Don't let events overseas undermine harmony here: DPM Teo

SINGAPORE - Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean has said that Singaporeans should not let events overseas "undermine the peaceful and harmonious relationships we have built up over the years in Singapore".

He was responding to media queries on the film, "Innocence of Muslims", which has sparked violent protests across the Middle East, and resulted in the death of a US diplomat and three others.

Mr Teo added: "Freedom of expression does not mean that one has unfettered rights to insult and denigrate another’s religion or race.

"Rather, we safeguard this freedom only through mutual respect of the views and beliefs of others.

"Responding to this inflammatory and offensive film with violence is also wrong and counterproductive."

He said he is confident that Singaporeans will react to the film rationally and calmly, "as they have done previously".

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) today also strongly condemned the attack on the US consulate in Libya that led to the deaths of a US ambassador and three other Americans.

Said an MFA spokesperson: "Singapore strongly condemns the violent attacks on the US Consulate in Benghazi that resulted in the tragic deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and his colleagues."

"We express our deepest condolences and sympathies to the families and friends of the victims in their time of grief.

"The properties of foreign diplomatic missions and safety of foreign diplomatic staff should always be protected and guaranteed under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations," MFA said.

In response to further media queries on the film that sparked the storming of the Benghazi consulate, the MFA Spokesman said that Singapore likewise strongly condemns the video.

MFA said Singapore "deplores" the actions of the makers of the "insensitive" video which denigrates Islam and is highly offensive to Muslims.

"Freedom of speech must be balanced with respect for religious sensitivities. At the same time, extreme acts by individuals should be dealt with in a calm and rational manner, and can never provide the excuse for any acts of violence," the spokesperson said.

Protests against killings and attack on US embassy in Libya
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