Sisters In Islam (SIS) Can Finally Keep Its Name

In March last year, the Dewan Pemuda Masjid Malaysia, known in English as the Malaysian Assembly of Mosque Youth (MAMY), filed a police report against the women’s advocacy group, Sisters in Islam, alleging that Sisters in Islam is not the lawful name of this organization.  In October last year, the Malaysian High Court threw out the challenge by MAMY.  MAMY then decided to appeal against the High Court’s ruling.  But now Sisters in Islam can keep its name, because MAMY had decided to withdraw its appeal.

About The Case

Mohd Taqiuddin Abdullah, the executive director of the Malaysian Assembly of Mosque Youth (MAMY) filed an affidavit to support its case that Sisters in Islam should not be allowed to use this name.  Among the reasons stated in the affidavit were:

1.  The official name of the organization as registered with the Registrar of Companies in 1988 is SIS Forum (Malaysia), and not Sisters in Islam.  The use of the name Sisters in Islam in its website is therefore misleading and without basis.

2.  According the its Memorandum of Association, SIS Forum (Malaysia) is described as a secular movement supporting equal rights for both men and women.  It has nothing to do with Islam.

3.  SIS Forum (Malaysia) did not have permission to use the word “Islam” in its name, and has thus committed an offense under the Companies Act 1965.

4.  That SIS Forum (Malaysia), being a secular movement, is confusing Muslims by calling itself Sisters in Islam.

The High Court Ruling

Last October the High Court ruled in favor of Sisters in Islam.  It essentially disagreed with the Malaysian Assembly of Mosque Youth (MAMY) that Muslims in Malaysia are confused by the name Sisters in Islam.  But more importantly, the High Court ruled that Malaysian Assembly of Mosque Youth had no locus standi to file the complaint.

Reacting to the High Court ruling, Taqiuddin Abdullah said: “We will file an appeal. We are urging the religious authorities to take up a case since they have the legal standing.”

The Appeal That Vaporized

But now the Malaysian Assembly of Mosque Youth has decided to withdraw the appeal.  Why this is so is not known.  Perhaps the religious authorities didn’t want to take up the case, leaving MAMY with no choice but to withdraw the appeal, since it has no legal standing in this case.

Reaction

Reacting to this news, Sisters in Islam issued this statement: “Sisters in Islam (SIS) welcomes the withdrawal of the appeal by Dewan Pemuda Masjid Malaysia (Malaysian Assembly of Mosque Youth, MAMY) against the High Court decision to strike off MAMY’s application for a court order to stop SIS from using its pen-name, ‘Sisters in Islam’. SIS maintains its position on the importance of civil dialogue to address differences of opinions in any democratic society, and remains concerned over the use of police reports and frivolous suits as intimidation tactics to silence progressive voices.” 

Concluding, the statement said: “SIS hopes this victory will only be one of many that will show the way towards the realization of justice and equality for all.”

International Recognition

Meanwhile, NewYork-based Women Deliver has recently released its latest global advocacy list of 100 most inspiring people around the world.  This list is in recognition of people who are actively advocating the rights of women and girls.  Zainah Anwar, the founder of Sisters in Islam is one of 2 women from Malaysia to be included in this latest list. Commenting on this, Zainah Anwar said: “It is an honour for Sisters in Islam’s work to be recognised at the global level. Our work breaks the myth that Muslim women are oppressed and victimised, and further breaks the myth that Islam is inherently a religion that discriminates against women.”

The other Malaysian women in this list is Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, who is also a board member of Sisters in Islam.  She said: “I am very honoured to be named in the list. I think it’s nice that Malaysia is recognised. It makes people aware of Malaysia and we get international recognition. People will also take us more seriously.”

Think About It

Sisters in Islam was very vocal during the caning case of Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, which probably irritated MAMY. Now that MAMY has withdrawn its appeal, and Sisters in Islam can continue to use its name, more can be done for the benefit of women and girls. Would it have make sense for MAMY to continue with its appeal against Sisters in Islam when its founder and board member have been named as the only 2 Malaysians on Women Deliver’s global advocacy list of 100 most inspiring people around the world?

Previous posts

Malaysia – Sisters In Islam Can Keep Its Name
Sisters In Islam Attacked For Not Being Islamic

Complainant Has No Legal Standing

Remember the women’s advocacy group, Sisters in Islam?  It was most vocal during the caning saga involving Malaysian model Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno who was caught drinking alcohol in public.  In March this year, another NGO, the Malaysian Assembly of Mosque Youth (MAMY) had enough of Sisters in Islam.  Malaysian Assembly of Mosque Youth then filed a suit against Sisters in Islam, alleging that Sisters in Islam is not entitled to use the word “Islam” in its name, as it is confusing Muslims.

