Sharia In Aceh Province

Offenders of crimes such as gambling and adultery have been subjected to severe public canings recently in the province of Aceh, Indonesia. Aceh province, located on the northern part of Sumatra, Indonesia, has long been a conservative Muslim area, and is thought to be the place where Islam was first established in South East Asia.

In 2001, Sharia-inspired bye laws were put into effect in Aceh and a form of Sharia was formally introduced in 2003. Sharia law in Aceh covers criminal law, economic law, and morality, but it is the third group that is implemented the most and that often affects the daily activities of its ordinary citizens.

Punishment

The effect has been mainly on dress, gambling, alcohol consumption, and assumed adultery or interaction between the sexes. The penalties imposed under Sharia law in Aceh have long been condemned by human rights organizations worldwide. These punishments included canings, amputation of limbs, blinding, stoning for adultery and decapitation.

Corporal punishment is meted out on a regular basis for crimes deemed in violation of Sharia Law. The beatings were often carried out in the presence of the public as well as the district and legislative council members. The severe beatings came to the world’s attention recently with the brutal caning of 10 citizens, both men and women, in Meulaboh, West Aceh. The head of the West Aceh Public Order Agency and Sharia Police, Jhon Aswir, defended the punishments, sayind that these people have been convicted of offences such as gambling and adultery.

Three of the victims who were caned collapsed and fainted, including a woman. Photos of the wounds of one caning victim circulated show the excessful force used. The punishment is imposed on both men and women and leads to severe, permanent scarring.

Prosecution

Human rights organizations have soundly criticized the Government of Indonesia for failing once again to prosecute the parties responsible for these terrible violations of human decency and accepted worldwide standards of criminal law. In addition, it also came to international attention recently that an innocent 16-year-old girl committed suicide after she was arrested wrongly by the Sharia Police and accused of prostitution. She had attended a musical concert when she was arrested.

Indonesia is not an Islamic state, although it is home to the world’s largest population of Muslims. More than 200 million citizens of the Asian nation embrace Islam. Indonesia follows “Pancasila” (meaning five principles in Sanskrit), and recognises five ‘state’ or official religions. Freedom of worship is guaranteed. However, in Aceh province, Sharia law is enforced in stages pursuant to an agreement between the central government in Jakarta and Aceh independence fighters. The legal changes in Aceh were permitted as a means of placating separatist tendencies, and introduced without strong discussion, thus resulting in many loopholes and deficiencies.

Think about it

Does Sharia law take into account human rights and dignities? Are there other ways to promote moral behaviour besides torturing captured victims with brutal beatings and public humiliation? Do those who are wrongly accused of crimes have any recourse at all?

 

Same Act But Different Penalties

An unnamed 16-year-old girl in the Republic of Maldives has recently been sentenced to public caning by the court for engaging in pre-marital sex with a man. Her 29-year-old partner was convicted too. However, the penalty for him was 10 years of imprisonment instead of flogging.

The Maldives is an island nation of 26 atolls in the Indian Ocean, southwest of the Indian subcontinent. Islam is official religion of the country, whose constitution says that the republic “is based on the principles of Islam”. Open practice of any other religion is forbidden and offenders are liable to prosecution. This and other rules have rendered Maldives high on the list of governments that restrict religious freedom.

Hobson’s Choice

There is a way out of the lashing punishment, though, if only temporarily. According to a court official, the girl could opt for a house arrest that would last 8 months. However, this would only earn her a brief reprieve, as she would still be caned upon turning 18.

Rights Activists Are Outraged

Not surprising, the caning judgment has attracted fierce criticism from human rights activists. Aruna Kashyap, a researcher on women’s rights in Asia at Human Rights Watch, has decried the girl’s punishment as discriminatory, degrading and inhuman. She demands that the Maldives government prevent the flogging sentence from being carried out.

Joining in with his own objection, the director of the Asian Centre for Human Rights, Suhas Chakma, has pointed out that the lashing would violate the U.N. Convention against Torture.

But the remarks of Aruna Kashyap and Suhas Chakma are only the latest complaints against the Maldives government’s poor record on women’s rights. Some 10 months ago, the human rights chief at the U.N., Navi Pillay, had already urged it to stop publicly flogging women for having extra or pre-marital sex. Obviously, Navi Pillay has been ignored.

A Hidden Political Agenda?

