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Singapore bans play for negative portrayal of Muslims

Written by: Staff
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SINGAPORE, Aug 5 (Reuters) Singapore authorities banned a play just hours before it was due to be staged because it portrayed Muslims in a negative light, local media said today.

In its first banning of a play since its was formed in 2003, the government's Media Development Authority said it was withdrawing the performance licence for ''Smegma'' as it was ''insensitive and inappropriate for staging'', the Today paper said.

''Smegma undermines the values underpinning Singapore's multi-racial, multi-religious society. The play portrays Muslims in a negative light,'' the media authority was quoted as saying in Today.

The media authority, which initially agreed to the public performance of ''Smegma'', back-peddled yesterday and said it was worried that the play ''could create unhappiness and disaffection amongst Muslims'', the newspaper reported.

According to the Singapore law, all public performances must be approved and licenced by a government-appointed official.

Both the media authority and ''Smegma'' playwright P Elangovan could not be reached for comment today, but Elangovan was quoted as saying in Today that he was ''unsurprised'' by the ban.

His play ''Talaq'', about rape within an Indian Muslim marriage, was also banned in Singapore in 2000, according to the paper.

The paper said ''Smegma'', which was full of expletives, included depictions of Singaporeans' overseas sexual romps with under-age girls, a class of young children calling a Member of Parliament a pig, and an analyses of the Singapore national flag.

Singapore authorities regularly censor content deemed too salacious or too sensitive for public viewing, saying censorship is needed to reflect the country's social norms and values.

The city-state ordered a theatre director to remove all references to the death penalty in December last year, a day after it executed an Australian drug smuggler amid much public controversy.

REUTERS AKJ PM1132

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