The Suit Against Sisters In Islam

According to an affidavit filed by Mohd Taqiuddin Abdullah, executive diretor of  the Malaysian Assembly of Mosque Youth in support of its suit against Sisters in Islam, the name registered with the Registrar of Comapnies in 1988 is actually SIS Forum (Malaysia) and not Sisters in Islam.  However on its website, the name used is Sisters in Islam and not SIS Forum (Malaysia).

The affidavit also pointed out that the Memorandum of Association, which is the official instrument of incorporation, describes Sisters in Islam as a secular-feminist movement supporting equal rights between women and men.

Another point stated in the affidavit is that no permission was sought, and no permission was given to SS Forum (Malaysia) to use the word “Islam” in its name.  The unauthorized use of “Islam” in its name is therefore a violation of the Companies Act 1965.

Separately Dr Muhammad Nawar Ariffin, de facto leader of Malaysian Assembly of Mosque Youths said: “The use of the word ‘Islam’ in names must be restricted and protected. The so-called Sisters In Islam uses the word to attract attention, but it issues statements that contradict what other Muslims believe. It causes confusion among Muslims who might think that the group represents Islam.”

Police Reports Against Sisters In Islam

Besides this legal suit by the Malaysian Assembly of Mosque Youth, Sisters in Islam had also attracted a string of police reports against it. 14 other NGOs and some political parties, including Johor Baru UMNO Youth and Wanita UMNO filed police reports alleging that Sisters in Islam had insulted Islam by questioning the caning sentence imposed on Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno. In the heat of the caning saga, Sisters in Islam had called for a review of Syariah laws relating to caning punishment for Muslims.

Separately Sisters in Islam was also debated in Parliament, with calls for investigation into its sources of funds and even a suggestion to refer it to the National Fatwa Council for a declaration that it is a deviant Islamic group.

The Victory

Last week a Malaysian court ruled that Sisters in Islam can continue to use this name.  It disagreed with the Malaysian Assembly of Mosque Youth that this name is confusing to Muslims.

Dismissing the legal suit, the High Court said that the Malaysian Assembly of Mosque Youth did not have the legal standing to file the complaint.

Reactions

Ratna Osman, Progam Manager at Sisters in Islam said: “Sisters in Islam (SIS) welcomes the High Court’s decision to strike off the application by a group calling itself Dewan Pemuda Masjid Malaysia (Malaysian Assembly of Mosque Youth, MAMY) for a court order to stop SIS from using its pen-name, ‘Sisters in Islam’.  SIS maintains that our work has always been based on a strong belief in Islam as a source of justice and equality.  The decision is a positive step towards ensuring that freedom of expression as guaranteed under the federal constitution is upheld.” 

Disagreeing, Taqiuddin Abdullah, executive director of Malaysian Assembly of Mosque Youth said: “We will file an appeal. We are urging the religious authorities to take up a case since they have the legal standing. Sisters in Islam has caused much confusion on questions of religion based on their interpretation.”

Think About It

Why did Sisters in Islam attract such determined efforts against it?  Did Sisters in Islam strike a raw nerve in its vocal defense against caning of Muslim women?  Will the Malaysian Assembly of Mosque Youth appeal this decision?  Should it?

Previous posts

Sisters In Islam Attacked For Not Being Islamic
Kartika Caning – Sisters In Islam Questioned By Police
Kartika Caning – Now Sisters In Islam Queried In Parliament
Kartika Caning – MP Targets Sisters In Islam
Kartika’s Caning – Sisters In Islam Explains Intervention
Kartika’s Caning – Sisters In Islam Intervenes

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?

Sisters In Islam (SIS) is one of Malaysia’s best known NGOs. It is a women’s advocacy group, and from its name, it is assumed to be a Muslim NGO championing the rights of Muslim women.  Or is it?  Now other Muslim activists have filed a suit against Sisters In Islam, accusing it of not being Islamic and therefore not fit to include “Islam” in its name.

Why is Sisters In Islam being attacked?  Of late it had taken positions that upset other Muslims.  For example, it took a strong stand against caning of women, first with the case involving Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno who was convicted by the Syariah High Court in Kuantan for drinking alcohol and sentenced to a fine and 6 lashes of the cane.  The caning sentence on Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno has yet to be carried out.

Then there is the case last month when 3 Muslim girls serving jail sentences for illicit sex were secretly caned.  Again Sisters In Islam was at the forefront, condemning this act.