While the girl’s sentencing may appear to be a straightforward application of harsh Sharia law, Suhas Chakma has also smelt a rat. As courts in the Maldives are not independent, he suspects the caning penalty could have been used by the government to demonstrate its commitment to Islam, so as to appeal to conservative Muslims in the country amid a period of growing political rivalry. In other words, for being at the wrong place at the wrong time, the hapless girl could have been sacrificed as a political pawn by the power-that-be.

Think About It

Did the girl receive a fair trial? Could her trial have been fairly conducted if the verdict and punishment were foregone conclusions at the behest of the government? And could it have been fair when the court handed her a punishment far more brutal, cruel and bloody than that meted out to her much older lover? And how should one label pre-marital sex? Is it merely a moral failing, or it is something more serious that offenders should be punitively dealt with via public whipping and, thus, public humiliation? Given the girl’s young age – she is only 16 – wouldn’t education and counseling be more appropriate, instead of caning her that could inflict not only untold pain but also permanent emotional scar on her?

 

Salafi Morality Police – No Legitimate Or Legal Authority

Ever wondered what’s happening in Egypt now?  It seems that the lot of the Egyptian women who played a significant frontline role in helping to topple Hosni Mubarak is not going to get any better in the new Egypt. But now a group of Egyptian women have decided that enough is enough, and they dished out the same punishment on the so-called Salafi morality police that the latter have been meting out, namely caning. Now there are questions being asked as to whether this so-called Salafi morality police is a legitimate police force and whether its so-called officers have legal authority on the streets.

Egyptian Women Not Getting A Fair Deal

During the Egyptian Arab Spring uprising, Egyptian women stood right at the frontline at Tahrir Square demanding that the then president, Hosni Mubarak, stepped down.  In the end, Hosni Mubarak gave up, and the military took over until a new government is elected.

But even while elections are underway, calls for the military to immediately hand over power to civilians have intensified, and again Egyptian women are at the forefront of the demonstrators at Tahrir Square.

But when the military rulers decided to use force to crush the demonstrators last month, women became the targets.  Video footages showing security forces beating women demonstrators and dragging them by their hair made their round on YouTube and social networking sites.  In particular, photographs of the beating and stripping of “the blue bra girl” appeared in major newspapers and on TV stations around the world. In the end the military rulers were forced to publicly apologize for their mistreatment of women demonstrators.

Also last month the military rulers were rebuked by a civilan court which went on to ban the use by security forces of the “virginity tests” which many believe were designed to shame and humiliate women demonstrators.

Vigilante Gangs -  Self Styled Salafi Morality Police

But the security forces are not the only ones targeting women.  Ultra-conservative Salafi men have taken upon themselves to form vigilante gangs to rid Egypt of “indecent behavior”.

These vigilante gangs modeled themselves after Saudi Arabia’s own version of morality police.  Takng a leaf from Saudi Arabia’s morality police, the vigilante gangs called themselves as the “Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice”. 

In their capacity as the self-styled Egyptian morality police, they:

1.  raided shops around the Qalubiya province during the runup to the New Year’s holiday, declaring that they were there to enforce Islamic law;
2.  warned shop owners and female customers against “indecent behavior”;
3  ordered shop owners not to sell “indecent” clothing;
4.  ordered barbers not to shave men’s beards;
5.  warned of more surprise inspections to come;
6.  threatened female shoppers to cover up or face severe punishment for not abiding by “God’s law on earth”;
7.  smashed Christmas trees and decorations in stores and malls, declaring Christmas celebrations haram and banning the sending of Christmas greetings.

 Getting A Taste Of Their Own Medicine

In a sign that Egyptian women are getting fed up, the so-called morality police raided a beauty salon in Benha, a town in theNile delta.  After bursting into the beauty salon, they ordered the women inside to stop all activities, failing which they would face physical punishment (meaning caning).

But like the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, these women customers of the beauty salon suddenly fought back, seizing the canes of the so-called morality police officers and using these to cane them.  The women then kicked these so-called morality police officers out to the street in full view of an astonished crowd of onlookers.

Legality Qestioned

So back to the question of whether the Salafi morality police is legal or not.  Sunni sheiks from Al Azhar mosque and university met on January 4, 2012 where they boldly declared that the Salafi morality police in Egypt had no legitimate or legal authority on the street.

Giving support to this view is Nasr Farid, former Egyptian mufti said that these young vigilantes  were usurping state authority and they did not have the jurisdiction to impose their concept of religious law.

