GP Comprehension Paper – Religion & Media

General Paper Comprehension Sample Question Paper & Answers (Paper 2)

GP Comprehension Question Paper – Religion & Media

(Note that 15 marks out of 50 will be awarded for your language, namely, for the quality and accuracy of your use of English throughout this paper)



Passage 1

1.(From paragraph 1) According to the author, in what sense is civilisation a form of compromise”? (line 4) Explain in your own words as far as possible. [2]


A Compromise is a mutual agreement that is reached when concessions are made

Civilisation is a form of compromise as people have to forgo / give up freedom in order to live together peacefully / without discord.



GP Passage Text
Civilization is the story of humans sacrificing liberty so as to live together in harmony


2. (From paragraph 1) “A newspaper is not a monastery.” (line 9) Explain carefully why this contrast is effective. What point is the author making here? Answer in YOWAFAP. [2]


This contrast is effective because they are exact /  extreme opposites / antithetical. A monastery is cloistered / shut off from society, isolated from events that happen in the real world unlike a newspaper which is in the mainstream of / an integral part of / tuned in to society.

The author maintains that, as such, a newspaper has to be current / up to date / aware of what is happening around the world and take into consideration / be sensitive to the various opinions / responses of people.



3. (From paragraph 1) On what grounds might newspapers refuse to publish a story? AIYOWAFAP. [2]


-Newspapers might refuse to publish a story if it causes offense / is not tasteful / is inconsiderate towards others and does not maintain decorum  / propriety / social mores.

-if it is defamatory / malicious / misrepresenting damagingly

goes against what they believe is acceptable to readers in terms of their general attitudes / opinions / ideological persuasions


(Any 2 of 3 points)



newspapers decide on the balance of boldness and common decency

They are curbed by libel laws

and their own sense of what is politically palatable to readers


4. (From paragraph 2) “We do not go about punching people in the face to lest their commitment to non-violence.” (line 21) Explain carefully how this analogy supports the author’s argument. UYOWAFAP. [2]


Just as we do not physically attack people to provoke a response to see if they are pacifists, we should not verbally attack / intentionally cause offence to test people’s dedication to / belief in freedom of expression.

Using extreme provocation / abusing someone’s faith to judge whether someone is a religious extremist / to use the response as a gauge of extremism / to test their religious moderation is unjustified / unfair. (1m)



5. (From paragraph 2) Explain why Muslims would be angered by the representation of Allah as human or the prophet Muhammad as a terrorist. Answer in your own words as far as possible. [1]


This would be regarded as profane / sacrilegious / irreverent. There is a strong dislike of any form of depiction / imagery / portrayal / representation in Islam.
(inferred from “aversion to icons”)


because the purity / abstract simplicity and deep / intense religious meaning / significance found in Islam stems from its detachment from actual forms / representations / objects of worship. (Bonus: 1m)
(inferred from “the spiritual clarity and profundity of Islam”)



6 (From paragraph 5)  According to the author, what can happen if the traditional balance between free speech and respect for the feelings of others’ is not maintained? (line 40). Explain IYOWAFAP. [2]


There will be disorder / tumult / turmoil / disruption of peace which would consequently

drive out / force out / oust / exile / banish foreigners or people who are different

governments will be further encouraged to curb / check free speech

(Any 2 of 3 points)



The resulting turbulence

Can lead to attacking or expelling immigrants and those of alien culture

It will feed the appetite of the government to restrain free speech



Passage 2

7. (From paragraph 1) Why would Voltaire not have approved of some western governments’ response to the publication of the Danish cartoons? UYOWAFAP. [2]


Voltaire would have expected the western governments to strongly / vigorously defend / support / stand up newspapers’ right to defend the publication of the Danish cartoons regardless of whether they agreed with the newspapers.


However, instead of defending the cartoons, they said they could not be condoned and criticised the publication as inappropriate.



“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

‘unacceptable’ and ‘insensitive


8. (From paragraph 6) The writer states that the ‘feeblest response to the outpouring of Muslim rage has come ftom Britain and America.’ (line 40) What is the suggested reason for this?