Now opponents of Sisters In Islam have had enough.  Leading the attack on Sisters In Islam is another NGO, the Malaysian Assembly of Mosque Youth (MAMY).  In a suit filed with the High Court, the Malaysian Assembly of Mosque Youth said in an affidavit by executive director Mohd Taqiuddin Abdullah that the real name of Sisters In Islam as registered with the Registrar of Companies and confirmed by the Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM) is in fact not Sisters In Islam, but SIS Forum (Malaysia).  But on its website, SIS Forum (Malaysia) uses the name Sisters In Islam.

Dr Muhammad Nawar Ariffin, de facto leader of Malaysian Assembly of Mosque Youths said: “The use of the word ‘Islam’ in names must be restricted and protected. The so-called Sisters In Islam uses the word to attract attention, but it issues statements that contradict what other Muslims believe. It causes confusion among Muslims who might think that the group represents Islam.”

Malaysian Assembly of Mosque Youth maintains that since no permission was sought and no permission was given for the use of the word “Islam”, its use by Sisters In Islam is therefore a violation of the Companies Act 1965.

Another point raised by the Malaysian Assembly of Mosque Youth is that the Memorandum of Association, the instrument of incorporation, does not specify that the purpose of this NGO is for Muslim women.  Rather it says that it a secular-feminist movement supporting equal rights between man and women.

The law suit against Sisters In Islam seeks remedy as follows:

1.   A declaration that the legal valid name of the respondent is not Sisters In Islam, but SIS Forum (Malaysia).

2.   An order to prevent the respondent from using Sisters In Islam as its name and identity in all pamphlets, correspondence letters, publications and/or statements whether on the Internet, in print or electronic media.

3.   An order to the respondent to remove the Sisters In Islam name from its website, printed materials and publications.

4.   An order to prevent the respondent from circulating printed materials in such a manner.

5.   An order for costs and further relief as the court deems fit.

As to why this  legal action is taken, the 5,000 strong Malaysian Assembly of Mosque Youth said this is in line with its aims of protecting the Islamic teachings and correcting any violation of law over matter.  Besides the civil suit against Sisters In Islam, Malaysian Assembly of Mosque Youth will also be writing to the relevant minister and the registrar of companies to take action over the “misrepresentation” by Sisters In Islam.

Sisters In Islam was established in 1988.  It has been a most vocal advocate of reforms involving Muslim Syariah laws that, in its view, fail to protect the rights of Muslim women in such areas as polygamy and child marriages.

On the charge that Sisters In Islam is not Islamic, executive director Hamidah Marican said that its work is “driven by the tenets of the Quran and Islam.”

No date has been fixed for the hearing of this civil suit.

Think about it.  Why are Muslim NGOs fighting one another?  Is there no room for dissenting views?  Must police reports and legal action be the way to resolve differences?  And is Sisters In Islam wrong to be an advocate for Muslim women?

Previous posts

Kartika Caning – Sisters In Islam Questioned By Police
Kartika Caning – Now Sisters In Islam Queried In Parliament
Kartika Caning – MP Targets Sisters In Islam
Kartika’s Caning – Sisters In Islam Explains Intervention
Kartika’s Caning – Sisters In Islam Intervenes

It has been a week now since Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno had her audience with the Tengku Mahkota of Pahang, Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah. During the meeting, Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno reportedly told Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah about the stress that the long delay in carrying out the caning sentence given by the Kuantan Syariah High Court for illegally consuming alcohol had on her life.  Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah then said he would bring the case to the Sultan of Pahang for a decision.

Hopes have been raised that Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno could possibly receive an unsolicited royal pardon when Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah said that under Section 133 of the Pahang Syariah Criminal Procedure Enactment 2002, the Sultan of Pahang is empowered to reduce the 6 strokes of the cane meted to her, or to pardon her.

Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah also said that “this case will be settled as soon as possible.” 

Since Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah said that the Sultan has the legal power to vary the caning sentence, and even to the extent of pardoning Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno although she has not lodged an appeal against the caning sentence, what then could possibly hold up this case further? 

Actually Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah did add a rejoiner.  He said: “It just needs scrutiny in terms of the implementation of the penalty.” In other words, before taking any action either to vary the number of strokes of the cane to be lashed on Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno or to pardon her, the Sultan needs to have a legal opinion on his power and ability to do so. 

Usually a royal pardon can be considered and granted if there is an appeal for one by the guilty party.  But in this case, Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno is adamant that she would not appeal against the sentence, and as far as we know, neither did she appeal for a royal pardon.  So given the circumstances of the case, it is wise of the Sultan of Pahang to seek legal advice before making a decision on whether to pardon Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno.

Indeed Sultan Ahmad Shah said: “I have to study the case and seek legal advice before making a decision.”  The Sultan also confirmed that Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno has not file for a royal pardon.

