14 June 2006

Another Blogging Case Under the Sedition Act

June 14, 2006
Blogger who posted cartoons of Christ online being investigated

By Zakir Hussain

A 21-YEAR-OLD accounts assistant is being investigated for allegedly flouting the Sedition Act by publishing pictures on his blog that were thought to depict Jesus Christ in an offensive manner.

The blogger, who used the online moniker Char, had found the cartoons on the Internet and began posting them in January.

He told The Straits Times last week that he was called in by the police for questioning in March, after they received a complaint.

Yesterday, the police confirmed they are investigating the matter but declined to give details as 'investigations are still ongoing'.

News of the investigation was announced online by Char himself last week when he sent an e-mail to a mailing list of more than 300 young Singaporeans. He told them of his experience and how it came about. He removed the cartoons from his blog after he was questioned.

When contacted by The Straits Times, Char asked that he not be identified for he fears he may lose his job, which he wants to keep before entering a local university in August.

Describing himself as a free thinker, he said he had posted a cartoon that depicted Jesus as a zombie biting a boy's head in January.

The following month, he received an online message asking him to remove the image. It came amid the global furore over the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad by several newspapers.

Char did not reply to the message but chose to irk the person instead. He searched the Internet for more pictures depicting Jesus and published three of them on his blog.

Looking back, he felt he made an 'unwise' move. 'I never thought anyone would complain to the police because the pictures were not insidious,' he said.


Question for the day - what would Jesus say to Char, about this matter? What would Christians say to Char, about this matter? If there is a difference - why?


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Relevant Past Musings by Mr Wang: The 1st 2 Sedition Cases, Seditious Blogger No. 3 and his punishment, Judge Magnus on sedition offences.

68 comments:

Dr Oz bloke said...

Last week I saw these 2 teenagers in church. They behaved rather strangely, talking loudly during the service and remained seated when the rest of the congregation stood up.

My guess was that they were not Christians.

Initially I felt a bit angry, but I reminded myself that wasn't the right response.

What's that about removing the plank in your own eye first?

On the other hand I certainly hope people become more mature to respect other people (not just talking about other's religion here)

yk said...

Why are these Christians so uptight for? They're not really that much different from those Islamic radicals in terms of ideology, are they? If say an Evangelist zealot tried to proselytize me, and I'm a Buddhist, is that considered a seditious act? Because while he's got his thick head in the clouds advertising his God and the Kingdom of 72 virgins, he also bashes my religion - badmouthing Buddha, calling him fake, etc. - you know.


Now check this out: http://holybibble.net/

What about that? Are those cartoons seditious?!

Anonymous said...

Question for the day - how would Jesus say to Char, about this matter? What would Christians say to Char, about this matter? If there is a difference - why?

Ans: Apparently, Jesus Christ didn't die for that! I think he must have forgotten, hence all those bloody crusades against non-believers in the dark and middle ages. That's the one blotch on His Almighty's resume..

jit said...

dr oz bloke: Kudos to those 2 teenagers for standing (or is that sitting?) their grounds. If you Christians find it an affront and insult to your religion to handle jossticks and joss papers at temples or funerals, why shouldn't those 2 teenagers - probably non-believers - remain seated when the rest of the congregation stood up?

Double standards on your part?

Anonymous said...

I'm going to be optimistic (or delusional) and view these cases as constituting a strong argument for freedom of speech in Singapore.

I'm all for respect but I don't think it should be enforced by the law.

And I think being disrespectful in another's place of worship is wayyy different from objecting to material found on another's blog.

The latter is analogous to visiting someone's home then objecting to the person's collection of Harry Potter books, Dan Brown books etc. Dude, if it bothers [generic] you that much, surf away! I don't harangue people on white supremacist websites either.

et

p.s. I think talking loudly is just poor manners. Remaining seated is non-participation. I don't bow my head and clasp hands when I dine with a group of Christians who do a collective grace. That omission is out of respect.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what cartoons Char used, or have the text of Char's email to the 300+ young Singaporeans?

Anonymous said...

However, noted that he decided to provoke the issue further. Further as with the case of the earlier 3 bloggers, his decision was to provoke further derision.

Anonymous said...

lesson 1: if you want to be seditious, learn to be anonymous, post from russia or iraq.

lesson 2: if the right to offend is gone, look what's happening, one of these days you can't argue with religious dogma without being burnt at the stake or killed by a falling wall.

Kings have fallen to religion before, prime ministers and their ilk should best nip this in the bud.

Anonymous said...

i would like to know who the complainant is? Reveal his identity and make him/her accountable for his/her complaint. THe person should wear a special outfit or something so that members of the public can be mindful and pander to his/her sensitive nature. The complainant cannot be allowed to remain anonymous in such dubious cases.

sonikbyte said...

This is so stupid! :(
what's wrong with a silly pic.

Marcus said...

This is something which i have to agree with the PAP. Religion and race are topics which we should tread carefully as emotions can run high for a misquoted comment or satire which rubs the wrong way.

Personally, i advocate for a tolerant and moderate stance towards religion. As for races, we are all humans and are equal in the fullest sense of the word. Just my two cents.

Anonymous said...

this is an abuse of the law by the 'religious' people.

I don't see them complaining about websites which glorify their own religion (which usually implicitly state that other religions are false)

As someone above said, the police ought to make public the name of the person who lodged the complaint. I think it's only fair.

Of course, the police ought to be spending their time doing something more beneficial in the first place.

drunkenpanda said...