The writer suggests that Britain and America have a sense of guilt and feel obliged to atone for their actions in Muslim states  /the Middle East.
(inferred from “having sent their armies ….have some making up to do with Muslims”)



H1 JC GP Passages – Article Sources for Religion & Media

JC H1 GP Tuition (Syllabus Code: 8807)
Source of GP Passages:
By Simon Jenkins, Adapted from the Economist, Jan 2008
Cartoon wars – the limits to free speech, Adapted from the Economist, Jan 2008




Q10. Vocabulary Question (5 marks)
Give the meaning of the following words as they are used in the passage.
You may your answer in one word or a short phrase of no more than 7 words. [5]


Word1 Mark 1/2 Mark
inflammatory (line 18)provocative, inciting / provoking angry or violent feelings




arbiters (line 11)judges



vulnerable (line 30)open to attack / harm, in a weak position

defenseless, weak


morphed (line 38) transformed, changed form




exploit (line 45)take advantage of unfairly


take advantage

No mark: use



Reminder: Do not try to give a list (string of answers). Credit is most often be awarded to the first word.


Q9. Summary Question (SMQ) (8 marks)

Referring to material from paragraphs 3, 4 & 7, summarise the writer’s arguments in defence of the right of newspapers to publish the cartoons of the prophet Mohammad.
Write your summary in no more than 130 words, not counting the opening words which printed below. UYOWAFAP. [8]


The writer argues that newspapers had a right to publish the cartoons because…



Lifted from the GP Text
AIYOW / Re-Expressions

The fewer constraints that are placed on free speech the better.

Limits designed to protect people are easier to justify than those that aim in some way to control thinking

The Muhammad cartoons did not contravene any statutes in any of the European countries where they were published

there should be minimal restrictions imposed on free speech.

(Inference) particularly when (as in this case) the purpose objective/goal is to manipulate/direct/determine thought

The cartoons were legal legitimate in all the countries where they were printed/circulated


Freedom of expression … is not just a hard won human right

But the defining characteristic of liberal societies When such a freedom comes under threat of violence, the job of governments should be to defend it without reservation

Protecting free expression will often require offending the sensibilities of individuals or groups, even if this damages communal harmony

Freedom of speech is not merely an entitlement which people have fought / battled for

it is a determining feature  /prerequisite of free countries If this is endangered / at risk / jeopardised, governments have the responsibility duty to protect it wholeheartedly / absolutely / unconditionally!

without hesitation / question although this may cause emotional pain / hurt the feelings of various people or segments of society (1/2) and social discord (1/2).


People who feel that they are not at liberty to articulate their concerns…

Will not love their neighbours any better If anything, the opposite is the case: people need to let off steam.

People who are not free to voice their worries will not become more sensitive to/caring to others

They need to vent/express their unhappiness/anxieties


Freedom of expression is not just a pillar of western democracy, as sacred in its own way…

It is also an element that millions of Muslims have come to enjoy and aspire to themselves

Ultimately, spreading and strengthening it may be one of the best hopes for avoiding the incomprehension that can lead civilisations into conflict

Freedom of expression is mot merely / only (Fundamental principle  /mainstay/ support of western governments which is revered / cherished / enshrined

but a right that many Muslims have experienced the benefits of and others hope to attain

Disseminating and reinforcing this might eventually be the best way to prevent disputes that arise from misunderstandings.



1 mark each for a maximum of 8 points.



Q11 Application Question
The articles present differing views about the publication of the Danish cartoons. Which view do you find more persuasive and why?

Discuss the relevance of the issues and ideas raised in the passages to your society.
Refer specifically to relevant material from both passages, as well as your own knowledge and opinions to support your answer. [8]



From Passage A:
Jenkins regards the publication of the cartoons as an offensive and discourteous thing to do; that freedom speech is not an absolute but has to be tempered with restraint. He feels that the issue is not about censorst of the press since the press is already “curbed by libel laws and their own sense of what is palatable readers”. It is merely about good taste and not causing offence. Jenkins’ arguments seem more persuasive:



Passage A is more persuasiveElaboration [EX] / Evaluation [EV] / Application to SG
Paragraph 1:
Jenkins is more for restraint and regards free speech not as an absolute right but a compromise.

