From: Masturbating Myself
Date: Sun, 28 Feb 2010 04:09:40 -0800 (PST)
Local: Sun, Feb 28 2010 8:09 pm
Subject: 3 Muslim women caned - they deserve to have such ancient laws for themselves
Today, the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Majlis Agama Islam
Selangor, MAIS) had lodged police reports against The Star and Sisters
in Islam for moronic accusations.
Part of the reports was because of The Star’s Managing Editor, P.
Gunasegaram’s writing in his column Question Time titled Persuasion,
The Star has since apologised (to whom we do not know, for the people
have never asked for it) and taken down the article.
We are reproducing the article in full here to let readers make up
their mind whether the police reports are justified.
We want readers to decide: did P. Gunasegaram do any wrong?
Because we certainly do not think so. Leave your thoughts in the
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When federal laws unambiguously prohibit whipping or caning of women,
religious laws must not be allowed to do the opposite.
ONE of the small things that I am grateful for is that I cannot be
legally whipped or caned for any offence any more. Yes, there are
criminal penalties which can specify whipping, but not for those over
50, I am told. Sometimes being old(er) is an advantage.
The other reason that I won’t be legally whipped is that I am not a
Muslim and therefore my personal behaviour is not subject to syariah
courts, which can hold me liable for offences such as drinking alcohol
and have me caned.
For me and for millions of Malaysians of all races and religions, Feb
9, 2010, was a sad, black day in the history of our country. On that
day, three women were caned legally for the first time ever in this
country. They, all Muslims, were caned for engaging in illicit sex, an
offence under syariah law, it was announced.
It is shocking that such sentences are being meted out for such
offences. While religious laws may allow for such sentences, it is
possible for judges to mete out lower sentences, especially when such
“offences” are of a very personal nature and harm no one else.
When there are loopholes in religious laws which allow such punishment
out of all proportion to the “crime” committed, and which go against
the sensibilities of most Malaysians, then it is incumbent upon the
Government of the day to use the legislature to do the needful.
Otherwise it abdicates its responsibility.
Illicit sex means sex out of wedlock and if we are all not hypocrites,
we will admit that it happens all the time, among both Muslims and non-
Muslims. To prescribe caning for such an offence is something that
most Malaysians are likely to consider just too much.
It also opens the door for caning for more minor offences in the eyes
of religious officials, such as drinking alcohol. In fact one Muslim
woman, who has refused to appeal her case, is currently awaiting a
caning sentence to be carried out after she was found guilty of
That case attracted international attention and made it to the front
page of two international financial dailies – The Wall Street Journal
and The Financial Times – on the same day last year. The current case,
announced on Wednesday, is already beginning to attract world
With three women already having been caned for illicit sex, the way
has been paved for more caning of women in the future. That will not
endear Malaysia to Malaysians, let alone foreigners who are inevitably
going to equate us with the Taliban. And who can blame them?
And are we going to go further down the slippery road and cane women
for dressing immodestly too, as has been done in some countries?
There are already indications that Malays, especially women, are
migrating and leaving their homeland, not because they don’t have
opportunities here but because as Muslims, their personal freedom is
restricted – and there is danger that it will be curtailed even more.
Yes, it has been said the three women did not suffer any cuts or
bruises following the caning but that is scant consolation to those
who have to undergo such humiliating punishment on top of the
intrusion into their personal affairs.
As if the caning was not bad enough, alarmingly they spent months in
prison. One of them is still serving her jail sentence and will be
released only in June.
All three were found guilty of committing illicit sex by the Federal
Territory Syariah High Court, which issued the caning order between
December last year and last month. Perplexingly, they were not made
public at that point of time. The public had no idea of the caning
before it was done.
Also, it was not clear if the women had exercised their full rights
under syariah law by appealing the court’s decision.
These are behaviours which should not be treated as if they were
criminal offences; but they have been. The offenders have not only
been caned but also jailed, which is rather harsh punishment for
something which did not harm anyone else and was done in privacy and
behind closed doors.
This is clear indication that there are laws in our statute books –
both syariah as well as civil – which are outdated and need to be
revised in keeping with the times and the recognition that individuals
have personal rights.
Personal behaviour between consenting adults that do no physical harm
to them and to others should not be legislated. This is in keeping
with the development of personal rights throughout the world, and
anything that takes away these rights is a step backwards.
Religion is open to interpretation, man interprets it and man can –
and does – make mistakes.
Even if religious rules are flouted, we should have a system which
does not mete out punishment for offences, and focus instead on
rehabilitation and counselling. That will be in keeping with the
universal tenet that there is no compulsion when it comes to religion.
Custodial and punitive sentences by religious courts should be limited
via statutes because personal behaviour of adults is often involved
and there is no hurt or harm to any others arising from such
Religion is about persuasion not compulsion, about faith not
certainty, and that is the way we should keep it. Otherwise, bigotry
is going to get in the way and we won’t be following the tenets of
religion but of those who choose to interpret it the way they want to.
We have all seen what happens when religion – no matter what religion
– is carried to extremes and hijacked by bigots. We don’t want public
flogging, we don’t want arms chopped off, we don’t want people to be
stoned to death, and we don’t want people to be burned at the stake.
We have already moved way past that. Let’s not allow a small number of
religious bigots to take us back into the dark ages. And for that, we
all need to stand up and speak up when our individual rights are
Managing editor P. Gunasegaram is appalled by the number of sins
committed in the name of God.