Why are we even looking at this from a religious viewpoint? From what I conclude:

1) The picture was found to be offensive. They also fall under the category of being offensive to a religion, never mind what religion, because it's criminal to intentionally insult religion or race under Singapore law.

2) Char intentionally reproduced it on his blog, making himself a distributor of the offensive material, never mind where its original source was.

3) Char, although requested to remove the pic, did not comply. Instead, he provoked the situation further by putting even more of such related offensive material on his blog.

4) The offense he spread was high enough to garner a police report against him. And since it is a criminal offence to be promoting seditious material, Char was charged.

As seen from above, it is perfectly possible for anyone to respond to this in a purely objective manner. Of course those who were insulted would be angry, but something as simple as a series of sensational pictures shouldn't cause one to lose his head of logic.

In fact, I am a Christian, but I doubt anyone would have guessed if I did not mention this fact. Although I too feel offended, you don't see me writing a million hate mail to Char. Please don't mistake provoked retaliation or perceived overreaction as a 'Christian thing' or 'religious thing'. It's a people thing. It's individuals themselves who choose their reactions to things. And I choose to let go of such a minor matter. Especially since Char has been dealt with legally.

Mezzo said...

to return to the original question: Jesus would have turned the other cheek.

(it is even more likely that he would have gone "kids! whatever! peace out!")

But when we talk about what Christians would say to Char - do we talk of Christian leaders or run-of-the-pulpit Christians?

Actually, I just posted a link to a Jesus as Terminator action figure myself.. I wonder if it's considered seditious/offensive if I post a link to something that's already out there?

Anonymous said...

1) The picture was found to be offensive. They also fall under the category of being offensive to a religion, never mind what religion, because it's criminal to intentionally insult religion or race under Singapore law.

2) Char intentionally reproduced it on his blog, making himself a distributor of the offensive material, never mind where its original source was.


Oh yeah? Talking out of your foot huh. If what Char did is considered seditious, then why aren't the Da Vinci Code book and film banned?! Aren't those material 'offensive' to you and your lot? Imagine! A comic book adapted from DVC depicting Jesus Christ hitting third base with Mary Magdalene! Ooh.. how blasphemous. The very thought of that would burn out your retinas.. Isn't that much more offensive than some cartoons?

3)Char, although requested to remove the pic, did not comply. Instead, he provoked the situation further by putting even more of such related offensive material on his blog.

Didn't think Aethists/Agnostics/Freethinkers have to comply with the wishes of anonymous pastors or close-minded religious nuts. We are emancipated; your God is not the boss of us y'know.

4) The offense he spread was high enough to garner a police report against him. And since it is a criminal offence to be promoting seditious material, Char was charged.

So, if you Christians find that offensive, why haven't any of you lodge a police complaint against MICA or the film censor board for allowing the Da Vinci Code books and movies - which I presume are much more offensive - to be distributed in Singapore? Not enough nuts to lobby for a ban?

elizabeth said...

I am a Christian and if I may, I shall quote from the Bible to answer your question (please delete it if you think it is out of place).

Jesus' response at the crucifixion:

But Jesus was saying, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." Luke 23:34

So I am sure Jesus will forgive them.

As for me, because I am not actually the one who is insulted, I can't say I will forgive.

I will speak up in His defence, try to get to the root of the matter/ determine the intentions behind it, and make my stand clear that I find it offensive and blasphemous to someone I love.

I will also pray and ask Jesus to forgive them.

Anonymous said...

If Jesus would not take offence, why should you?

Why doesn't your heart fill with love for Char, if Jesus's heart would?

Go ponder.

chonghan79 said...

I believe that the point behind Mr Wang's questions were for people to ask and see for themselves their own motivations for being in their religions.

Do we believe/join/participate in a religion because we choose to emulate a respectable person and hopefully become one ourselves?

Or

Do we join a religion because we are awed by the raw power of an entity to the extend where we worship the power but not the virtue of what the power is suppose to represent?

If the first reason was why we all are in religion. There would be little war or anger in this world
but if it was due to the second reason, everything that others say about our beliefs will be VERY personal as our selfishness and biasness will hinder us from viewing all comments in an objective light.

Were religious war created by the first reason or the second? You think?

It is interesting that while Mr Wang provides no answers or advice for this matter, his questions for this topic have served a similar function. Interesting =)

Mona said...

I am very upset about my pastor's ranting on about Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code. After all, the book clearly states upfront it is a work of fiction. Of course he advised against seeing the movie. And he should see it too; the producer Ron Howard added to the book the question: if Christ is proved to be a man, would your faith still stand?
It is clear that there are two types of Christians:
1) Those who believe Jesus died on the cross for our sins, and the message of sacrifice is for us to practice love and goodwill to all our fellow humans on this earth;
2) Those who take "our God is better than your God" attitude, just because Jesus is the Son of God, and other religions only claim their religious leader to be "only" a prophet.
Mercifully, the protests over Da Vinci Code did not descend to book burning and death threats. Thank God Christ did not die in vain.

Anonymous said...

to all the Aethists /Agnostics/Freethinkers :
Is John lennon right then to sing "imagine, there is no religion..the world will be as one"
question: no one will be provoked or offended then?

simplesandra said...

marcus wrote: "Religion and race are topics which we should tread carefully as emotions can run high for a misquoted comment or satire which rubs the wrong way."