But the vigilante groups claimed that they have the backing of, and funding from, the al Nour party which won nearly 30% of parliament seats recently, an impressive result from which they claimed their mandate.  But then the Facebook page of al Nour denied that the party has ever funded the vigilante volunteers.   

And to show their determination, these so-called morality police officers held a recent meeting “to determine the tasks and geographical jurisdictions of the first volunteers, who would monitor people’s behavior in the street and assess whether they contradicted God’s laws. Volunteers would wear white cloaks and hold bamboo canes to beat violators and later would be provided with electric tasers.”  That sounded like the al-Shabaab in Somalia.

Think About It

Can any group of individuals decide to confer upon themselves the power of the police?  If not, is former Egyptian mufti  Nasr Farid right in declaring that these people have usurped the authority of the country?  And that in fact these people have no legitimate or legal authority on the streets of Egypt?  If so, what can be done to bring these people to justice?  Or are they above the law?

Previous post

Uproar Over Virginity Tests Spark Further Protests In Egypt

Sex Segregation Permissible?

As is well known, sex segregation is observed strictly in Saudi Arabia.  And so it was with great surprise that security officials at a cafe in Madina saw a group of 9 men and women openly sitting together in contravention of the sex segregation law.  But what is more surprising to many people is that the judge has overruled demands by the prosecutor to send these 9 men and women to jail, and be caned for violating the Kingdom’s strict sex segregation law.

About The Case

This group of 9 men and women didn’t attempt to hide the fact that they were breaking Saudi Arabia’s strict sex segregation law.  In fact they were sitting together openly at a coffee shop in the central town of Madina.  Security agents who saw them mixing freely with one another called the police, who then promptly charged them in court for violating the strict sex segregation law.

During the court hearing, the prosecutor charged that the 9 men and women were mixing together illegally, since they are not related to one another.  The prosecutor therefore demanded the usual jail term, plus caning as punishment for breaking the sex segregation law.

Judge Said A Rebuke Is All That’s Needed

But if the prosecutor thought that this was going to be a routine court hearing, he must have been greatly surprised.  In an unexpected ruling, the judge declined to impose a jail term, and he refused to order caning for the 9 men and women.  How did this happen?

A report by the Sharq newspaper on the case explains why the judge decided to go against the normal judicial punishment of jail and caning for violators of sex segregation law.  The report said: “But the court just rebuked them after they proved that they were together for theoretical diving lessons by a diver authorized by the government.”

Think About It

Is the government relaxing the sex segregation law?  The reason given to rebuke the 9 men and women charged with breaking the sex segregation law instead of caning and jailing them may not stand scrutiny.  In the first place, it is not legal in Saudi Arabia for women to drive.  So what was a government-authorized driving instructor doing with female driving students?  Then again the next question is why break the sex segregation law to teach a group of mixed gender students?  By doing so, wouldn’t the instructor be exposing his students to court punishment for gender mixing? And finally, if the students were mislead, then what about the instructor?  Was he not liable to punishment?

Previous posts

Saudi Arabia – Fatwa Declares Women Not Permitted To Work As Cashiers
Call To Change Saudi Sex Segregation Law

Caning For Gambling Trio

The Aceh Police caned three Daya Daboh men on June 25, 2010 in Jantho, Aceh.  Their mea culpa was that they were apparently gambling in the front of the Al-Munawarah Mosque during a wedding ceremony.  Police said that the audacious men were playing cards while waiting for a cow-slaughtering ritual as part of the wedding ceremony.  A deck of playing cards and US$314 were confiscated at the crime scene. For their gambling offense, Muktar Rahmadi, Hasbi Bin Acek and Suherman each received seven strokes of the cane – which is one of the harshest penalty ever meted out for those convicted of gambling.  Yasin Bin Usman, the fourth accomplice, has been spared from caning because of ill health.

Caning, Caning, And More Caning

In a land where women are detained for wearing tight pants, caning has been imposed, under Sharia law, as a penalty for a variety of criminal offenses.  Caning is also seen as deterrence to criminal activities.  Zulkifli, a government official, said, “We hope the punishment will reduce the number of criminals.”  As a case in point, those found guilty of spreading religious beliefs other than Islam to Muslims will be caned.  Likewise, Muslims will face the full extent of the Sharia law.  Those who miss Friday prayers three times consecutively, and if without valid reason, will receive three strokes of the cane, face a jail-term of six months, or a fine of US$220.  Those who sell food, beverages or cigarettes, during the Muslim fasting month, will receive five strokes of the cane, face a jail-term of twelve months, or a fine of US$440 under Sharia law.  With the on-going 2010 FIFA World Cup competition in South Africa, the Aceh Police is also expected to intensify efforts to round up those who engage in illegal betting.

