In a shocking article which has attracted widespread condemnation from Singapore’s netizen community, The New Paper (TNP) has released an editorial blaming the teenage victim of a very public and viral public spat on the MRT.
During the incident, a raging old Caucasian man had threatened to beat up a teenager wearing the T-shirt with the words, “I’m F–king Special” before Singapore hero Muhamad Hanafie and other commuters stepped in and forced the Caucasian man off the train instead.
In his article, TNP’s Melvin Singh accused Singaporeans of being biased in their judgement against the Caucasian man because he is a foreigner, and further insulted Singaporeans by comparing the incident to an earlier one where a deranged Singaporean uncle yelled at a foreign Indian worker for accidentally brushing his arm against the former.
In a wild twist of logic, the teenager was accused of being the instigator of the whole incident because he had worn a T-shirt with an offensive vulgarity on it – obviously a big no-no in clean and orderly Singapore in Singh’s mind.
To make matters worse, while Singh tried to appear supportive of the actions of local hero Hanafie, who had stood up to the raging elderly Caucasian, he then highlighted that Mr Hanafie was an unemployed man – netizens have speculated that this random fact was thrown in possibly just to shame our local hero.
On TNP’s Facebook, netizens have shown their immense displeasure by bombarding the page with negative comments. Many Singaporeans did not take kindly to Singh’s insinuations that Singaporeans have behaved unfairly and in a xenophobic nature.
“Who are you to say that Singaporeans are xenophobic and biased!? You have not seen the kind of sh*t Singaporeans have to go through because of PAP’s pro-foreign policy!” said one of our reader, who goes by the name of Hussein.
The article also appeared to touch a raw nerve for some netizens, who have called on other readers to boycott the paper and demand for Singh to be fired.
One Facebook user, Zack Fair wrote, “Sack the person who published this article! A foreigner does something wrong and here you are trying to find some sort of fault in the locals (in this case the boy). Outrageous.”
Because of the overwhelmingly negative response, TNP’s Facebook admin even had to post a message to chide netizens for using “profanities” against Singh: “Thank you for sharing your opinions. Here’s a gentle reminder that good points can be raised without resorting to profanities.”
Melvin Singh too has responded to the online debate about his article by calling on netizens to stop being racists.
“Hi. Thanks for stating your opinions. I have stated mine saying the older man’s behavior is not excusable. Refrain from bringing his or my ethnicity into the debate though. And profanities distract readers from good points you may have,” Singh wrote.
Read Singh’s editorial:
Are we practising double standards here when it comes to foreigners?
Are we quick to condemn them when they are out of line, but slow to check our own behaviour?
On July 7, a teenager boarded the train at Bishan station around 11pm with a T-shirt proudly proclaiming “I’m F****** Special”.
An older man, obviously offended by the T-shirt, loudly berated the youth, challenged him to a fight and threatened to throw him out of the train at Ang Mo Kio station.
Video footage of the incident has him saying: “Are you getting off? If not, I’m going to throw you off.”
Yes, his rude and aggressive behaviour cannot be condoned.
Section 4 of the Protection from Harassment Act 2014 states that it is an offence to cause harassment, alarm or distress to another person through the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words or make any threatening, abusive or insulting communication.
Yes, the man’s threat is an offence under the Act. But so could wearing a T-shirt with a vulgarity in public. Other people could find it offensive and insulting.
So why did most people jump at how the older man reacted and not at what the youth wore?
Is it because they perceive the bully, who is light-skinned and has blond hair, to be a foreigner?
In the video, some passengers could be heard telling him to go back to his country and some of the online criticism also focused on him being a foreigner.
I’m not taking credit away from Mr Muhammad Hanafie, 25, who chided the bully and told him to get off the train. Mr Hanafie, who is unemployed, later told reporters why he intervened.
“It just doesn’t make sense. The man kept scolding the victim about his T-shirt,” he said.
His girlfriend, Ms Nabilah Nasser, 23, filmed the exchange.
Mr Hanafie said that throughout the incident, the teen kept quiet and avoided eye contact with the aggressor so as to not provoke him further.
But if we are going to label Mr Hanafie a hero and the older man a bully, would the youth be an instigator?
If others are to stand up to bullies, it may be useful to remember that idiocy is also a local affliction.
In June, a commuter uploaded a picture of a South Indian worker who had made himself as small as possible on a train from Jurong East to Marina South Pier.
A minute earlier, an elderly man next to him had yelled vulgarities at the foreigner for brushing against his arm. The older man proudly proclaimed himself a Singaporean and continued shouting at the migrant worker who sat quietly throughout the tirade.
If you put on a T-shirt calling for a reaction, you should expect one – though that’s no excuse for the older man’s behaviour.
Perhaps an apt punishment would be to parade the two on a train wearing T-shirts saying “I’m with Stupid”.