A Muslim woman sentenced to caning for drinking beer wants to get the punishment over with now that it has been confirmed by an Islamic appeals court judge, her father said yesterday.
If the punishment is carried out, Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, a 32-year-old mother of two, would become the first Muslim woman to be caned in Malaysia, where about 60 percent of the 28 million people are Muslims.
The case has ignited a debate in the country over whether conservative Islamists who advocate harsh punishments are gaining influence over the justice system and whether Islamic laws should intrude into people’s private lives.
According to media reports on Monday, chief Judge Abdul Hamid Abdul Rahman of Pahang state’s Shariah courts decided to uphold the sentence passed by the state high court on Kartika after a one-month review of the case. No date was immediately set for the caning.
Kartika’s father, Shukarno Abdul Muttlib, 60, said that while the family had yet to be informed of the judge’s latest decision, his daughter “accepts the punishment” and would like it to be carried out sooner rather than later.
“We obey the law,” he said. “It’s a challenge ... [but] it’s the way of my life.”
Pahang court and religious department officials declined to comment yesterday.
Kartika, a former model and nurse, was sentenced in July to six strokes of the cane and a fine of 5,000 ringgit (US$1,400) for drinking beer in December 2007 at a beach resort in violation of Islamic laws.
Kartika, who pleaded guilty, refused to appeal her sentence and was on the verge of being caned on Aug. 24.
But the punishment was halted at the last minute following an uproar in the media and among rights activists.
Instead, the government asked the Shariah High Court Appeals Panel in Kuantan, the capital of Pahang, to review the verdict.
Judge Abdul Hamid, who headed the panel, ruled that the sentence was correct and should go forward.
The caning would be done with a thin stick on the back and would be largely symbolic rather than aimed at causing pain, unlike the caning of rapists and drug smugglers with a thick rattan stick on bare buttocks that causes the skin to break and leaves scars.
Malaysian Deputy Home Minister Abu Seman Yusop said the prisons department had trained personnel who could carry out the caning in accordance with Islamic rules.
Malaysia follows a dual-track justice system. Shariah laws apply to Muslims in all personal matters. Non-Muslims are covered by civil laws and are free to drink.
Three states impose caning for drinking alcohol.