The question is, do emotions run high when it's only a few individuals who get offended? There's a clear line between being careful and being paranoid. Wouldn't it be ironic if educated Christians here kick up a big fuss over a cartoon, after they had criticised the way Muslims reacted to the one that appeared in a Danish paper?

elizabeth wrote: "I will speak up in His defence, try to get to the root of the matter/ determine the intentions behind it, and make my stand clear that I find it offensive and blasphemous to someone I love."

Here's a personal experience of mine. I was at someone's funeral -- a Christian one -- and the church pastor was giving an evening service when tried to "convert" those at the funeral who weren't "believers". He began mocking their Taoist and Buddhist beliefs, calling their faith a "fake", a "ruse".

A couple of the guests were so upset they left immediately.

Was that sedition? Were those remarks -- from a church pastor -- more damaging to intercultural bonding than a cartoon posted on a blog by an ignorant individual?

anon wrote: "Is John lennon right then to sing "imagine, there is no religion..the world will be as one" question: no one will be provoked or offended then?"

Not as much as his "bigger than Jesus" comment did. ;)

Anonymous said...

To come back to initial query.
Would use the basic foundation of secular living in this present world "render unto Caesar (govt) what is due to Caesar and render unto God what is due to God".
Hence, since he is not the first blogger to be investigated, let the secular law take its course. Will leave at that.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Heheh. Such faith you have - in the secular law.

I don't share that faith, of course. After all, I'm a lawyer.

William said...

With reference to why Dan Brown wasn't banned, I think there is a big difference between a comic depicting Jesus biting someone's head and a story claiming that Jesus had children. One is designed solely to trigger an emotional reponse while the other states a hypothesis that can be objectively refuted by other parties. Just reading Wikipedia you can find many factual errors committed by Brown, diminishing his credibility. Similarly, a brief study of history will also show the Catholic Church had its own shortcomings as well.

A comic lewdly depicting a sexual act would probably be offensive to many people, not just Christians.

As for zealots and charlatans, every religion has them and it is unfortunate those individuals become the representatives. Then again, it is human nature to remember the bad much more vividly than the good.

Religion should be studied with an open mind, rather than blindly absorbing whatever the man on the pulpit says, or clinging on to sterreotypes and negative impressions. After all, we aren't given an intelligent brain just to regurgitate dogmas and catch phrases. Keep in mind that pastors and priests, no matter how well they speak, are still human as well and liable to make mistakes.

As a believer, you should not shy away from doubt, but make the effort to clarify and understand. Overcoming doubt brings greater insight and strengthens your belief rather than diminishing it.

lbandit said...

Anonymous: "p.s. I think talking loudly is just poor manners. Remaining seated is non-participation. I don't bow my head and clasp hands when I dine with a group of Christians who do a collective grace. That omission is out of respect."

Actually, remaining seated when everyone is standing is kind of rude. If the teenagers really didn't want to participate, then they should not have gone to the church. Its like Christians going to a Taoist funeral but refuses to touch the joss sticks. Its just plain rude. They really shouldn't have gone to the funeral if they weren't going to participate.

***

And to everyone who thinks the Char guy got what he deserves, your comments here offends me greatly. Now, please turn yourself in to the police and ask to be charged with sedition.

ak said...

With reference to why Dan Brown wasn't banned, I think there is a big difference between a comic depicting Jesus biting someone's head and a story claiming that Jesus had children.

What big difference? You mean Dan Brown's work is fiction and the comic isn't? Surely you don't believe Jesus would bite off someone's head?! I would think that if the comic is even presumed to be remotely offensive and to Christians, DVC being more seditious would have caused a right riot.

A comic lewdly depicting a sexual act would probably be offensive to many people, not just Christians.

A classic case of which rock have you been hiding under?

Anonymous said...

Christians must ask themselves what would Jesus do? when confonted with seemingly offensive material. But they seem to be asking themselves what would George W Bush do?

*The Lunatic Fringe* said...

*Sigh* why can't the internet be self-policing (in Singapore!)

I think our tax dollars should be better spent tracking down hit-and-run drivers who KILL people rather than a 21 year-old blogger that happens to have less of common-sense than most adults. Then again, how mature can one get at 21?

How heinous is his crime really? I don't even know his blog existed until this brouhuha. I was a free-thinker for most of my life and am a born-again christian only the last couple of years and feel that it is overblown. Satirical cartoons mocking religion, self-righteous attitudes and political bullsh** has been happening all over the internet and society as we know it has not collapsed.

I feel that Singapore is becoming overly legalised and our tolerance for stupid behaviour on 1 or 2 individuals is very low. The common sense thing would be for the person who filed the complaint with the police to invite Char to drink coffee and discuss the merits/demerits of posting religiously satrical cartoons. Small thing also call police... That's the type of immature society we have here.

*The Lunatic Fringe* said...

To: dr oz bloke

About the 2 teenagers. Teenagers will be teenagers. Consider these scenarios:

1) Teenagers forced by parents to go service - so feel bored and basically act anti-social

2) Teenagers got serious problem (got girl/boy friend pregnant) so need to discuss

3) Teenagers are "inherited" christians - i.e. their parents are christians so they end up in church

Take ur pick. It's not so much about being non-Christians - but they are teenagers. Sometimes they get bored with services for adults and serious themes or worship is just not their cup of tea.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Maybe the two of them are Christians from a different denomination and their understanding of the Bible was different from that espoused in the pastor's sermon. Heheh.

Mr Wang Says So said...

And if they are non-Christians, their presence in church is only as strange as the presence of Christians in a movie theatre screening DVC who feel offended by the movie ....

Kelvin Tan said...

Dan Brown must be glad he is not a Singaporean living in Singapore.

