West.”

He said they knew some countries, like Singapore, would not accept the images and were prepared to edit the book for these markets, but the city-state chose to ban the book instead of letting them make the changes. 

According to the IMDA, the book also contained denigratory references to Hinduism and Christianity.

Anyone convicted of importing, selling, distributing, making or reproducing an objectionable publication faces a fine of up to 5,000 Singaporean dollars (US$3,700), imprisonment of up to a year, or both.

The French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo first joined some other European titles in publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in 2006.

In 2015 a massacre at its office killed 12 people, after it reprinted some of the controversial images.

A French teacher was beheaded by an extremist last year after showing his class Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons of the Prophet.

After French President Emmanuel Macron defended the right to publish cartoons, angry protests erupted in Asia and the Middle East. 

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