Free Speech Under Attack in Singapore
The free speech rights of a married couple are under attack in Singapore. Ong Kian Cheong and his wife Dorothy Chan Hien Leng are on trial for allegedly distributing anti-Muslim tracts by comic creator Jack Chick. According to The Straits Times, Farhati Ahmad, Irwan Ariffin and Isa Raffee, all of whom are Muslim, filed police reports after receiving by mail the comic booklets The Little Bride and Who Is Allah? from Chick Publications.
Farhati Ahmad says she received The Little Bride through the mail March 6, 2007 and made an official complaint the same day. She claims the booklet aims to insult and confuse Muslims and perpetuate Islamaphobia. Ong Kian Cheong and Dorothy Chan Hien Leng are being tried under Singapore’s Sedition Act and Undesirable Publications Act. The charges allege the comic publications promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between Christians and Muslims in Singapore.
For nearly four decades professional artist Jack Chick has written and published hundreds of comic tracts in multiple languages to promote his particular brand of Christianity, with hundreds of millions of copies distributed worldwide. kHis hatred for Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muslims shows in his stories. Anyone who disagrees with his often questionable interpretation of the Bible is portrayed in a negative light.
Most of the material from The Little Bride is factually correct and documented. Perhaps the most offensive element to Farhati Ahmad was the Christian protagonist’s labeling of Mohammed, founder of Islam, as a pedophile. Mohammed is believed by historians to have had wives younger than twelve years of age. Who is Allah? is poorly plotted and portrays extremist ideas as typical of all Muslims. It depicts a historically and culturally ignorant Muslim man who is easily swayed from his Islamic beliefs by a Christian man.
These publications are clearly offensive but not dangerous. The tracts broke no laws in their creation and do not incite readers to commit crimes or violate the rights of others. Ong Kian Cheong and Dorothy Chan Hien Leng are being denied their right to distribute ideas freely. The right to a free and open exchange of ideas is an important aspect of free speech, recognized not only by many nations around the world but by the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is a saddening case to see the free speech rights of two people violated because others were offended by their message.
Image from Chick Publications http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/1104/1104_01.asp