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?)