SUNGAI SIPUT, Malaysia (Reuters) – A Malaysian Muslim woman who will be caned next week for drinking beer has defiantly asked that the punishment be carried out in public in a case that is fueling debate about tolerance in this multi-racial country.
Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno will be the first Malaysian woman to be caned under Islamic laws applicable to Malaysia’s Muslims, who account for 60 percent of the 27-million population.
She said the 20-month ordeal added to her distress, but she respected the law banning alcohol for Muslims and was determined to go through with the punishment — six strokes of the cane.
The mother of two, who also paid a 5,000 ringgit ($1,420) fine, asked for the punishment, usually carried out in a closed prison, to be done in public.
“I never cried when I was sentenced by the judge. I told myself, alright then, let’s get on with it,” Kartika, 32, told Reuters in an interview at her father’s house in a rural Malay village, about 300 km (186 miles) north of Kuala Lumpur.
Islam is the official religion in this country that has a dual-track legal system, with Islamic criminal and family laws applicable to Muslims alongside civil legislation.
Opinions are divided about the punishment Kartika faces under Islamic laws some say are too severe and selectively enforced.
(Opinions are divided? As if this barbaric sentence could be considered acceptable in a civilized society?)
Latin America has long been home to a deeply rooted large and diverse Muslim population, and in recent years has had a steady stream of migration from the Middle East and South Asia, especially to free-trade zones like Colon, Panama.
According to authorities, Islam in Latin America is one of the fastest growing religions. By the late 1980s, the activities of fundamentalist Muslims and known Islamist terrorist organizations, especially Hezbollah, were beginning to be documented in the region by US intelligence agencies, according to numerous classified materials that provided to Homeland Security Today.
These materials show that Middle East terrorist organizations began to set up shop in Central and Latin America around 1988.
Mixing Christianity and Islam under one roof.
Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports from Lagos, Nigeria. A version of this story aired on the PBS program “Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.”
FRED DE SAM LAZARO, NewsHour Correspondent: This is one of hundreds of small churches in Lagos, but perhaps the only one that has on its lectern both Koran and Bible. The invocations come loudly from both.
It’s all the more unusual in a country often torn by religious conflict. Half of Nigeria’s 140 million people are Muslim; the other half practice some form of Christianity.
Sectarian violence has led to thousands of deaths over the years. Last November, such conflict in the city of Jos, often based on land disputes, claimed more than 300 lives.
But practitioners of so-called Chrislam, 1,500 on some Sundays, see no religious fault line.
Shamsuddin Saka — he’s called Prophet — says they are all children of Abraham.
PASTOR SAKA (through translator): Abraham has many children. Abraham is the father of Christianity and the father of Islam. Why are the Christian and Muslim fighting?