FaithWorld

Malaysia getting bruised over caning women

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A Malaysian demonstrator in Kuala Lumpur during a protest in January against Christan use of the word Allah for God, 8 Jan 2010/Bazuki Muhammad)

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, a 33-year-old mother of two, will have an audience with Malaysian royalty next week when she will ask to be caned.  Malaysia’s  royals (the country has nine sultans, one for each state on the peninsula) don’t usually grant audiences to commoners, even part-time models such as Kartika, to discuss corporal punishment. But the Malay royal families are officially in charge of religious affairs, and Kartika was convicted two years ago  in an Islamic court of drinking a beer.

She’s already paid a 5,000 ringgit ($1,469) fine in a case that has sparked a raging debate over the powers of Islamic courts to issue such rulings, because federal law shields women from such punishments. She has said repeatedly that she just wants to be caned and be done with it. (And perhaps in the process take a bit of revenge given the storm of controversy over the case?)

It’s not as if it’s going to some horrific dungeon experience. Kartika is due to receive six strokes, administered by a woman policeman using a thin rattan cane, while crouched fully clothed on the floor of a prison.

But for all sides on the issue, it’s the principle that matters.

Kartika’s unwanted celebrity resulted fromthe fact that she was going to be the first woman ever caned in Malaysia, a  country whose  27 million population has a small majority of Malays, and subtantial minorities of ethnic Indians, Chinese and tribals. She will no longer have that distinction. Malaysia announced last week that it had quietly caned three women in December and January for having illicit sex.  One of them told local media that it didn’t hurt.

Malaysia canes women for having sex out of wedlock

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Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, due to be caned for drinking beer, 24 Aug 2009/Zainal Abd Halim

Malaysian authorities have caned three women under Islamic laws for the first time in the Southeast Asian country, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has said. The sentences were carried out on February 9 after a religious court found them guilty of having sex out of wedlock. Two of the women were whipped six times.

Hishammuddin’s comments signal that the mostly Muslim country is now prepared to flog Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, a mother of two, for drinking beer, despite the international criticism that the case has garnered.

Indonesian province moves closer to death by stoning law

bandar-aceh-mosqueMuslims who commit adultery in Indonesia’s Aceh province may be stoned to death under a controversial new sharia law passed by the local parliament on Monday.  Aceh is the only province in predominantly Muslim Indonesia to use sharia for its legal code, introduced as part of an autonomy deal in 2002.

The “qanun jinayat”, or sharia law for crimes, covers adultery, consumption of alcohol, rape and homosexuality, according to the draft seen by Reuters. Adultery is punishable by stoning to death, while other punishments include caning, gold fines and imprisonment.

The new law could come into force as soon as next month. See the full story here.

Does Malaysia caning herald a more Islamic state?

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A Malaysian state is to proceed with the caning of a Muslim woman who drank alcohol once the holy month of Ramadan is over. Does this herald a more islamic state in the country? See a Q & A by my colleague Niluksi Koswanage on this topic here.

See more of our coverage here and on the video below.

(PHOTO: Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno talks to her father Shukarno from a van belonging to the Islamic Religious Department at her father’s house in Sungei Siput, about 300km (186 miles) north of Kuala Lumpur, in Malaysia’s state of Perak August 24, 2009. REUTERS/Zainal Abd Halim (MALAYSIA SOCIETY RELIGION CRIME LAW)