This is a reasoned approach to free speech as there is the need to be aware that one man’s meat is another man’s poison. Living as we are cheek by jowl with others of different backgrounds/political persuasions/religious affiliations, as in Singapore, we must understandably be restrained and not give vent to whatever we feel so as to allow room for differences in opinion.

Free speech is not totally free. In SG, the very multi-racial and multi-religious make-up of our society makes it imperative that free speech be an exercise in give-and-take. Geo-political sensitivity is required especially since we are not homogeneous in terms of race or religion.

In the Mas Selamat escape incident, there was a measured response by the press and racial or religious undertones were carefully avoided. If free speech were an absolute, the incident could have escalated into racial tensions in the country.


Para 1:
‘A newspaper is not a monastery, its mind blind the world and deaf to reaction.’

The press cannot be as cloistered as a monastery since a newspaper as a commercial enterprise has to pay attention to public sentiments. During the SARS outbreak in 2003 in Singapore, the media played a huge role in raising public awareness and in educating people on hygienic practices. While the press can be a vehicle for good such as public education, it could also be tool for agitating groups of people if some measure of restraint is not exercised.


They were offensive and inflammatory…no newspaper would let a cartoonist ridicule the Holocaust

The writer suggests that the publication of the Mohammad cartoons was equivalent to practising double standards as it is not permissible to ridicule Jesus Christ or the Holocaust. In Austria, David Irving was jailed for denying the Holocaust. In June 2006, it was reported that a 21 year old blogger was under police investigation for posting mocking caricatures of Jesus Christ on the Internet.

If newspapers were to allow the publication of the cartoons, they would not be adhering to a common standard since it is a well known fact that Islam forbids idols and representations of Allah or the prophet in any form. The cartoons were designed to deride the prophet and provoke Muslims worldwide.


“For Danish journalists to demand ‘Europe-wide solidarity in the cause of free speech and to deride those who are offended as ‘fundamentalists who have a problem with the entire western world’ comes close to racial provocation.”

This is dangerous as it pits Europe against the rest of the world. Surely such divides are self-defeating if not outright damaging to both east” and west In a globalizing world, where economies are intertwined, no country can afford to be blasé about repercussions

The boycotting of Danish goods after the publication was a good wake-up call for the Danes.

Likewise, it is important that S’pore takes a reasoned approach to free speech as she cannot offend for trade and tourism reasons.


“The traditional balance between free speech and respect for the feelings of others is evidently becoming harder to sustain appetite of government to restrain free speech.” it can only feed the

In Singapore, the media is well known for treading cautiously where controversial issues relating to race and religion are concerned However, I can see the wisdom of the contention in countries which balk at censorship of any sort This is a slippery slope for them as when governments clamp down on publications, there will be other clampdowns on public expression


*The best defence of free speech can only be to curb its excess and respect its courtesy”

Free speech is not about being rude or unkind As human beings endowed with the power of speech and intelligence, we should provide evidence of the good use of both. Singapore prioritises racial harmony over free expression. It banned ‘Fitna’ (Arabic for ‘strife’). a short film by Dutch MP Geert Wilders which was released on the Internet in March 2008 on grounds that it was offensive to Islam.

“We have provisions in our laws – Penal Code, Sedition Act – to deal with people who create, through conduct of speech or documents, feelings of ill will between different races or religious groups.” (Prof. S. Jayakumar)


Passage B, Paragraph 2:

these cartoons are offensive.insult people’s religious beliefs…

In a free country, people should be free to publish whatever they want within the limits set by law.

The Economist states that publishing the cartoons is a decision that should be made by the newspapers, ‘not a decision for governments’ Yet, it goes on to state that people should be free to publish whatever they want within the limits set by the law, which is contradictory Based on the writer’s belief, he shoes not be against the State stepping in to control the media as these are the limits which are set by the law.
Furthermore, the response of the government was mild, all they had done so far was to call it ‘unacceptable and ‘insensitive





From Passage B

The writer here agrees that the published Muhammad cartoons are offensive, that it is not a good for newspapers to insult people’s religious or any other beliefs”. However, as long as they abide by the hey have the freedom to print what they want. Governments must be on the side of freedom of expression defend it to the death. He argues that governments and other groups or individuals must not decide what newspapers should or should not print.

