Singapore

Parents, clerics concerned about children's books from Saudi Arabia

Some Muslims have raised concerns about a few children's books being sold in Singapore, saying their content could be misunderstood by impressionable young readers and steer them towards violence and extremism.

The English books originate from Saudi Arabia and may not be suitable in multiracial and multi-religious Singapore, they say.

One of the books, titled Men In Captivity, is the tale of a 13-year-old boy who convinces his mother to allow him to perform a "jihad", or holy war, against Christians.

Another title, In Quest Of Truth, contains phrases that could be read to be disparaging of other faiths.

The paperbacks can be bought for a few dollars each from a prominent religious bookstore at Golden Landmark Mall in Victoria Street.

"I would not want my son to think fighting is needed in any way in these days," said housewife Nurshida Hussin, 34, whose son is 10.

Muslim cleric Zahid Zin, chief executive of the Muslim Youth Forum in Singapore, agreed that the books should be removed from the shelves, saying they are "very dangerous" and may spread the wrong understanding of Islam not only to Muslims but also non-Muslims.

"Children tend to refer to narrated events in the present time. So when you talk about jihad, they may not connect it to wars during the time of the prophets, but to the present, which is not suitable in the current climate," he said.

In Singapore, the publications industry is largely self-regulated. Book importers and retailers must ensure publications distributed are not prohibited, obscene or objectionable under the Undesirable Publications Act or in breach of Content Guidelines for Imported Publications.

The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) steps in when there is public feedback.

In response to queries, it said it would be reviewing the books in question even though it had not received any public feedback on them.

Education