Think About It

Are seven strokes of the cane a penalty too heavy to pay for gambling?  Is it right that Muslims who missed Friday prayers three times consecutively, and if without valid reason, should receive three strokes of the cane, or worse, face a six-month imprisonment?  Who decides what a valid reason is?  Should it a man or the Almighty?

Previous posts

No More Tight Pants For Muslim Women In West Aceh, Indonesia
Aceh – Revisiting Sharia Law On Stoning
Aceh & Sharia Law
Sharia Law In Aceh – Caning & Death

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno Finally Opens Up

Remember Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, the Malaysian model who was charged with  consuming alcohol in Pahang and who was sentenced to a fine and 6 lashes of the cane by the Syariah High Court?  Her case attracted widespread attention, and she would have been the first woman to be caned in Malaysia but for a series of intervening events that finally saw her caning sentence commuted by the Sultan of Pahang to a stint at a children’s home. Throughout the long saga, Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno had played the role of a woman who accepted the punishment meted out by the Syariah High Court, and who wanted the caning sentence to proceed.  But now Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno has spoken up about her true feelings even as a professor said that the caning sentence was a human enactment camouflaged as syariah.

Mencari Kartika (In Search Of Kartika)

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno finally appeared in a movie of sort.  In a 40-minute video produced and directed by Norhayati Kaprawi entitled “Mencari Kartika” (which means “In Search of Kartika”), Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno revealed for the first time that she was angry at the syariah system that convicted and sentenced her.  Prior to this revelation, there was no indication whatsoever that Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno was angry with the syariah system.

Referring to the moment when Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno declared her willingness to be whipped and her refusal to appeal the caning sentence, Norhayati Kaprawi said:   “It was her protest.”  Mencari Kartika also shows Shukarno Abdul Mutalib, father of Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, saying that he was given questionable advice on how to appeal the caning sentence through the syariah court system.  The impression given in this documentary is that neither Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno nor his father agreed that Muslims the state should treat Muslims so harshly in the name of Islam.

The documentary is also about how Muslim Malaysians viewed their own country in the light of the caning sentence passed on Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno.  Towards this end, the documentary Mencari Kartika also featured interviews with Saadiah Din and other syarie lawyers, members of the public and even Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat and Dr Siti Mariah of PAS.

Sisters In Islam

Women advocacy group, Sisters In Islam screened this Mencari Kartika documentary recently. Following the screening there was a panel discussion.  Panelist Prof Shad Saleem Faruqi said that the caning sentence was  a “human enactment camouflaged as syariah.” 

Panelist Prof Noraini Othman said: “The symbol of Islam is justice. Instead, whipping now is the symbol of Islam.” Joe Gomez, a Roman Catholic, asked a question:  “Our opinions don’t seem to matter in Malaysia. What can we do to help out?”  To this, socialist Prof Noraini Othman replied: “If the state uses Islam to terrorize the people into silence, then we all have to stand up.”

An Islamic expert called the caning sentence meted to Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno a sign of the slow “talibanization” of Malay society.

 Think About It

Why did Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno and her father agree to be featured in this documentary?  Why appear in a documentary that is essentially about the extent of the Islamization of Malaysia instead of a movie about her ordeal in the whole caning saga? How will this documentary, Mencari Kartika, advance the cause of women in Malaysia?  Will it lead to a harmonization of the Civil and Syariah Laws in Malaysia?  Civil laws prohibits the caning of women in Malaysia which Syariah law permits it.

Previous posts

Kartika Caning Case – Freedom At Last
Kartika Caning – Changed To Community Service By Sultan
Kartika Caning – “Don’t Leave Me In Limbo”
Kartika Wants Caning Sentence To Be Carried Out
Who Is Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno?

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno Now A Free Woman

Thursday April 22, 2010 is a very special day for former Malaysian model Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno.  On this day, she completed her 3-week community service at the Tengku Ampuan Fatimah Children Home, walked out of the gate, and became a free woman.  This brings an end to the whole saga which started in December 2007 when she was caught for drinking alcohol at a hotel in Pahang, Malaysia.

The Saga Revisited

In a way, this has been a rather unfortunate saga for Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno.  There are only 3 states in the whole of Malaysia that impose caning for Muslims caught consuming alcohol. These are Pahang, Perlis and Kelantan.  And Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno had to be caught doing just that in Pahang.

