Why is Singapore banning Archie comics?

"Archie: The Married Life Book Three" was removed from bookshelves because it featured same-sex marriage. Last week, Singapore's National Library Board said it would destroy three children's books seen as being pro-homosexual.

Archie Comics/AP
This photo provided by Archie Comics shows Archie in his final moments of life in the comic book, 'Life with Archie,' issue 37. Archie Andrews will die taking a bullet for his gay best friend.

Singapore has banned a volume of the "Archie" comic book that featured a same-sex marriage, adding fuel to a censorship row that erupted over a children's story about two male penguins hatching an egg.

"Archie: The Married Life Book Three" was taken off book shop shelves following a complaint to Singapore's Media Development Authority which found it was not in line with social norms and breached their content guidelines.

News of the ban, which was imposed earlier this year but came to light late on Wednesday, comes a week after Singapore's National Library Board said it was to destroy three children's books seen as being pro-homosexual, including penguin story "And Tango Makes Three".

That prompted about 400 people to turn out on Sunday for a "read in" of the books in the national library's atrium, while on Wednesday, three authors resigned as judges from Singapore's main literature prize in protest against the move.

Singapore has tight rules on censorship, banning Playboy magazine and blocking dozens of websites in what it has described as "a symbolic statement of the types of content which the community is opposed to".

However, whether homosexual content falls into that category is a thorny issue. A growing groundswell of support for gay rights is being met with noisy protests from religious groups, keen to maintain the status quo of sex between two men being illegal.

Last month, a record crowd turned out for a gay-rights rally called "Pink Dot" while several Christian and Muslim groups protested against it by wearing white.

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim has said he supports the library's stand, although unusually not all members of the governing People's Action Party (PAP) share that view.

"I do not believe homosexuality falls in the category of issues which should be excluded," said Hri Kumar Nair, a PAP member of Parliament in a Facebook post titled Pulp Friction.

"But I think most neutrals would agree that children should read books with controversial themes supervised," he added.

For Archie, the volume's removal from book shelves in Singapore comes as the redheaded American teenager is exiting the comic world altogether.

This week, an issue was released in the United States that shows him dying as he takes a bullet protecting a gay friend. As this blogger writes in The Christian Science Monitor, many fans are sad to see his demise and see his character grow up in today's world.

Here’s the hardest part for me; in my mind, Archie wasn’t supposed to grow up.

But he did, and in his fictional life he encountered many of the same things I have in my own; interracial dating, openly gay friends, friends going off to war, and getting married, to name a few (“The Archie Wedding” issue was released months before I was married in 2010).

Selfishly, I wouldn’t have minded if teen Archie and the gang were still hanging out at the Choklit shop and planning their next adventure. Instead, I am shaking my head at the thought that Jughead owns the famed Riverdale soda shop, as if its news I am hearing from a real-life friend about a fellow high school classmate.

(Editing by Robert Birsel)

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