His Da Vinci Code book will obviously draw "anonymous complaints" from some Christians and he will be jailed for making seditious remarks about the Catholic Church.

And Singapore can continue wondering why she will never be a bohemian city for the art.

Mezzo said...

I wonder who Char pissed off. After all, the original seditiousfulicious post didn't make a blip on the Singapore blogging scene, so the person who reported it must have done some digging, which suggests a person agenda.

Anonymous said...

Well if remaining seated while everyone else is standing is rude then I resign myself to being rude. I sat while everyone else gave a standing ovation to a Cirque du Soleil performance once. I just didn't think it was that great.

And the most probable reason as to why non-Christians are in church? I'd bet somebody did a spot of proselytising and invited them. I've had complete strangers walk up to me and attempt to proselytise no less than 5 times. I'm starting to think they have a quota to fill or something. Or maybe my face screams 'Headed to Hell'.

I also think that no one will give this complaint the time of day if the complainant were a Scientologist complaining about how Tom Cruise is regularly made fun of for his religious beliefs. Or a Jehovah's Witness. Or a devotee of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The question is, are you ok with that state of affairs where some religions are above mockery but others are not?

et aka Anonymous @ Wednesday, June 14, 2006 4:57:56 PM

William said...

What big difference? You mean Dan Brown's work is fiction and the comic isn't? Surely you don't believe Jesus would bite off someone's head?! I would think that if the comic is even presumed to be remotely offensive and to Christians, DVC being more seditious would have caused a right riot.

Evidently you didn't read the rest of my paragraph. Obviously I wouldn't believe Jesus would bite off someone's head, likewise I wouldn't believe a cartoon depicting you naked with, well, unflattering assets. I did not say DVC wasn't offensive, but that its claims are more easily refuted objectively than a cartoon.

A classic case of which rock have you been hiding under?

More of which rock hit you on the head? Again you assume that I would be offended when believe me, I have seen more than a lewd comic. You mean to say there aren't Muslims, Buddhists or free thinkers who would be offended?

Medusa aka expiringpoet said...

Why can't everyone just treat everybody else's religions, and each other, with the respect we all deserve?
Since when has it become fashionable to deride someone else's god or faith.
Just as journalism teaches responsible reporting, people should also be taught to be considerate in what they write or in this case, blog.
Religion is not a joke. Its time people recognize this and learn to accord certain subjects with proper respect.

Anonymous said...

Why can't everyone just treat everybody else's religions, and each other, with the respect we all deserve?

Oh, tell that to the homophobic Christians.

Charissa said...

I feel Christ would forgive that guy and all Christians should too. I do not think Christ is so close-minded to get overtly furious over ugly pictures about him. It is not so nice yes, but Christians any better if they persecute him?

I feel that even if the pictures are not so nice... nobody should ever persecute him for it. The police should just quit it and not persecute him. It's furtile, a waste of resources and I doubt most true Christians would ever call for his head. At least, I wouldnt.

Like chill man... everyone is entitled their own opinion (thought this seem to be disputable in sg).

Gosh.... even Dan brown is running free and what is the reaction of particularly the Catholics? From what I am aware of... many Christians have published books/articles and statements refuting the book and encouraging people to think.... not asking for Dan brown to be arrested/jailed or sue him. The PAP govt should take a leaf from this.

Mezzo said...

Dan Brown should preferably be charged for crimes against literature. Book, she is bad.

Anonymous said...

really strange, what's there to forgive? if people want to believe in a religion, misguided or not, and other people want to point out that it is misguided, true or not, nobody is proven right or wrong.

everybody has gone berserk. these people should just kill themselves rather than commit terrorism because their religion tells them every non-believer deserves to die.

I quote from somewhere.. "Religion is for the weak minded".. i think it was some american.. ben franklin? so believe what you want, so long as you don't force it on other people, and let people have the freedom to say your religion sucks. you can say its is good, why can't i say it is bad? you can't monopolise my thinking right?

lbandit said...

Anonymous: "Well if remaining seated while everyone else is standing is rude then I resign myself to being rude. I sat while everyone else gave a standing ovation to a Cirque du Soleil performance once. I just didn't think it was that great."

Remaining seated while everyone is standing in a congregation in a church is a very different context to that of standing ovations in performances. If you chose not to give any standing ovation or even fall asleep during a performance, is how you rate the performance. One context is about being nasty and the other context is about giving praise.

If you want a better analogy using performances, consider when everyone is seated to watch while you alone stand to watch (thus blocking the view of those behind you). Is that non-participation in the sitting down? Or plain nasty?

***

Medusa aka expiringpoet, If one day you went to Ya Kun and ordered a sunny side up egg, and some believers of a pagan sun god comes up to you and says "Hey! It looks as if you're eating my god. Sedition!" Then proceeds to get the police to arrest you for hours of investigation. What then? Do we ban sunny side up eggs in Singapore?

Religion is not a joke, that i agree. But many products of religion are.

I'm sure not too long ago, our glorious leaders just told us that the way to comment (responsibly) on sensitive matters is to use humor.

***

Annonymous: "I quote from somewhere.. "Religion is for the weak minded".. i think it was some american.. ben franklin?"

I think Karl Marx said it, Religion is the opium of the masses.

Anonymous said...

Apologies upfront if any offense is taken for the use of your succint points and my inadvertent errors. Will use your own perspective from your comments on the earlier cases.

"Conceivably, I could answer your question with a discourse on how freedom of speech has to come with limits etc etc. But then you already knew all that.