By the time her case came before the Kuantan Syariah Court it was already July 2009. Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno pleaded guilty to this charge of consuming alcohol, was sentenced to a fine of RM5,000 (which she paid) and 6 strokes of the cane. Then for the first time in Malaysia’s history, Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno refused to appeal against the caning sentence.  Previously, Muslim women who appealed had their caning sentences commuted to something else.  Because she refused to appeal, Malaysia suddenly faced the prospect of caning its first woman.

The case was mired in one controversy after another.  On the legal front, Malaysia’s Civil Law prohibits caning any woman, whereas Syariah Law in Pahang, Perlis and Kelantan permits this.  Women advocacy groups like Sisters In Islam and human rights groups were up in arms over this prospect of Malaysia caning its first woman.  Even the Malaysian Government at one stage said the caning was too severe for a first time offender who pleaded guilty.  But there were others who defended the caning, saying that Syariah Law and the Syariah Court ought to be respected.  In the process police reports were made by one group against the other, and such cases still remain outstanding at this time.

A second controversy was that Malaysian Prison Authority had no experience in caning a woman.  But because the case was delayed so long, it eventually acquired the expertise to do so.

But thirdly there was also the rule that the Malaysian Prison Authority cannot cane anyone who is not a prisoner.  Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno was never sentenced to a prison term.

Caning Sentence Commuted

Because Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno did not file an appeal, there was no question of the Syariah High Court revising the caning sentence on its own initiative.  In the end, Kartika Sari Dewi requested an audience with the Tengku Mahkota of Pahang, Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah.

At the royal audience, Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno did not plead for the caning sentence to be dropped.  Instead she wanted it to be carried out speedily, citing the stress that the long delay had caused to her marriage, her health and her emotional stability. 

Subsequently, the Sultan of Pahang, Sultan Ahmad Shah, commuted the caning sentence to a 3-week community service at a children’s home.  This is believed to be the first time that a sentence of any kind has been commuted by royal decree without an appeal being made.

3 Other Muslim Women Caned

Last February, Malaysia proceeded to cane 3 Muslim women who were serving prison terms for engaging in illicit sex and having children out of wedlock.  This was before the royal intervention in Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno’s case.  The caning was carried out secretly, with announcement made only after the fact.  There were, predictably, much protest from women advocacy groups and human rights NGOs, but on the other hand, the caning did prove the point that Syariah Law and the Syariah Court have to be respected.

Freedom At Last

Commenting on the release of Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno from the Tengku Ampuan Fatimah Children Home, father Shukarno Abdul Mutalib said: “I’m relieved that the sentence had been completed. My family considers the case closed.”  Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno said previously that her top priority after her release is to get a job so she can look after her 2 children, one of whom is suffering from cerebral palsy while the other has a heart condition.  Her husband had divorced her in the midst of the whole saga.

Think About It

So what does the future hold for Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno?  Can her failed marriage be salvaged?  How is she going to financially support 2 children both of whom require specialist medical care?  Can she write a book about her case?  Or make a movie perhaps?  What lessons can be learnt from this whole saga?  Could the Malaysian Government had handled this case differently?  Has Malaysia’s reputation as a moderate Muslim country been affected?

Previous posts

Kartika Caning – Nobody Should Dispute Ruler’s Decision
Kartika Caning Case – Reactions To Community Service Substitute
Kartika Caning – Changed To Community Service By Sultan
Kartika Caning – Sultan: “I Have To Seek Legal Advice”

One would have expected that the decision by the Sultan of Pahang to commute the caning sentence of 6 lashes of the cane on Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno to a 3-week community service at a children’s home would be welcome by all. Instead, that decision disappointed the folks at the Malaysian Muslim Lawyers Association (PPPM) which promptly issued a statement expressing its “deepest regret” and questioning the legitimacy of the Sultan of Pahang’s decision. Now the deputy president of the Pahang State Islamic and Malay Culture Council, Datuk Seri Wan Abdul Wahid Wan Hassan has declared that nobody should dispute the Ruler’s decision.

Datuk Seri Wan Abdul Wahid Wan Hassan said of Sultan Ahmad Shah’s decision to commute the caning sentence to one of community service: “It is made based on his discretion, which took into consideration that it was Kartika’s first offence.”