I am more persuaded by the writer in Passage B:


Passage B is more persuasive[EX] / [EV] / Application to SG
Paragraph 2:
Its key concern is that the cartoons might lead to “governments, clerics or other self-appointed arbiters of taste and responsibility” making the decision for newspapers to publish or not to publish whatever they want within the limits set by law.
This will lead to restrictions on free expression even when no law has been breached. In a free society this is unthinkable. Already there are limitations to free speech -laws against libel, defamation, obscenity These laws and limitations have been carefully thought through and are sufficient. The State should not be in the picture any more than it already is.
Para 2:
The cartoons may be ‘unacceptable and ‘insensitive to Muslims. these cartoons are offensive insult people’s religious beliefs…

The Economist is cognizant of the fact that the publication of the cartoons may be unacceptable and insensitive to Muslims Newspapers everywhere, Singapore included, publish reports about discourteous sales staff or taxi drivers and it offends them but they take it in their stride as they accept that it is the opinion of the journalist who may have interviewed a few customers.

At some point, whatever a person says is bound to offend someone We learn to accept the good reviews and the bad. Why should Muslims not accept what some European journalists have done as misguided and then dismiss them? It does not have to lead to more government legislation.

Limits designed to protect people from libel are easier to justify than those that aim to control thinking
The cartoons represent the thoughts of a group of newspaper journalists. Restricting the publication of the cartoons might be seen as an attempt to control thinking, which is difficult to justify.
Paragraphs 4 & 5:
“Sensitivity cannot ordain silence”In a climate where political correctness has morphed into fear of physical attack, showing solidarity may well be the responsible thing for a free press to do.” 



Silencing the media seems to justify the violence which the cartoons engendered among the Muslims throughout the world. Instead of silencing the media, there are alternative solutions to forge closer ties and to develop a true understanding between countries.



Additional Considerations:
1. RELEVANCE to SINGAPORE Examples that can be used for either side

In 1994, author Catherine Lim published an essay “The PAP and the people – A Great Affective Divide” suggesting that the People’s Action Party is not representative of of the people.

Then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong warned her to join a political party if she wanted to air her political views in public, and stated that “demolishing the respect for and standing of the Prime Minister and his government by systematic contempt and denigration in the media” was out of bounds.

* Singapore has out-of- bounds markers and no one knows when these markers are crossed until they are crossed.



2. SINGAPORE (Reuters, 26/01/08) – A choir that planned to sing a list of complaints about life in Singapore cancelled its performances after the city-state banned its foreign members from singing.

The 60-member “complaints choir”, a concept that originated from two Finnish artists, was scheduled to perform at a weekend festival but authorities granted a performance license on the condition that the foreigners would not participate.

“Our conductor is Malaysian, so how could the choir go ahead without him?” said Melissa Lim, the festival organizer. Singapore’s Media Development Authority (MDA) said the license was conditional because the lyrics touched on “domestic affairs” and it preferred only Singaporeans take part.

* It is enough that the decisions to ban or not to ban are on a case-by-case basis. New laws need not be enacted to curtail freedom of expression.



3. July 24, 2006 Racial Harmony Is Not A Given

Deputy Prime Minister S. Jayakumar shares his perspectives on the state of racial and religious harmony, and the importance of maintaining these important ties. He was speaking to reporters before the swearing-in of new members of the Presidential Council for Minority Rights.

The Government in Singapore will ensure that these laws are implemented and you know we have implemented them – including the example of taking action against those who made racist comments on the blogs (Sedition Act).

There is a global phenomenon at the moment where groups of radical Muslims are misusing religion to preach hatred and violence. Even in Singapore, as you know, we uncovered the Jemaah Islamiah. But what is important is to ensure that we take steps so that if a terrorist attack were to happen, or if there was misuse of religion by a handful of people, that it does not affect our social fabric, our social and religious harmony. That is why we have decided to be open about it. We announced the Community Engagement Programme, where all sectors of society work together.

* We celebrate Racial Harmony Day on 21 July every year to remind Singaporeans of the need for sustained racial integration.



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