A Malaysian model, who is set to become the first woman in the Southeast Asian country to be caned for drinking alcohol in public, wants her punishment carried out in public.
Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno said Thursday that if the intent of the Islamic, or Shariah, court that sentenced her was to set an example for other Muslims, then the flogging should take place in the open. “Let’s be transparent about it,” she said. “We want to challenge them,” added Kartika’s father, Shukarno Abdul Muttalib. “The law is a little bit wrong. They say they are gentlemen who want to uphold values. Then the public should judge how gentlemanly it is.” An Islamic court in the eastern state of Pahang fined Kartika $1,400 (5,000 Malaysian ringgit) and sentenced her to six strokes with a rattan cane for drinking beer at a hotel bar two years ago. Kartika, a 32-year-old part-time model, was visiting Malaysia from Singapore, where she lives with her husband and two children. She pleaded guilty and has paid the fine. Malaysia, which considers itself a moderate Muslim country, forbids alcohol consumption by Muslims — even those who are visiting. The country has a dual-track justice system, in which Islamic courts operate alongside civil ones. The law forbidding alcohol applies only to Muslims, who make up about 60 percent of the population. The country’s Buddhist, Christian or Hindu population can drink freely. Kartika’s case has caused an uproar, with many citing it as another example of growing fundamentalism in the multiracial country. In northern Malaysia’s Kelantan state, authorities have forbidden Muslim women from wearing bright lipstick and noisy, high-heeled shoes, saying the ban will safeguard the morals and dignity of the women, as well as thwart rape. “We want to present a face to the world that we are not a fundamentalist country,” Ashli Chin, said a resident in Kuala Lumpur. “This makes us a laughingstock.” Mohamad Isa Abd Ralip, president of the Syariah [Shariah] Lawyers’ Association of Malaysia, said too much is being made of Kartika’s punishment. “It is not about causing pain. It is about educating others and to teach the person a lesson,” he said. The recipient is fully clothed and the flogger cannot raise his arm high, Mohamad Isa said. The blows are delivered using a thin stick, so that they don’t break the skin. Malaysia’s civil court does not call for caning for alcohol consumption. It also cannot overrule a Shariah court sentence. The civil courts do, however, hand out flogging sentences for serious offenses such as rape. Neighboring Singapore also metes out caning as punishment. One of the most notable cases was that of American teenager Michael Fay, who received four strokes for vandalism in 1994. Kartika’s punishment is unique because she has opted to go through with it, which would make her the first woman to be caned for drinking alcohol in public, Mohamad Isa said. Two other Malaysians sentenced to the same fate have filed appeals. Kartika will be taken from her father’s house Monday. The caning will be carried out within seven days after that. “I’m not really afraid. I feel relief,” she said. “I want to move on. This case has been hanging over me for a long time.”