So I offer a different kind of answer. Which gives you an idea of how this case probably proceeded.

1. Someone made a police report about these bloggers.

2. When the police receive a report, they have to investigate. That's their job.

3. When they finish investigating, they have to tell the prosecution. That's their job.

4. When the prosecution is told, it has to decide whether a crime has been committed (a pure legal exercise). That's their job.

5. If the prosecution decides that a crime has been committed, it has to decide what to do next (Drop completely? Ask police to issue warning? Proceed to charge? If so, what kind of charge?). That's their job.

In the present case, the relevant DPP (or DPPs) decided to proceed to charge.

You asked, "Why resort to the law?". The answer is that the DPP is primarily a legal institution. His powers reside within the criminal legal system. The matter has come to him, he needs to deal with it (that's his job), and he can only deal with it in the criminal legal justice way.

The DPP isn't the SBA, or a religious leader, or an ISP, or Blogger, or the forum webhost, or the Presidential Council on Minority Rights. Those institutions would have their own ways of dealing with the situation.

But the DPP has only the DPP ways of dealing with the situation. And the DPP ways of dealing with this situation are either to charge, or not to charge.

DPPs themselves are a bunch of people with differing views. Given the same case, one DPP may decide to proceed; another DPP may not. Individual views and opinions do play a role (see for example the District Attorney in the TV show "The Practice"). There ARE mechanisms within the AGC which seek to prevent individual DPPs' peculiar idiosyncrasies from playing an unduly large role. But by and large, individual DPPs' views and opinions do play a significant role.

In this case, the file most likely would have come to AGC together with 50 other files. The files would have been randomly assigned to DPPs. The sedition case file came to a particular DPP, who studied it and then decided to proceed.

His decision would have been checked by his superior. However, if AGC is still operating as it used to, then in all likelihood, the superior would accord a significant amount of respect to the DPP's decision. The superior steps in to override only if he thinks that the decision is very wrong or very extreme. If the decision is not very extreme or not very wrong, the superior generally allows the decision to stand, even if the superior himself may feel that the decision was not the best possible decision.

In very unusual cases (this sedition case perhaps qualifies), the decision may be examined at higher levels. It may, for example, be escalated all the way to the Attorney-General himself. However, even the AG himself is just a legal institution. Ultimately he has no non-legal type of measures to utilise. In the end, he either has to proceed to charge, or not. He can't say, "Let's just forget about the legal aspects and just order the bloggers to attend compulsory National Education class for three months." He has no such powers.

Right now, the DPP knows more than you about the case. He has the police file. He has full details of the investigation results. He knows what those bloggers have written exactly. He decided to proceed. It may or may not be the best decision (we wouldn't know), but he does have all the facts he needs to help him in his decision-making process (whereas we don't).

So let's wait and see".

Mr Wang Says So said...

But my focus now is not on the legal process and the participants such as police, DPP, judge etc.

My focus is on the ordinary Singaporeans who might feel offended about something, choose to file a report and initiate the legal process.

Seems to me now that the justice system could possibly be at excessive risk of being hijacked and manipulated by fundamentalist types representing any particular race or religion.

Of course, I am not saying that it's fine to go around offending people's race or religion. But I do say that when such incidents happen, it is definitely not necessarily the case that the best response lies in the law or its instruments:

(arrest, seizure, investigation trial, conviction, fine, jail, criminal conviction damaging future etc).

For one example of an alternative approach, look at the top right hand corner of my blog's main page; note the icon that says "Flag?" and click on the "What Does It Mean?" dropdown link.

Anonymous said...

It's so funny to see people getting angry with Christians who got offended.

I'm wondering what kind of reactions would be elicited if the zombie in the pic had been replaced with Buddha, Guanyin or Mohamad?

Having said that, please don't be so childish/stupid as to try it. Have respect for yourself even if you have no respect for the law.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Interestingly, I've just learned that the person who posted the pictures was a Christian.

Anonymous said...

Apologies upfront if any offense is taken for the use of your succint points and my inadvertent errors for the viepoints.

The main issue is who or whose or whom perspective/viewpoint/philisophy view defines the or those limits/boundaries in the freedom of speech.

Agree that blogging should be mainly self-regulating.

Realistically, based on your comment
"My focus is on the ordinary Singaporeans who might feel offended about something, choose to file a report and initiate the legal process.

Seems to me now that the justice system could possibly be at excessive risk of being hijacked and manipulated by fundamentalist types representing any particular race or religion."
The pandora's box of such possibilities was opened once such cases were initiated.

Hence, to recap using your comment, will wait & see.
"Right now, the DPP knows more than you about the case. He has the police file. He has full details of the investigation results. He knows what those bloggers have written exactly. He decided to proceed. It may or may not be the best decision (we wouldn't know), but he does have all the facts he needs to help him in his decision-making process (whereas we don't).

So let's wait and see".

Anonymous said...

do you all know exactly what is wrong with the zombie christ picture?

it was all based on a the phrase of "on the third day, he rose from the dead"
...
as a zombie..
------

so the joke would not be funny on someone else (muhamad/guanyin) etc.. (but maybe funny on osiris.)
because of context

now, how is this anymore seditious than any other cartoon on the internet or a joke (a rabbi, a priest and a minister walk into a bar...)

gosh.. the threshold for offense is so low her, bet hearing the aristocrats joke will make you all bleed out of the ears and explode

Lam Chun See said...

