Singapore

NLB withdraws books following concerns

Concerns raised over controversial content found in some Malay language books in library's junior non-fiction section

The National Library Board (NLB) will be withdrawing a series of Malay language books from its libraries "immediately", after concerns about their contents were raised.

The books belong to a series published in Malaysia in 2013 called Agama, Tamadun Dan Arkeologi (Religion, Civilisation And Archeology). They focus on different civilisations and religions.

There are eight books in the series, and a check of NLB's online catalogue showed that there were about 30 copies of each book in the libraries. At press time, six copies were on loan.

One of the books has, on its cover, children wearing yarmulkes, smiling as they hold machine guns.

In it, there are declarations of how the third world war will "start in the Middle East between Israel and the neighbouring countries, which are the Arab states".

The books were first discovered by a local Twitter user, who posted photos of the books on Sunday. The account has since been deleted, after criticism from other users.

The New Paper found these books in the junior non-fiction section of the Bishan Public Library on Tuesday.

Some of the statements indicated that in one religion, people used to view their daughters on the same level as servants, and that their fathers held the right to sell them.

Another volume describes how one religion believes that "plague, hell, poison, snakes and fire are all better than women".

In response to TNP's queries, an NLB spokesman said: "While NLB will do our best to ensure that our collection does not cause offence, we are unable to vet every single title before putting the books on the shelves.

"We take the feedback on the Agama, Tamadun Dan Arkeologi seriously and will withdraw the books immediately.

"NLB will call upon the Library Consultative Panel (LCP) to review the series."

'WORRYING'

The LCP is an independent panel set up to provide recommendations to NLB on its review of library materials, including those submitted by members of the public.

After parts of the series were read to him, Mr Muhammed Faiz, president of the Muslim Converts' Association of Singapore (Darul Arqam), said the contents are "worrying".

Mr Faiz told TNP: "I think it is careless to have such things available, especially if it was found in the junior section.

"If (youth) don't seek clarification, then it will form a certain mindset. It could create dangerous impressions."

The books have also been reported to the Ministry of Home Affairs (Moha) in Malaysia by a Malaysian, Mr Inbaraj Suppiah.

Speaking to TNP, he said he made the report as he felt the books promoted prejudice.

He said: "The content looks shady.

"They should investigate, because usually Moha is very strict with such publications."

In a Twitter reply to Mr Inbaraj, Moha said the complaint had been forwarded "to the relevant division for further action".

Venerable Seck Kwang Phing, president of Singapore Buddhist Federation and a council member of the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO), said easy access to the books is "dangerous".

He said: "We can't upset our racial and religious harmony. If anybody can just use it or spread it, we may find that people can be misinformed with this dangerous content."

Ven Seck called for stricter vetting of such books by experts from different religions to verify the facts and make sure there is no misunderstanding.

The NLB spokesman said its collection caters to readers "of diverse interests and age groups".

"NLB excludes materials that denigrate any racial or religious groups, or which promote intolerance or violence," he added.

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