The Malaysian Muslim Lawyers Association (PPPM) said in its statement earlier: “PPMM is concerned that the royal decree does not have the legitimacy before the law because even though the Sultan is the head of the state’s religion, he must defend Islamic laws and strengthen the institution of Islamic courts. The rights and power as the head of the state’s religion must be conducted according to the canon of the law.”

But the Sultan of Pahang, Sultan Ahmad Shah did not make a rash decision. Indeed he said earlier: “I have to study the case and seek legal advice before making a decision.”

So one can expect that Sultan Ahmad Shah did receive legal advice and that the decision he made in commuting the caning sentence on Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno is legitimate.

Datuk Seri Wan Abdul Wahid Wan Hassan said: “It is the Sultan’s prerogative as specified under Section 133 of the enactment.” Then he added: “However, if there are people who are not satisfied with the decision, they can raise the matter through legal means.”

Referring to the family of Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, Datuk Seri Wan Abdul Wahid Wan Hassan said that he hoped the family would not question the Sultan of Pahang’s decision.

On April 1, 2010 Shukarno Abdul Mutalib, father of Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno was quoted in a press interview as saying: “This was the Sultan’s prerogative and it was decided that her sentence is switched to community service. We respect it, we really do.”

But then Shukarno Abdul Mutalib was also quoted as saying: “The caning would be over in a few days while this is 21 days of punishment. So you tell me, is this really a good thing?”

Think about it. Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, convicted of consuming alcohol and fined RM5,000 plus 6 strokes of the cane, has now achieved fame of sort. True, she did not become the first woman to be caned in Malaysia. But she is the first woman in Malaysia to have a caning sentence commuted by a state ruler without her appealing against the original caning sentence. Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno said that her priority, after April 23 which is the date her 3-week community service ends, is to get a job in order to take care of her 2 children, one suffering from cerebral palsy while the other has a heart condition. Will she now go on to write a book about her caning saga? She did indicate previously that she had started writing about it, and before that, there were reports of movie deals being proposed to her which she rejected as being premature.

Previous posts

Kartika Caning Case – Reactions To Community Service Substitute
Kartika Caning – Changed To Community Service By Sultan
Kartika Caning – Sultan: “I Have To Seek Legal Advice”
Who Is Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno?

On Wednesday, March 31, 2010 Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno received a letter from the Sultan of Pahang commuting the caning sentence to a 3-week community service punishment commencing April 2 and ending on April 23.  If you are wondering which children’s home is Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno going to serve her 3-week community service, the answer is the Tengku Ampuan Fatimah Children’s Home (TAFCH) at Alor Akar.

What exactly will Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno be doing at this children’s home?  The short answer is: Anything as regulated by the home from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Siti Razahah Abdul Razak, one of the lawyers for Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno said that the administrator of the home gave a briefing to Kartika.  She said: “It was a casual talk and they discussed about the kind of work that she will be doing in the home. It will be up to the home to draw up a routine for her and it will be based on her capabilities. The work to be carried out will be on a day-to-day basis.’’

Shukarno Abdul Mutalib, the father of Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno said: “The punishment will not be a problem as Kartika used to be a nurse for children and old people in Singapore.”

Where will Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno be staying?  Well she has her own dwelling place.  Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno will be staying in a guest house inside the compound of the children’s home.  Shukarno Abdul Mutalib said: “I am satisfied with her guesthouse which comes with two rooms, kitchen, washroom, food and air-condition.”  All meals are provided by the Pahang Islamic Affairs Department (JAIP) and the children’s home.

So if Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno is doing chores from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., what happens after 5 p.m.?  Is she confined to the compound of the children’s home, or can Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno go for a night out?  Shukarno Abdul Mutalib said: “Kartika is free to go anywhere she wants after 5 p.m. but she is advised to stay in the home for her own safety. They may be people who want to take advantage of her situation.’’

But who may want to take advantage of her situation?  Shukarno Abdul Mutalib explains: “She is also stressed with all the media attention and to be away from her children and family. However, we want this be over and done with so we can continue with our lives.’’

And it is precisely to protect Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno from unwanted attention that the family made 11 requests, all of which are accepted by the home.  These requests include a list of people who can visit Kartika Sari Dew Shukarno at the children’s home, namely, her children, family members, JAIP officers, and a female religious teacher to conduct religious lessons with her during her spare time.  Anyone else not on the list of approved visitors will not be allowed to visit Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno without the prior written permission from her lawyer.

