SINGAPORE, Feb 7 (Bernama) -- Asean must not allow misunderstandings between Muslims and non-Muslims to surface similar to what has happen after the Western press published the caricature of Prophet Muhammad, Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo said.
He said many Muslims believed the reason for the publication and re-publication of the pictures was pure and simple spite, and not the assertion of "an abstract principle about the freedom of the press".
"They argue that if the freedom is without limit, how is it that anti-Semitic depictions are proscribed?"
"This debate will go on. Responsible leaders will try to counsel good sense but mass emotions are not so easily controlled on both sides," he said in his remark at the 4th Asia-Pacific Roundtable.
It was hard for many in the West to understand why Muslims should be so sensitive to the Holy Prophet being caricatured but he said, it was even harder for Muslims to understand how Westerners can be so insensitive.
Yeo made the remark amid a wave of protests across the globe sparked by the publication and re-publication of the caricature that had angered the Muslims around the world.
He noted that both Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had talked about the issue because their Muslim grounds had been stirred up.
Singapore was aware of religious sensitivities of certain issues and had acted based on the multi-religious make-up of the country.
"When Salman Rushdie's book "Satanic Verses" was published some years ago, Singapore banned it because we knew it will cause trouble. In contrast, we did not ban "The Last Temptation of Christ" because the Christian ground and the Muslim ground are different.
"We did not make our decision based on abstract considerations of right and wrong but upon the realities of our multi-religious make-up," he added.