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno pleaded guilty to drinking alcohol and was punished by the Kuantan Syariah High Court on July 20, 2009 with a fine of RM5,000 and given 6 strokes of the cane. 

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno paid the fine, and was all set to become the first Muslim woman to be caned in Malaysia.  Under Malaysia’s Civil law, it is illegal to cane a woman, but Malaysia has a dual track Civil and Syariah law running in parallel.  One of the complications in this case is that the authorities can only cane prisoners, but the Kuantan Syariah High Court did not sentence Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno to a prison term.

In a totally unexpected and surprising development, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said recently that 3 Muslim women prisoners were caned on February 9 this year for illicit sex resulting in pregnancy out of wedlock, thus becoming the first women to be caned in Malaysia.  Noticeably, these 3 unnamed Muslim women were serving prison terms before being lashed with the cane.

Think about it.  Where is this case heading?  It has been going round and round.  There can only be 2 possible outcome.  Either Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno will be caned, or she will be pardoned.  Which outcome is more likely?

Previous posts

Kartika Caning – Will She Receive A Royal Pardon?
Kartika Caning – To Be Carried Out After Audience With Tengku Mahkota Of Pahang
Kartika Caning – Resolution Possible Within A Month
Kartika Caning – No Hope For Historic First

Last month Datuk Abdul Manan Abdul Rahman, director of the State Religious Department said that Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno will be caned after her meeting with Tengku Mahkota of Pahang, Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah.  Well, this meeting took place yesterday, and now it seems that Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno could well receive an unsolicited royal pardon.

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno had requested this royal audience.  Before the meeting, Shukarno Mutalib, father of Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno said: ““Kartika will be accompanied by her lawyer.  We are not sure yet of the meeting agenda but the prince has reportedly said they will discuss the case, so there may be a decision whether or not to cane my daughter.”

That statement was somewhat wishful, for it raised the possibility that Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno may not be caned.  Seen in the light of the February 9 caning of 3 Muslim women for having illicit sex and giving birth out of wedlock, Shukarno Mutalib’s hope of her daughter being let off from caning seems very slim indeed.  But now, after the royal audience with Tengku Mahkota of Pahang, Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, the possiblity exists for a royal pardon for Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno.

However, the family is not talking.  Almir Ayat, spokesman for Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno said: “Kartika had an audience with the Pahang crown prince for about 30 minutes this morning but we are not in a position to make any comment on what transpired. Any decision or announcement will be made by the palace. Kartika is still firm with her stand.”

And what is her stand?  Eversince she was convicted by the Syariah Court of drinking alcohol, Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno has pleaded guilty, paid her fine and was all ready to receive the caning punishment.  She has refused to appeal against the caning sentence, despite being urged to do so by many people and organizations.  She has consistently asked to be caned, and pleaded for the caning to be expedited.  However, her caning was postponed, and in the meantime, 3 other Muslim women became the first women to be caned in Malaysia.

So what did Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno tell the Tengku Mahkota of Pahang, Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah at her royal audience yesterday?  Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah said that Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno told him of the stress that she had undergone because of the postponement of the caning. Then he added: “This case will be settled as soon as possible. It just needs scrutiny in terms of the implementation of the penalty.”

But Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, who is also president of the Pahang Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council (MUIP) added that even though Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno did not appeal against the caning sentence, the Sultan of Pahang has the power to reduce the 6 strokes of the cane meted to her by the Syariah Court, or to pardon her.  He said that this power is given to the Sultan of Pahang under Section 133 of the Pahang Syariah Criminal Procedure Enactment 2002.  Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah then said that he would present the case to the Sultan of Pahang for a decision soon.  He urged all parties to respect and not dispute the Sultan’s decision.

Think about it.  This case has dragged on for so long and the stress has caused Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno’s marriage to breakdown.  She is now divorced from her husband.  The caning has already been postponed for 6 months.  Government ministers had earlier commented that the caning sentence was too harsh, which is understandable given that Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno was a first offender who pleaded guilty and had not opposed the sentence and had not appealed against it.  So is the royal pardon the way out of the Kartika caning dilemma?  What if instead of 6 strokes of the cane, the sentence is reduced by royal decree to a lower number of strokes?  Will this end the disquiet on the Kartika caning case?  Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah certainly hopes so, for he urges all parties not to dispute the Sultan’s decision, whatever that may be.

Previous posts

Kartika Caning – No Hope For Historic First
Kartika Caning – To Be Carried Out After Audience With Tengku Mahkota Of Pahang
Kartika Caning – Resolution Possible Within A Month
Kartika Caning – Divorce Official
Kartika Caning – “Don’t Leave Me In Limbo”