Samsung has withdrawn an online advertisement in Singapore featuring a hijab-wearing Muslim mother hugging a transgender woman after it sparked a backlash from conservative circles.
Two years ago, Singapore’s High Court ruled in favour of an obscure colonial-era law banning sex between men in the country. Even today, LGBT rights remain a sensitive topic in the prosperous city-state.
An advertisement for “Listen to Your Heart” for wearable technology like noise-cancelling Samsung earbuds and Samsung smartwatches featured the warm bond between a mother and her transgender son.
It triggered a wave of online criticism, with one group describing it as “an unfortunate attempt to push LGBT ideology into a largely conservative Muslim community”.
“We oppose mainstreaming homosexuality and transgenderism into a conservative society,” said “We are Against Pinkdot”, a group opposing Singapore’s LGBTQ rights movement.
Other social media users also took a similar tone, lamenting the ad’s message of “unlimited openness” could negatively impact future generations.
Samsung defended by Pinkdot
Muslims of Malay origin make up a significant minority in the city-state, whereas Chinese make up the majority.
Because of the backlash, Samsung says it is pulling the advertisement from all public platforms since it “may be perceived as insensitive and offensive” by some members of the local community.
In a statement posted on Facebook earlier this week, Samsung said, “We acknowledge the mistakes we have made here.” Singapore’s Pinkdot, one of the largest gay rights groups, rebuffed the “vocal conservatives” who protested the advertisement.
At this point, it’s unclear what the offending statement is — that LGBTQ+ people exist in Singapore, or that we are deserving of loving relationships, or both?
The support for gay rights is increasing in some quarters, but greater acceptance is still resisted. More than 25,000 people signed a petition in 2020 calling for the live stream of Pride celebrations to only be available to adults.
Authorities in Singapore are frequently criticized for their stance toward LGBTQ discord, but officials have defended it, saying the city-state remains largely conservative.
Following the US embassy’s hosting of an online gay rights forum attended by activists in Singapore last May, the highly conservative government warned the embassy not to interfere with local affairs.