Besides these, the children’s home also agreed to the family’s request that Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno be allowed to go to her home in case of emergencies involving her family members.  Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno has 2 children. Her son has cerebral palsy while her daughter has a heart condition.  The children will be taken care of by the mother and sister of Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno during the 3 weeks she is doing her community service. She is divorced from her husband while waiting for the caning sentence to be carried out. Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno said: “Thank God. I am prepared although I have be away from my two children for three weeks. My sister and mother will take care of them.”

So what does Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno think about this community service? She said: “It is a mixed feeling. However, I have to abide by the royal decree. I am ready to accept my punishment. I am strong.  I will do whatever is asked of me. I am surprised but accepted the decision made by the Sultan of Pahang. I thank my family for the support. I am going to miss my two children the most.”

But the day before Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno begins her stay at the children’s home, Shukarno Abdul Mutalib was not a happy person.  He felt that the JAIP offiers were not giving him and his daughter due respect.  Shukarno Abdul Mutalib said: “They told us that Kartika must report to the Pahang Religious Department in Kuantan by 9 a.m. sharp tomorrow, not a minute later than that. I tried to arrange for them to pick her up from Kuala Lumpur but they refused. And then I tried to negotiate with them to pick her up from the Perak border but again, they refused. I again tried to ask them to get her from the Pahang border of Cameron Highlands but they refused again. I just did not like how they spoke to me; they said by hook or by crook, I must be there by 9am. They are expecting me to ‘punch-card’ with them, like I am some kind of government servant to them. Now I have no choice because they are so unwilling to cooperate. I will drive her to Kuantan later this evening.”

Shukarno Abdul Mutalib added: “Do not get me wrong, this was the Sultan’s prerogative and it was decided that her sentence is switched to community service. We respect it, we really do.”

But what does Shukarno Abdul Mutalib think about the decision by the Sultan of Pahang to commute the caning sentence to a 3-week community service punishment?  Shukarno Abdul Mutalib said: “The caning would be over in a few days while this is 21 days of punishment. So you tell me, is this really a good thing?”

Meanwhile the Tengku Mahkota Pahang, Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah clarified that Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno was not pardoned by the Sultan of Pahang.  He said: “She was not pardoned of the offence but the sentence has been commuted due to the Sultan’s kindness.”

But the Malaysian Muslim Lawyers Association (PPPM)  has a problem with that.  In fact, it expressed its “deepest regret” over this decision by the Sultan of Pahang to commute the caning sentence into a community service punishment.  Secretary General, Abdul Halim Baharia said in the statement: “The royal decree does not take into account the wishes and desires of Kartika, who wants to be caned according the Syariah because of the offence committed by her. Kartika is also facing pressure to appeal against the caning penalty but is still determined to be sentenced according the Syariah.”

The statement went on to question the legitimacy of the Sultan of Pahang’s decision on this matter.  It said: “PPMM is concerned that the royal decree does not have the legitimacy before the law because even though the Sultan is the head of the state’s religion, he must defend Islamic laws and strengthen the institution of Islamic courts. The rights and power as the head of the state’s religion must be conducted according to the canon of the law.”

Then turning to the caning punishment itself, Abdul Halim Baharia continues in the statement: “PPMM is curious why the sentence was commuted based humanitarian factor when the punishment itself is very light and has its own philosophy. Syariah caning is different from civil caning which injures and tortures offenders. Syariah caning is more like a father educating his son.”

Then turning to the Sultan of Pahang’s decision to commute the caning sentence, the statement said: “Syariah punishment which has been commuted must be advised by the Mufiti.  The Mufti has the responsibility to advise the Sultan on Islamic legislation.  PPMM stresses that each law stipulated by God has its own philosophy and sometimes is beyond the human logic. Therefore, we cannot use one’s mind to match Allah’s resolution.”

Previous posts

Kartika Caning – Changed To Community Service By Sultan
Kartika Caning – Sultan: “I Have To Seek Legal Advice”
Kartika Caning – Will She Receive A Royal Pardon?
Kartika Caning – No Hope For Historic First
Kartika Caning – To Be Carried Out After Audience With Tengku Mahkota Of Pahang
Who Is Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno?

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno was to be caned with six lashes on Thursday, April 1, 2010.  But there was no caning.  No folks, this is no April Fool’s Day joke.  On Wednesday, March 31, 2010 Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno received a letter from the Sultan of Pahang commuting the caning sentence to a 3-week community service punishment.

Shukarno Abdul Mutalib, the father of Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno said: “The Sultan has decided that the caning sentence will be substituted with a three-week community service at a children’s home in Pahang from April 2.”

