KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 9 ― A 27-year-old Facebook user was sentenced to one year’s jail after he pleaded guilty to making remarks disparaging Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.
Chow Mun Fai was earlier charged with using his “Chow Jack” Facebook account on June 12 to post a Hari Raya Aidilfitri greeting that included the words “devil” and “bak kut teh”, a dish containing pork that is forbidden to Muslims.
The charge was proffered under Section 233 (1)(a) of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, for posting an offensive comment with intention to hurt the feelings of others.
After hearing arguments from both sides, Sessions Court judge Azman Mustapha ordered Chow to be jailed for one year ― the maximum imprisonment term allowed under Section 233 (3) of the same law.
The penalty under Section 233 (3) is a fine of up to RM50,000 or one year jail or both.
According to Azman, the sentence should serve as both a lesson for Chow and also a reminder to the public to not hide behind the Internet to write comments that could cause anger and disrupt harmony.
Chow’s lawyer Ahmad Ridza Mohd Noh had earlier asked for a lighter sentence, pointing out that his client was providing for his parents, both aged 60, with his RM2,000 monthly wage as a site supervisor.
Ahmad Ridza also said that his client suffered from severe gastric problems and tuberculosis.
Chow also regretted his error and his act would “haunt” him for life, the lawyer said.
DPP Suhaimi Ibrahim had argued that “public policy demands a severe sentence to be imposed” in Chow’s case.
Suhaimi cited the Federal Constitution’s Article 3, which states that Islam is the religion of the federation while other religions may be practiced in peace and harmony.
“The accused’s action in disputing or raising sensitive issues about Islam would surely invite response from others,” he said, adding that this would destroy the foundation of a peaceful and respectful society based on Article 3.
Suhaimi also said there is a limit to the constitutional right to freedom of expression, and that the court must give a clear message to all social media users that they must be responsible for the consequences of their remarks.
Earlier today, Chow pleaded not guilty to the principal charge under Section 4(1)(c) of the Sedition Act, which prescribes a maximum penalty of RM5,000 fine or three years’ jail or both.
Since Chow pleaded guilty to the alternative charge under the CMA, the sedition charge against him no longer applies.
The charges against him were brought following a June 12 police report by Mohamed Fairuz Mohamed Ariff, a supervisor at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPAC) — where Chow was said to have posted the offensive remark.