[Posted by blog co-author]
Jailed for religious insult: 'Wounded feelings' of Muslims
by Khushwant Singh on The Straits Times, Singapore.
IN THE first case of its kind, air-con repairman Andrew Kiong Kheng Kiat, 44, was jailed two weeks on Friday for wounding the religious feeling of a couple.
A district court heard that on the evening of Feb 2 last year, housewife Halinah Barudin, 38, found a card on the windscreen of her car. Written on it, were questions that cast aspersions on Prophet Muhammad.
Upset, she and her husband Mohamad Dahar Dollah, an air steward, approached the management of the condominium to view the footage of the closed-circuit television cameras in the basement car park.
It showed Kiong putting the card on the couple's car at about 5.30pm on that day.
Mr Mohamad Dahar, 40, then went to the police and Kiong was tracked down and questioned.
He admitted to printing 16 such cards and had placed eight on cars that he believed were owned by Muslims.
He was unable to specify the exact locations. He had thrown away the remaining eight cards after the authorities caught up with him.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Adrian Loo said that while previous offenders had been charged with promoting ill-will and hostility between the different races under the Sedition Act, the offence of wounding the religious feelings of another person was equally serious, as both offences carry the maximum punishment of a fine and a three-year jail term.
Kiong, who was expressionless during the hearing, looked resigned as he was led away in handcuffs.This news which was released yesterday is not clear on the entirety. The questions on the card were never published anywhere online, nor printed on the news. There was no analytical debate on whether or not the questions were merely a genuine inquiry into the actions of the Prophet, whom Muslims consider the best role model. If it was a genuine inquiry, the government ought to consult the inquirer on how he arrived at the questions, and attempt to provide satisfactory answers (failing which, it will be obvious that the subject being inquired on has faults that makes it worthy of those questions). Only if the questions were really meant to insult (by secular standards, not by Muslim standards), then the insulter must be punished.
It must be noted that Muslims consider that one can be a Muslim only by emulating the Prophet and his every action, regardless of how wrong the action may be to the human conscience. Non-muslims studying Islam and and its tenets in detail would question some of the actions of Muhammad, especially those actions from his later life. However, with secular governments like Singapore attempting to protect religion from free inquiry by outlawing it as "sedition" or "hurting religious feelings," Non-muslims are discouraged from asking their questions and prevented from enjoying free exchange and conversation with Muslims. They are forced to veil a mask of anonymity when expressing their doubts and questions (which failed for Andrew). Even a simple question asked by a Non-muslim inquiring the morality, legality or relevance of an action of Prophet Muhammad will be labelled as "sedition" by Muslims.
News sources need to do more justice by publishing complete news and including all details. The questions on the card must have been published or at least provided online, so that readers can judge for themselves whether these questions were a genuine inquiry about Muhammad and Islam, or merely meant to insult. This would not only ensure that justice is served more justly (by prompting public outcry on a mistaken conviction), but also encourage more Non-muslims to study and understand Islam without a religious bias. In today's world, a majority of Non-muslims are under the wrong impressions about Islam. Either they believe that Islam is similar to Judaism and the more well-known Christianity, or they believe that Islam is evil, due to the recent terrorist events. The correct opinion needs to be formed by a Non-muslim only by studying Islam itself, and not by judging from recent developments, promotion of religion by religious institutions, or hearsay.
The fact that the cards contained questions gives me the idea that they are more likely to be genuine inquiry, which is wrongly accused as being insulting and "hurting" to Muslims. This is because Muslims regard such reverence to the Prophet that his actions become unquestionable, and any question, genuine or otherwise, is considered an "insult".