Mr Wang. I think your statement:

"Seems to me now that the justice system could possibly be at excessive risk of being hijacked and manipulated by fundamentalist types representing any particular race or religion."

is insulting to fundamentalist Christians; which I am not ashame d to declare I am one. I doubt you understand what is a fundamentalist in the first place. Looks like stereotyping to me. And you dare to boast of promoting critical thinking.

Anonymous said...

This is the long comment I didn’t want to make initially. On hindsight, I should have, just to make my points explicitly. Please scroll at will.

lbandit
Actually, remaining seated when everyone is standing is kind of rude.

I do believe this is just careless phrasing and perhaps an over-reliance on context. I’m sure you meant to say “remaining seated when everyone is standing, in a religious institution is kind of rude”. But I have to say, my first reaction to that statement was “Sheeple!” [Sheep + People] It’s the whole to-do-something-different-is-wrong implication that gets my goat. [My Cirque du Soleil analogy was meant to address this point. And you’re right. A theatrical performance is not a good comparison for a religious experience. This statement can be torn apart if you’re into avant-garde theatre but let’s just leave that aside for now ok?] Another qualifier you could have added to your statement so that it reads like this “remaining seated for non-medical reasons when everyone is standing, in a religious institution is kind of rude”. There are people who don’t have visible disabilities for whom standing is a pain. And you know what? You may very well be right. I initially chose the value-neutral statement “non-participation” because I don’t really feel either way about it. The talking loudly bothers me more because it disturbs other people. Remaining seated doesn’t affect others in any substantial way that I can think of. And no, your analogy of standing up while others are seated is not a good one. It might be a better analogy than my Cirque analogy but it’s not good, as in appropriate. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that your right to swing your fist ends where it meets my nose. Remaining seated when everyone else is standing doesn’t affect everyone else’s communion with God, though it evidently distracted and annoyed some! Blocking people’s sightlines in a theatre affects one’s enjoyment of the play in a fundamental way.

lbandit
If the teenagers really didn't want to participate, then they should not have gone to the church.

What I said on the active proselytisation of Christians was meant to address this obliquely. I think others have addressed this as well. As teenagers, there are many reasons why one might be in church against one’s wishes. It might be parents. Perhaps a teacher invited them to church [It shouldn’t happen but it does.] etc. You say that if they do not wish to participate, they shouldn’t have gone. Sounds perfectly logical to me. Perhaps they should have stood their ground and told their parents to buzz off. Or turned the teacher down outright. Perhaps when people proselytise, they should make clear the expectations and the unspoken consent one gives in going to church.

lbandit
Its like Christians going to a Taoist funeral but refuses to touch the joss sticks. Its just plain rude. They really shouldn't have gone to the funeral if they weren't going to participate.

All I have to say to this is that I hope most of the world doesn’t agree with you. I think it’s really sad if each of us have to effectively live in our religious enclaves, physical and metaphorical. And it’s a funeral, for crying out loud. It shouldn’t be about one party’s standards of good manners and another party’s religious beliefs. Can’t both parties just take a step back and get along?

And you know what? All this going back and forth is incidental to Mr Wang’s post and to the main point that I think we agree on. That we can disagree on what constitutes rude and nasty and unacceptable but we both draw the line, I think, at having the legal system be used to enforce these arbitrary and unclear standards.

I don’t mind being told when I’ve been rude. If you’re convincing, I might even apologize and promise not to do it again. But having to make a trip down to the police station and risk fines and a jail term. That’s just wrong. And letting the legal system become the means by which one’s personal vendettas are carried out, that’s making a mockery of the legal system.

et

Mr Wang Says So said...

"Mr Wang. I think your statement:

"Seems to me now that the justice system could possibly be at excessive risk of being hijacked and manipulated by fundamentalist types representing any particular race or religion."

is insulting to fundamentalist Christians; which I am not ashame d to declare I am one."
-------

How easily insulted you are, then.

We already had three past police cases involving Islam; now we have one involving Christianity -

it seems remarkably easy to initiate policemen in Singapore to start investigating by saying, "Ooooh, I saw _____ on the Internet, now I am so offended, because of my race / religion" -

my point therefore is exactly what I said:

"Seems to me now that the justice system could possibly be at excessive risk of being hijacked and manipulated by fundamentalist types representing any particular race or religion."

... whether Malay, Chinese, Indian, Muslim, Hindu, Christian or whatever.

Mr Wang Says So said...

By the way, everyone, I've just been informed that your comments on this post will soon be featured in the Straits Times. By Zakir. Could be in tomorrow's paper - see you there!

elizabeth said...

Having read some of the responses, I would like to clarify a couple of points:

Firstly, to love does not mean that you agree or everything without any negative feelings or reactions. I would be lying if I say I am not offended. It also hurts.

Secondly, letting the other person know that I am offended will allow him to reconsider his actions, and if he wishes to respect that. It does not mean I am robbing him of his right to do what he wishes.

Thirdly, although I am not the one who is insulted, in the Christian context, what Char did is considered blasphemous, so naturally I would feel offended. Just like a child would be offended if his beloved father is being insulted and would speak up for him.

Lastly, forgiving someone does not mean that one is was not hurt or offended. I am sure Jesus feels hurt and offended too. It simply means that although one does not feel good about being insulted or hurt, one still forgives.

I hope you understand what I am trying to say.

Mezzo said...

"That we can disagree on what constitutes rude and nasty and unacceptable but we both draw the line, I think, at having the legal system be used to enforce these arbitrary and unclear standards"

I also wanted to say that the current state of events allows for people to use the law to their own personal ends. After all, imagine you hated somebody. I'm sure that somewhere, sometime, they've said something that could be considered seditious. Just by reporting him, you could cause him an incredible amount of inconvenience.

