Monday, 24 August 2009

Caning Punishment

Recently, Malaysia sentenced a Muslim woman to 6 lashes of the cane for the offence of drinking alcohol (after already giving her a fine of 5000 ringgit - which is approximately S$2050). Today, I learnt that good sense had prevailed, and the higher authorities had rescinded the caning punishment.

New York Times article about woman being freed from her caning sentence:

The Independent article about the original caning charge:

Caning Kartika just for drinking beer puts the Progressive Islam that former Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi was championing in a very bad light. She has already been fined RM5000. Subjecting her also to capital punishment is truly excessive.

And Kartika is actually a mother of 2 children. It just perpetuates the bad image that Islam already has, that it is misogynistic, barbaric, and backwards. And it is not as if she was being caned for an offence like manslaughter, drug peddling, inflicting violence on others, harming children etc. Her offence is that she was caught drinking beer! She was to have been flogged for an offence that did not harm any other person other than herself.

It just appalls me that the Malaysian Shariah courts wanted to cane this mother of 2 just to make her a "showcase" for Islam. The initial judgement to cane her simply shows that religious fundamentalism is making Malaysia slip back into the Middle Ages, instead of helping Malaysia progress with the rest of the world into the 21st century.


While trying to find what other offences by women are punishable by caning in Malaysia's Shariah Court, I accidentally stumbled upon a video showing in absolutely horrific detail how a Judicial Caning in Malaysia is like.

Judicial Canings are meted out by the Federal Court, and can be served on both Muslim and non-Muslim males for over 40 kinds of offences (e.g. rape, illegal immigrants, drugs, violence etc).

Singapore also practise the same kind of Judicial Caning, except that the sentences are harsher in Singapore. The minimum stroke in Malaysia is 1 stroke. In Singapore, it is 3 strokes. In Singapore, caning can also be meted out for traffic offences as well as homosexuality.

In the following video, you can see a prisoner being given 20 strokes of the cane by the Malaysian police.

Warning: The following video is very brutal, and is not for the faint hearted. You have been warned!

If you are interested, you can read about the kind of offences that result in Judicial Canings from the following site:

It is interesting to see that in the year 2007, Singapore meted out 6404 caning sentences. That is 120 canings per week!


Personally, I am not against the use of caning as a deterrent to prevent crimes. (Although I did find the caning video extremely unsettling. It is not without reason that many Westerners find the caning sentences "barbaric".) However, I feel that the punishment must fit the crime. "Drinking alcohol" is a non-violent act, and harms no one (other than one self - and for that, you have to drink a lot). Inflicting caning for this "offence", especially to a mother of 2, just seems a bit excessive in this modern age. It is as bad as other Shariah punishments like the chopping of limbs for crimes like stealing. The practice of chopping of limbs as a punishment is downright barbaric.

Some one once said that since this is the law of Malaysia, then you must simply obey it and not question it.

Although this sounds logical, the truth is that laws are man made, and many laws are ill-conceived, vague, oppressive, and/or immoral. Consider the race laws passed in Germany after Hitler assumed power, in which people of "un-pure bloodlines" like Jews were sentenced to death. These were "the laws of the land". Yet who would defend such racialist laws today?

We are not sheep. We are capable of passing moral judgements. The whole progress of human liberty depends on courageous people who question and challenge immoral "laws". The chief impediment to human progress is the notion that one must not question anything.

Unfortunately, Islam is a religion whose holy book dictates that none of its contents can be questioned. Any Muslim who challenges the doctrines of Islam is branded an "infidel", in which the official punishment is death. It is precisely that Islam does not allow itself to be questioned that fundamentalist Islam has been permitted to thrive and grow. Moderate Muslims just dare not question the actions of Muslim terrorists such as suicide bombers and murderers who kill non-Muslim civilians, or the practices of other Muslim countries which deny women the same rights as men, because speaking up against their Muslim brethren is deemed "un-Islamic". However, by not standing up for reason and rationality, moderate Muslims allow the worst excesses of their religion to become mainstream and acceptable practices. And this simply leads to their religion becoming more and more out-of-step with modern progressive societies.

1 comment:

sixofthebest said...

I believe the Islamic woman Kartika should be caned. She broke the Shariah law. As for being a mother of two, she should be setting a good example for her children to follow, this she did not do. Personally if I was the Malasian judge, I would have sentenced her to a much harder caning. But let her receive 'six of the best', six of the very best.