Sex bloggers' act angered Muslims, court heard

Vivian Lee has been charged under Malaysia's Sedition Act. She and her then boyfriend Alvin Tan, who faces the same charge, posted a Ramadan greeting with a photo of themselves having bak kut teh - a pork dish - with a "halal" logo, in what they term
Vivian Lee has been charged under Malaysia's Sedition Act. She and her then boyfriend Alvin Tan, who faces the same charge, posted a Ramadan greeting with a photo of themselves having bak kut teh - a pork dish - with a "halal" logo, in what they termed as a joke.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Witness at trial says 'bak kut teh' photo with couple's Ramadan greeting shocked many

KUALA LUMPUR • The trial of one of  Malaysia's so-called "sex bloggers", Vivian Lee, is under way, with one witness condemning her and her fellow blogger for insulting Muslims and a debate ensuing over the meaning of "bak kut teh".

Lee, 26, was charged with her then-boyfriend, Alvin Tan, 27, in July 2013 under the Sedition Act for posting a Ramadan greeting with a photo of themselves having bak kut teh - a pork dish - with a "halal" logo, in what they termed as a joke.

They were also charged under the Film Censorship Act for pornographic photos on their blog.

Only Lee was present in court for the trial, which began on Monday. Tan is understood to have sought political asylum in the United States.

Ikatan Relawan India Muslim Malaysia executive secretary Syed Al Kadir Hassan, testifying on Monday, said the duo's actions shocked and incurred the wrath of many, particularly Muslims, The Star newspaper reported.


Alvin Tan jumped bail and is understood to have sought political asylum in the US.

"We all know that bak kut teh means sup tulang babi," he said.

"I was angry as the caption should not have been published at any time since Muslims do not consume the dish," he added.

Deputy public prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin questioned if the caption, which had originally been "Selamat Berbuka Puasa" (Happy Breaking Fast), could have been replaced with "Jemput makan dengan bak kut teh" (Come and eat bak kut teh), or simply deleted.

Mr Al Kadir said that would still prompt anger: "All the communities know very well that the food is not meant for Muslims."

Lee's lawyer, Mr Chong Joo Tian, challenged Mr Al Kadir on whether he agreed that "bak kut teh" referred to meat bone soup and not pig's bone soup. Mr Al Kadir disagreed.

Mr Chong had previously defended the pair when they faced an additional charge under the Penal Code in November 2013.

He had said then that "bak kut teh" meant "meat bone tea", and that the usage of the terminology did not amount to humiliation to Islam. The charge was dropped as the judge ruled that Section 298A(1) of the Penal Code did not apply to non-Muslims.

Malaysian Islamic Religious Development Department (Jakim) assistant director Hisral Zirhan Md Zahari said on Monday that Jakim began monitoring the couple's Facebook account, "Alvivi" after a photo of a nude woman posing beside a flag of the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional was posted, reported Astro Awani.

He also said he understood "bak kut teh" to mean "generally a type of Chinese food containing pork, and non-halal to Muslims".

The couple shot to fame in October 2012, after Tan posted sexually explicit photos of Lee and himself on his blog.

Tan, then an Asean scholarship holder studying law at National University of Singapore, lost his scholarship. Lee was reportedly working as a kindergarten teacher in 2013.

The couple apologised for their Ramadan greeting video, saying it was done in humour, but they were arrested and faced up to RM50,000 (S$16,700) in fines, five years in jail, or both.

In May last year, the two were permitted to leave for Singapore to shoot a documentary. While Lee later returned to Malaysia, Tan jumped bail and fled to the US. He has continued to post provocative online videos, such as one in April this year lampooning the azan, or Muslim call to prayer.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2015, with the headline 'Sex bloggers' act angered Muslims, court heard'. Print Edition | Subscribe