Thursday, August 27, 2009

Now Kartika Shukarno wants to be caned - for real?

In an update to the news item that has put Malaysia in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno has requested that the authorities just hurry up and cane her and get it over with.

Kartika was found guilty by an Islamic court of the heinous crime of drinking a beer in a hotel back in 2007. The 32-year-old married mother of two was sentenced to endure 6 lashes of the cane. This would have made her the first woman to receive such a punishment in Malaysia. But at the last minute, the decision was made to defer the caning because it was month of Ramadan.

Now a number of prominent Malaysians (and Muslims at that) have weighed in on the matter. Prime Minister Najib Razak has advised Kartika to appeal the case, believing that the justice system will be sensitive to the controversy and eventually let her off.

Former PM Mahathir Mohamad has written on his blog: "Is it possible that a judge may have been unfair or mistaken in his consideration? Is there no room in Islam for mercy toward those who commit an error for the first time?"

Or this from Chandra Muzaffar, president of the Malaysian think tank International Movement for a Just World: "She should not be caned in the first place. What we should do is advise her. This punitive psychology is a bane for Muslim societies, and we should get away from it."

But Islamic fundamentalist enforcers being what they are, Malaysia's religious courts are unlikely to let compassion or common sense get in the way of an opportunity to beat a woman for no good reason. Religious affairs legislator Mohamad Sahfri Abdul Aziz states that "The sentence is not being canceled." So they are merely delaying the punishment on compassionate grounds due to Ramadan. How compassionate of them, indeed.

Kartika, for her part, has said she would rather accept the punishment and move on. She has even requested it be carried out in public (rather than in a prison as stipulated) so as to be an example for other Muslims not to consume alcohol.

Strange - makes one wonder why she would wish for a caning, when none other than the Prime Minister himself has implied that should she appeal, she'd probably escape the punishment.

It's easy to write this off as another example of whacky Muslim behaviour. Which perhaps it is. But remember that in Sudan right now, journalist Lubna Hussein also faces a flogging for wearing trousers (arguably an even greater threat to public morals than beer-drinking). Hussein has refused a presidential pardon and is using the trial as a spectacle to shame the Sudanese authorities.

Is Kartika attempting to do the same? It's not clear. Is she sincere about wanting to use the caning as a public cautionary lesson for other Muslims? Not clear either. Maybe she's got a thing for S & M. But probably not.

Most likely, she just wants the end of this whole farce. As backward as the idea of caning a woman is, in reality it would not be as harsh as you might think, physically at least. The rattan being used is smaller and lighter than that used for men, and is administered over clothing, rather than bare flesh. So quite likely, Kartika figures she'd rather endure 6 such strokes than continue to be a part of the circus that has sprung up around this case.

Let's hope the authorities see sense, in any case.

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  1. There is a distinct difference in a syariah law caning punishment then the caning punishment metted out by the civil law.

    it is not suppose to injure or leave scars as the purpose is to teach a lesson and remind the offenders of their wrong doings. similar to caning of pupils in school, there is a strict procedure such as the size of the cane, the length of the cane and the height of the arms lifted on the upstroke. it is also done in presense of court officers and family members only not publicly. and the offender is fully clothed.

  2. @ Anonymous, any problem I have with the idea of caning is secondary to the problem of the alleged "crime" for which it is being administered.
    For an adult to be punished for drinking alcohol, in a country where non-Muslims are freely allowed to drink it, is ridiculous. The Malaysian justice system is an absolute joke, punishing people for nothing at all while the real problems go unaddressed.