My uninformed self would like to suggest timidly that the problem lies in the liberal definition of "offensive", and the current political mindset that results in these complaints taken rather more seriously than they should. I don't know if they'll ever actually be brought to court (or whatever the legalistic term is)

maybe they'll try charging him with criminal intimidation next...

recruit ong said...

Well guys there was a recent news report on the young buddhist lama who was leading a *ahem* secular lifestyle. The buddhist elders themselves made it a point to not react to comments criticizing the lama. It is very easy to react in a knee jerk & defensive manner but they wisely chose not to, unlike some followers of other faith.

My point? There are religions and there are religions. The followers of some just seem to me less tolerant than others. Religion has been hijacked by some people to further their own agenda.

Anonymous said...

The way I read it.

A 21 year old boy, Char, argues with a Christian online about the use of caricatures featuring religious icons in a "sensitive" context. Char has already reproduced one which might offend Christians.

These similiar caricatures had caused certain unrest in Europe/Middle East.

The Christian was offended, and a debate ensued.

Char then responded, like the European press, by publishing more of similiar nature.

More unrest followed in the European context.

In our context, the Christian then made a police report.

The question asked then, by the European press, was whether freedom of speech should be held hostage to violence.

The question here, then, should be whether freedom of speech should be limited where a person feels offended.

Only the state can and will answer that. But the consequences are apparent, and a line difficult to draw. To allow this to be seen as a "seditious" act, other person/s, be it Christians or otherwise, will resort to the law as a protection against such "offense". To disallow this might cause person/s to use this "liberal" exemption to poke fun at other religions.

Should we offend some or should we allow the law to be used as a means to transact our conversations?

For me, the answer is clear.

Singaporeclassics

Anonymous said...

I ain't buddhist but here's a line I hear and seems apt to write here.

it goes something like this:
the teacher pointed to the moon with his finger and said this is the moon.
does the student see the finger as the moon or what it is pointing at?
it sounds stupid but think about it.. is the holy text the finger or the moon? do religious followers see the forest for the trees?

the law is crafted by people and is imperfect because it can get twisted by people's interpretation, just like certain holy books.

elizabeth said...

Mr Wang, with due respect, Char was a Christian. He is now a free-thinker.

I would not want to dwell on the reasons why he renounced his faith, or whether he has the right, as a free-thinker to do that sort of thing. It is pointless.

I totally agree with chenghan79 regarding one's perspective about religions.

Is religion really about who is right or wrong? I say this because exchanges are almost always, "I will prove you wrong," rather than "Will you tell me more because it intrigues me?"

Can we ever establish a conclusion? If we take that approach, we may end up being controlled by our egos and suffer the consequences of disrespect, self-centredness and perhaps foolishness.

And almost always, people of the same mind will burn with anger/hatred towards those who acted to stop the spiral, but forget that they have as much a right to feel offended and put a stop to it as the one who started it all.

Whether to respect others' beliefs is after all conscious choice. We do not live in isolation.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Errr, that's what's I said - Char was a Christian.

Anyway - to reiterate one of my main points - the key question is whether the criminal law is the appropriate instrument to deal with these kinds of incidents.

IMHO, and quite unfortunately, the criminal law is invoked way too often, in Singapore, to deal with events which, even if socially undesirable, are perhaps best dealt with in other ways. Some examples of what I mean:

(a) neighbours having quarrels;

(b) underaged teenagers having sex with each other;

(c) peaceful, non-violent, non-noisy and non-traffic-obstructing demonstrations - see here and also recall the White Elephants of Buangkok.

Really, there could be many other avenues to deal with any of these incidents. As it is, Singapore already has the world's highest rate of criminal convictions in the world (and it's not as if we really have that much crime - a lot of it is attributable to our overzealousness in prosecuting and jailing people even for relatively minor things) and ruining people's future with a criminal conviction.

Some readers - who know that I was formerly a deputy public prosecutor - will find my above comments ironic; but it is precisely because of my experience as a DPP that I say the things I just said.

exzxt said...

I doubt very much that the fundermentalistic Christian that Char claims he offended, was the one who made the police report. It would take a heck of a lot for a Christian to do this. It was probably some brain dead idiot who thought he was doing everyone a favor, who did so.

Agagooga said...

Not all christians follow the template you have in mind.

elizabeth said...

Mr Wang, yours is an ideal which I am sure everyone would subscribe to. However, I think it would only work if people are mature, sensible and less self-centred. From the looks of it, that does not seem to be the situation here.

The law acts as a check. A mature and responsible person would recognize the consequences of his actions, especially if he had already been made aware that those cartoons were offensive. If Char had taken them down in the first instance, I do not think anyone would have pursued the matter further.

But Char chose to ignore requests to reconsider his actions. In my opinion, it was probably driven by his ego and the "I must win" attitude. In doing so, he had effectively chosen to challenge the law. That was his choice.

Relying on the law in this case should not be seen as vindictive but as a recourse to stop undesirable behaviour. Hopefully, Char will learn about respect from the experience.

family man said...

I do wonder if the Muslim writer had carried the story too far for the ST? My gut feel is that following the Europe furore after the Muslim cartoons, Zakir may have gone too far over his head and the insult may not be as bad to Christians than he thought? I'm just guessing here and this is just my personal thoughts. I'm a Christian, I don't like to see Christ being made a joke, but I do not wish any ill will to Cha who has yet to attend U. I would hate to see his future screwed by a moment of silliness and probable frustration with a 'fundamentalist' whom they probably had a history of hate-hate relationship that we are not aware of. Cha, all the best, and take care, if you are reading this. It is your personal blog, but do take care.

elizabeth said...