Shukarno Abdul Mutalib said: “I respect the sultan’s decision. We will abide by the order. I have also been asked to present my daughter before the religious authorities on Friday for her to undergo a three week punishment, but we do not know yet whether it will be community service or detention.” 

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno is a Malaysian citizen married to a Singapore citizen.  They were working and residing in Singapore.  On July 11, 2008 Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno and her husband were caught drinking alcohol at a resort in the popular Cherating beach in Pahang. 

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno was subsequently charged in the Kuantan Syariah High Court.  She pleaded guilty, was fined RM5,000 and given six strokes of the cane.  She paid the fine, and was all ready to receive her caning punishment. 

Until Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno’s case, Muslim women given caning sentences have always appealed such sentences, and almost as a matter of routine, such caning sentences would be substituted with some other punishment when the appeal is heard. 

However, Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno had refused to file an appeal against the caning sentence.  Moreover she wanted the caning sentence to be carried out speedily and in public to serve as a warning to other Muslim women not to repeat her offense. So suddenly, Malaysia faced a real prospect of caning a Muslim woman for the first time in the history of the nation.

This possibility brought about an outcry from women advocacy groups, human rights groups, NGOs, and even cabinet ministers and state officials. Some groups, including those from within the Malaysian Government, felt that the caning sentence was too harsh, especially since Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno was a first offender who pleaded guilty.  Then there were others who argued that Syariah Law and the Syariah Court must be respected.  Yet others looked at this from the legal aspect, questioning whether it is legally permissible to cane a woman when the Civil Laws prohibit it.  In the heat of the arguement, several police reports were made by one group against another.

Then there is another legal aspect to this case.  Caning sentences are carried out by the prison authorities.  But prison rules stipulate that caning can only be carried out on prisoners.  The legal problem is that Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno was never sentenced to a prison term.

And so the caning sentence on Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, scheduled for last August, was postponed on the ground that it was not appropriate to cane her during the month of Ramadan last year.  But Ramadan came and went, and there was no news of when Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno would be caned.

All this waiting had caused untold stresses for Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno.  While she remained in Malaysia to await her caning sentence, her husband had to return to Singapore for work.  The long separation finally resulted in the breakdown of the marriage.  Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno found herself divorced from her husband.

Then last month Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno requested, and was granted, a royal audience with the Pahang crown prince, Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, who is also the chairman of the state religious council. At that meeting, Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno did not appeal the caning sentence.  Instead she asked for it to be expedited to relieve the stresses in her life.  And now, the Sultan of Pahang had acted to commute the caning sentence on Kartika Sari Dewi Shukanor into a period of community service.

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno has 2 children. Her son has cerebral palsy while her daughter has a heart condition.  Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno had to work to supplement her husband’s income in raising these 2 children.  She worked previously as a nurse in Singapore, and later, as a part time model. That’s why she did not want the case to drag on any longer, as she just wanted to carry on with her life.

So what does Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno think of this latest development? Shukarno Abdul Mutalib said: “Kartika was expecting a caning, she is surprised by this development as she will be separated from her children for three weeks, but we respect the Sultan’s decision. Kartika will go on with her life.”

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno was going to be the first Malaysian woman to be caned, but now she won’t be caned.  Instead that dubious honor went to 3 unnamed Muslim women who were secretly caned in prison last February.  They were serving prison terms for having illicit sex resulting in childbirth out of wedlock.

Think about it.  By commuting the caning sentence on Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, the Sultan of Pahang has achieved 3 things.  First, he showed that he, as Sultan, has the power to vary a punishment handed down by the Syariah High Court even without an appeal being lodged by Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno.  Secondly, by commuting the caning sentence, the Sultan got around the objection of those who said that Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno cannot be caned by the prison authorities because she has never been sentenced to a prison term.  Thirdly, the Sultan placated those who feel that the caning sentence on Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno is just too harsh.  At the same time, the secret caning of the 3 Muslim prisoners jailed for having illicit sex also serves to placate those who feel that Syariah law and the decisions of the Syariah Court should be respected, notwithstanding that caning a woman is against Civil Law in Malaysia.

Previous posts

Kartika Caning – Sultan: “I Have To Seek Legal Advice”
Kartika Caning – Will She Receive A Royal Pardon?
Kartika Caning – No Hope For Historic First
Kartika Caning – To Be Carried Out After Audience With Tengku Mahkota Of Pahang
Kartika Caning – Divorce Official
Kartika Caning – “Don’t Leave Me In Limbo”
Who Is Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno?