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Fresh Reads from the Science 'o sphere!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Chick Tracts In Singapore

An interesting news in the Straits Times today:

Offensive booklet reported

By Elena Chong

A MUSLIM administrative manager said she felt offended and angry after reading a small anti-Islamic booklet sent to her by post.

Madam Farhati Ahmad, 36, said she received the comic book called The Little Bride through the mail at her Woodlands home on March 6, 2007.

After reading the contents of the booklet, published by Chick Publications, an American Protestant publisher, she made a police report the same day.

She did not know who sent it but suspected that a Christian organisation had done it. She said she felt very insulted by the booklet whose objective was to insult and confuse Muslims.

'I also feel that its intention was to instigate feelings of anger or hatred for Islam as a religion,' she said.

She was testifying at the third day of the trial of technical officer Ong Kian Cheong, 50, and his wife, Dorothy Chan Hien Leng, 45, an associate director with a bank, on charges under the Sedition Act and Undesirable Publications Act.

The Christian couple are alleged to have distributed a seditious publication each to two men, and the objectionable publication to Madam Farhati between March and December 2007.

The charges say the publications had the tendency to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between Christians and Muslims in Singapore.

When Deputy Public Prosecutor Anandan Bala asked why she made a report instead of throwing the booklet away, Madam Farhati said if the publication which she described as dangerous were to fall into wrong hands, it might disrupt racial harmony in Singapore. She also said people could use it to cause harm and chaos.

The other two Muslims who made police reports after receiving The Little Bride and Who Is Allah? are Mr Irwan Ariffin, 32, and Mr Isa Raffee, 35.

The hearing continues.

Click this link (Booklets available in store) for more details about this trial, where the defence lawyer argued that distributing Chick tracts is not an offence because they are freely available in places such as the Tecman bookshop.


Chick tracts are nothing new in Singapore. I'm sure that many of my readers would have encountered them in one form or another, especially classic ones such as "This Was Your Life".

I recall that I was given one as a teenager - I was flying model gliders near the void deck of my flat when a military officer came up to me and offered the tract to me. I suppose he felt that I was good material for "salvation" and gave it to me on good faith, but when I read the contents of the tract, I found it to have a very simplistic, biased and threatening tone.

Chick tracts are a straightforward conversion tool - every one of them ends with a statement compelling the reader to convert. Thus there is no discussion of nuance or alternative interpretations and explanations within.

To make his case in a small pamphlet with only a few pages, Jack Chick employs a sledgehammer approach and simply attacks everyone with beliefs other than his own, hoping to win converts via doubt, shock and fear. I'm not surprised that someone will eventually be offended by these tracts, I just wonder why it took so long.

The government will most likely resolve this issue using censorship, but I suspect that this might increase the secret appeal of the tracts instead.

In some other countries, Chick tracts are simply deconstructed, refuted and spoofed into irrelevance. I don't know if that would work in Singapore, but personally I would prefer to see an open discussion of such issues rather than the short-term solutions of legal action and censorship.


angry doc said...

Sounds like a case of

"Whoever wins... we lose"

Lim Leng Hiong said...

...just like real life!*

Though technically I won't lose when I lose because this supports my postulation that an organization cannot help but use short term solutions even if they will cause long term difficulties because there is simply no way around it.

Glucose, p53, censorship, stimulus packages... I see them all melding together into one big swirling ball of caramel...

*It's my new slogan now.

Anonymous said...

Mr Chick is one a**-h***
Ask him to give up insulting Catholics and Muslims because it is totally UNCHRISTIAN! You wanna preach Christianity, preach LOVE and TOLERANCE for your fellow men, Mr Chick. No use insulting other Faiths, it does you no good to your receiving graces from God.

Edgar said...

I remember receiving a similar book from a classmate in secondary school explaining why evolution is wrong. It led me to find out more and a few weeks later, I annotated the book, corrected the mistakes and returned it to the one who gave it to me. He was extremely displeased. I heard he is now training to be a pastor or something.

Lim Leng Hiong said...

"It led me to find out more and a few weeks later, I annotated the book, corrected the mistakes and returned it to the one who gave it to me. He was extremely displeased."


Come to think of it, I should've kept at least one copy of it instead of just throwing them away.

But I felt really dirty holding on to it. Almost as if the concentrated stupid inside would slowly seep out of its pages and make me sick.

angry doc said...

Dang. Now I have an urge to get hold of a copy and colour the comics...

Edgar said...

Haha I don't know what I was doing returning it anyway, should have just kept it for fun. I didn't know much about evolution but I've gotta thank that person for showing me something so ridiculous that I knew with all my common sense was wrong and that led me to this whole new fascinating field and planted the seeds of anti-quackery in me

Anonymous said...

I recall reading Chick tracts as a kid too. After reading an anti-Chinese tract, I realised that there was something terribly wrong (not to mention stupid) in a Chinese promoting anti-Chinese material. It's a cultist ripoff of the old evangelistic material from the Campus Crusade and Billy Graham era.