21 July 2009
Malaysia, Caning, and Beer...
Drinking beer and being a Muslim in Malaysia do not mix. However, when they do, you might just find yourself in a situation where you are before a Religious Court and destined for a few strokes of the cane.
The Religious Court in the Eastern State of Pahang has sentenced a Singaporean model of Muslim faith to six strokes of the cane for drinking beer in a nightclub, and getting caught doing it.
I remember getting six strokes of the cane in high school back in the day when a little bit of corporal punishment was thought to be good for naughty boys to ensure that they grew up into responsible adults. However, my understanding is that Malaysia is similar to Singapore in that you get the rotan cane across the buttocks. I dare say that it probably hurts a little more downstairs than on the hands.
The model, Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, pleaded guilty. Generally, early guilty pleas attract a little bit of leniency. However, this was not to be. The court held that a good old-fashioned caning was in order, if for no other reason than the law allows for such a sentence to be imposed. But, furthermore, the court believed that this case would serve as a good example not only to Shukarno, but also to other Muslims thinking about having a beer or two. Shukarno also was fined 5000 Ringgit.
Shukarno is intending to appeal. Yet, there does not seem to be good prospects for success in light of the court's reasoning. I suppose her lawyers might want to be arguing that the sentence is manifestly excessive for the nature and seriousness of the crime.
The problem as I see it is that there is a two-tier justice system in Malaysia; regular courts and religious courts. The religious courts only hear matters relating to alleged crimes committed by Muslims. Religious courts are designed to hear matters relating to religious-based offenses of which drinking alcohol is one. This makes the system two-tiered because Malaysia's other religious minorities are free to drink alcohol as they please and are not going to be subject to a caning for imbibing.
I wonder is this fair and just, or is it just a simple case of; this is the way it is, get over it, and deal with it.
The establishment of, or the expanding of the jurisdiction, of religious courts is something that Indonesia faces periodically. The religious courts in Indonesia, until recently, had a very restrictive jurisdiction relating to family issues. This has expanded to include some financial matters where the financial issues relate specifically to Syariah-based issues. There are some who would see the jurisdiction of the religious courts in Indonesia expanded even further to include the ability to hear matters relating to all things to do with the Muslim faith.