Ignorantia legis neminem excusat?

The couple supposedly used the phone book to select Muslims residents for their evangelism. The Christian duo have a good story now – that since the alleged offensive material is available at a bookstore, then it means that the content is not objectionable and they can send use it to convert and caricature Muslims. Frankly, I never could figure out how effective is it to convert someone by making fun of them.

The question is all about intention, rather than the distraction that since it is OK for the store to sell it openly, it is OK everywhere and anytime for someone to distribute it. MDA is now dragged into the story and the side plot of it being negligent in allowing objectionable material in the first place is emerging. Anyway, staying focus on the main story arc, for example, kitchen knives are sold everywhere but if we mail that blade to someone, that someone can reasonably view it as a form of not subtle intimidation. No, the Christian tract is not tantamount to intimidation, but the point of it is that an item can be supposedly innocuous until the way it is used causes offence. Was the couple guilty of intending to cause offence with The Little Bride and Who Is Allah? If not offence, then intention to ridicule at least.

Jan 29, 2009
Couple on trial for anti-Islamic tracts
Man unaware of tract contents

By Elena Chong

A TECHNICAL officer accused of distributing seditious and objectionable material to three people said in his defence on Thursday that he did not know that the envelopes he had posted contained objectionable publications.

Ong Kian Cheong, 50, said he only came to know of the existence of the objectionable comic tracts titled The Little Bride and Who Is Allah? when arrested on Jan 30 last year.

He is being tried together with his wife, Dorothy Chan Hien Leng, 45, of distributing seditious publication, The Little Bride and Who Is Allah? to two Muslim civil servants and The Little Bride, which were deemed objectionable to a Muslim woman in 2007.

The couple are also accused of having 11 seditious publications at their Maplewoods condominium on Bukit Timah Road on Jan 30 last year.

District Judge Roy Neighbour had called on their defence at the close of the prosecution’s case. Ong, who took the stand, testified that they are members of Berean Christian Church.

In 1987, he came across an evangelical tract published by American publisher Chick Publications and shared it with his wife.

From then on, they went round buying tracts at a Bras Basah Complex book shop and another at Bukit Timah Plaza. They then dropped these into letter boxes of HDB residents to spread Christianity. They stopped distributing tracts for a while when their daughter was born in 1990.

Five or six years later, they resumed. By then, his wife had begun to order the US-published tracts direct from the company. In about 1998 or 1999 when he found out that the letter boxes were not accessible, he started posting them instead.

Either he or his wife would write the addresses on the envelopes. From 2000, he said he stopped writing the envelopes while his wife continued doing so. He did the posting most of the time.

He said he was not the one who inserted the tracts into the envelopes posted to the three Muslims in 2007. He also did not read the contents of the tracts as they were the same and repetitive.

Asked by his lawyer, Mr Selva K. Naidu, Ong confirmed that he did not know that any of the envelopes he had posted contained any objectionable publication.

Neither did he know or have reason to believe that the publications he had posted might cause feelings of enmity, hatred, ill-will or hostility between different religious groups in Singapore.

Ong also said he did not know the contents of the 11 tracts listed in the last charge. The case continues on Friday.


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