Monday, August 24, 2009

Malay Woman To Be Caned After Ramadan

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, a 32 year old mother of two, was found guilty of drinking beer and sentenced to six strokes with a cane by a religious (sharia) court in Malaysia.

Her sentence is the first of its kind handed down to a woman in Malaysia.

The sentence was described last month and she was taken into custody last week only to be released soon thereafter.

It seems, according to a media report, that Shukarno has won some kind of a reprieve that in effect delays her caning until the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

A further reading of the reprieve suggests that perhaps all the media attention has made the Malaysian authorities re-think carrying out the sentence.

It is reasonable to expect that the authorities will leave the sentence intact but not carry out the actual punishment.

I say 'reasonable' knowing full well that the word is grossly misplaced here.

That Islam forbids alcohol is one thing, but caning a woman for drinking (whatever amount) is an absolutely ridiculous and inhumane sentence.

This case adds to a growing list of ridiculous rulings that have come out of the Sharia courts in Malaysia.

Just recently a whole lot of misplaced official noise was made about the use of the Arabic word Allah by Christian and other non-Muslims in Malaysia

The Malaysian authorities first sought to ban the use of the word by Christian publications but relented some with the position that it could be used in non-Muslim publications if it was made clear that the publication/article was for non-Muslims.

I took the position here that no-one owns the word Allah in any context and that Malaysia had no right, even and especially in terms of the Sharia, to prescribe its usage.

For the most part, Malaysia is considered to be a moderate Muslim country. I'm not even saying that this should direct anything in terms of caning a woman for drinking alcohol or banning non-Muslims from using the word Allah.

What I am saying is that moderate or not, caning a woman for whatever reason is a crude and outdated application of Islamic law.

Since Shukarno pleaded guilty is seems most reasonable that the Sharia court may have imposed a fine or some kind of community service which would have been more in keeping, or in balance, with the charge levelled against her.

I understand that Malaysia is a self-described Islamic state. No contestation there. But surely even such a state, one with modern ambitions and achievements no less, must recognize that caning has no place in Islam or an Islamic state in the year 2009.

Let's see how this plays out.


Picture Credit


Dade said...


But I take some measure of reassurance knowing that at least the USA is not the only place full of crazy religious fanatics!


This is yet another great service of your blog, Ridwan. I would never have heard about this case if you hadn't written this post.



Eugene said...

Oppression of women happens everywhere. I was attempting to read Plato's "The Republic" and got so disgusted with the conversation I could only make it through book four. Women are considered something far less than human. No wonder the book is so relevant to today's society.

Caning? What happens to men when they are caught? I heard some Middle Eastern comedians talk about how Muslim folks will fornicate, drink, but they won't eat pork.

When will the world stop treating our mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, etc., like they are the scum of the earth and realize they are the reason we are here to begin with?

Ridwan said...

Hey there Dade. Thanks for weighing in on this matter.

I read yesterday that even the former Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, has described the sentence as too harsh.

He was careful not to offend the Sharia courts and morality police who arrested Shukarno.

I think it important that he raised his voice because he is prominent in the politics of modernization that has brought Malaysia to where it is in terms of overal development.

Let's hope that a lot of other voices also stand against the sentence.


Ridwan said...

Hey there Eugene:

I smiled when I read that you were making your way through Plato's "Republic".

I am teaching a course on Classical Political Philosophy and we have just 'finished' the "Republic".

In the end Plato sees women as no different than men except that they are biologically predetermined to have kids.

So women then can be just like men and even be Philosopher Kings, and also go to war.

The family is primarily abolished.

But the "Republic" is a 'utopian' piece of literature. I do not think that Plato intended it to be prescriptive and as you point out some of the language is sexist, etc.

In that sense, we have not come too far.

Men in Malaysia are caned but on a bare buttocks. Shukarno's sentence she will be allowed the 'dignity' of being caned in private and clothed.

She wants the ordeal over and even asked to be caned in public.

She is remorseful for what she sees as a mistake and wants to take a public stand.

I know Islam to be much less judgemental. The Qur'an says over and over again that "God is most Gracious and Most Merciful".

The Qur'an also says that there is no compulsion in religion.

These two injunctions mean that God is more likely to offer grace and forgiveness and that is the example we should follow.

For those Muslims who want to drink and even eat pork it is not a matter that Islam compels them not to.

The Qur'an is emphatic in its argument that God is the final judge.

The problem for quasi-Islamic states is in the interpretation of these dictates and the politics that is being fronted.

Malaysia cannot be a utopian Islamic state, much like the "Republic" will be no more than a backboard for philosophical queries.

The "Republic" and diverse modern Islamic states are mere fictions in my thinking.

Peace brother Eugene!


Eugene said...

Fanatics are dangerous folks who make their own rules, it seems. Happens in all religions. Look at the Vatican Crime Organization!

It is sad that it comes to this. That it brings suffering to the people. Adds suffering to the people.

That is good to hear about the Republic because damn if all that conversation about men and the ultra privileged talking about how society should form around their greatness has about made me want to vomit. It is pretty much how society is set up now.