If I may have one last word, "Char was a Christian," is not the same as "Char was a Christian but he is now a free-thinker."

As a lawyer, I am sure you would know the subtle implications of the omission, especially when you have phrased it that way.

Mezzo said...

from TC:" do wonder if the Muslim writer had carried the story too far for the ST? My gut feel is that following the Europe furore after the Muslim cartoons, Zakir may have gone too far over his head and the insult may not be as bad to Christians than he thought? "

I'm not sure if you've read the article correctly - the reporter never stated that Christians would be offended by the cartoons. THe whole point of this exercise is that **police** thought that Christians would find it terrible offensive.

On the writer's being Muslim: I'm not sure how that is relevant. However, it is worth pointing out that traditionally, Muslims hold Jesus in some reverence, as he is considered one of the Islamic faith's prophets.

Mr Wang Says So said...

I was thinking about it from a more strictly legal perspective, and have begun to see that a line of argument (probably never advanced in the courts so far) could probably go as follows:

1. these Internet postings do not actually constitute a crime

2. that's because none of these posting actually have a "seditious tendency"

3. that's because the Act defines "seditious tendency" as a tendency to "......to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Singapore."

4. these Internet postings have no tendency to promote any such feelings between different classes

5. that's because the number of people who read them was too small.

In other words, instead of analysing the issue of whether a particular posting, if viewed by Christians/Muslims etc, would tend to cause such feelings among them,

we argue that the correct legal approach is to consider whether that particular posting, in reality, was indeed read by enough people to be able to cause, and indeed have a tendency to cause, any such feeling among the different classes or not.

That is to say, if I posted the most utterly offensive postings on my blog, but no more than three or four persons ever read them, then the legal position should be that my blog has no seditious tendency.

Naturally, this is the kind of thing that Davinder Singh would be most likely to pull off, if he was defending the accused.

Anonymous said...

1. these Internet postings do not actually constitute a crime

wrong, they are distasteful and actually insult Christ...seditious

2. that's because none of these posting actually have a "seditious tendency"

what makes you so sure, people get all upset over the stupidous of things

3. that's because the Act defines "seditious tendency" as a tendency to "......to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Singapore."

no religion.. then why the police wasting their time

4. these Internet postings have no tendency to promote any such feelings between different classes

it don't bother the christians, they are forgiving despite the insult. It is only some grump who thinks he is being smart

5. that's because the number of people who read them was too small.

say what, who you kidding

In other words, instead of analysing the issue of whether a particular posting, if viewed by Christians/Muslims etc, would tend to cause such feelings among them, we argue that the correct legal approach is to consider whether that particular posting, in reality, was indeed read by enough people to be able to cause, and indeed have a tendency to cause, any such feeling among the different classes or not.

you got a point, ask the national christian council for their take on the issue. as for other beliefs, they have got their councils. An issue like this, minor as it is, should not be taken beyond a point of no return so to speak, for the offender. if Christians can't understand, and forgive I hope, then we have a double massive problem on our hands. It's bad enough with the ill feelings we see in other arenas

That is to say, if I posted the most utterly offensive postings on my blog, but no more than three or four persons ever read them, then the legal position should be that my blog has no seditious tendency.

rubbish

Naturally, this is the kind of thing that Davinder Singh would be most likely to pull off, if he was defending the accused.

no comment

Anonymous said...

1. these Internet postings do not actually constitute a crime

wrong, they are distasteful and actually insult Christ...seditious

2. that's because none of these posting actually have a "seditious tendency"

what makes you so sure, people get all upset over the stupidous of things

3. that's because the Act defines "seditious tendency" as a tendency to "......to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Singapore."

no religion.. then why the police wasting their time

4. these Internet postings have no tendency to promote any such feelings between different classes

it don't bother the christians, they are forgiving despite the insult. It is only some grump who thinks he is being smart

5. that's because the number of people who read them was too small.

say what, who you kidding

>In other words, instead of analysing the issue of whether a particular posting, if viewed by Christians/Muslims etc, would tend to cause such feelings among them, we argue that the correct legal approach is to consider whether that particular posting, in reality, was indeed read by enough people to be able to cause, and indeed have a tendency to cause, any such feeling among the different classes or not.

you got a point, ask the national christian council for their take on the issue. as for other beliefs, they have got their councils. An issue like this, minor as it is, should not be taken beyond a point of no return so to speak, for the offender. if Christians can't understand, and forgive I hope, then we have a double massive problem on our hands. It's bad enough with the ill feelings we see in other arenas

>That is to say, if I posted the most utterly offensive postings on my blog, but no more than three or four persons ever read them, then the legal position should be that my blog has no seditious tendency.

rubbish

>Naturally, this is the kind of thing that Davinder Singh would be most likely to pull off, if he was defending the accused.

no comment

John Riemann Soong said...

Just who is this kafir Lionel de Souza? With two letters published, is he a regular writer for the Straits Times? The logical fallacies he writes are incredulous.

Reading Gayle Goh's entry about it in fact made Char's act seem more serious than it actually was. I have actually seen the cartoon before, and as a Christian it's just another tired old antireligious cliche that people make up and it gets spread around the internet.

It's not even his original drawing.

The entire thing is ridiculous. I find it rather quirky he gets questioned for it, because I've been questioned about far worse.