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No.8: The Case of Kartika


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1. Introduction

The punishment is in place to make the public more aware, and the
six strokes won't hurt, it's just a deterrent.

Like many Malaysians, I was shocked to hear that 32-year old Kartika Sari
Dewi Shukarno was sentenced to be whipped six times by the Syariah High
Court in Kuantan for drinking alcohol at a nightclub. Many of my Muslim and
non-Muslim friends also voiced their concern that something like this could
end up giving people a bad impression of Islam. "Why so severe?" We all
thought. Isn't whipping for drug offenders and rapists?

My negative feelings towards the entire matter dissipated, however, after I

read a report published by Berita Harian (Thursday, 23 July), which explained
the true nature of the punishment that Kartika could face. Clearly, it is not
the same sort of punishment that hardened criminals have to undergo. Here
are excerpts from the report:

The law allocates that the "whip" should be made of rattan or a small branch
without segments. Its length should be no more than 1.22 metres, and its
circumference no more than 1.25 cm.

Before the punishment is carried out, the accused will be examined by

medical professionals to ensure he or she is fit enough to undergo the

If the accused is pregnant, the punishment will be postponed and will only be
carried out 2 months after the birth of the child or in the event of a

The punishment will be carried out by a government medical officer who is

mature and fair. The force to be applied by the person carrying out the
punishment should only be medium - without lifting the hand higher than the
head, as not to bruise the skin of the accused. The whip can fall on any part
of the body except the face, head, stomach, chest and private parts. The
accused will be fully clothed. Men will receive their punishment standing up,
while women are asked to sit down during the punishment.

Speaking to Berita Harian reporters, Kartika herself has said that she is
willing to accept her punishment and be whipped. She was quoted as saying,
"I want to undergo the punishment because I have repented". She also
advised members
of the public to think about the consequences of their actions.

The mother of two had initially planned to appeal the sentence, but decided
to pay the RM5000 fine and undergo the whipping as soon as possible. It is
heartening to read that Kartika says she can face the punishment because
her family, especially her father, 60-year old Shukarno Abdul Mutalib, is
giving her
their full support.

I think Kartika & this Caning Issue did a great job in making the real facts of
the punishment known to the public. Unfortunately, there is group outside
there will still have a field day, treating this as another scandal in the global
Muslim community. I myself can't comment on other statement made by 3rd
parties about the religious matters, but as a Muslim, I can whole heartedly
say that I now believe that Kartika's punishment is fair.

2. The problem that led to the formulation of the policy

July 20. 2009 -- A 32-year-old mother of two is sentenced to six lashes with a
rattan cane for drinking beer at a hotel in Pahang state in 2007. The
sentence hasn't been carried out, despite her requests to get it over with.

Feb 7, 2010. Fifteen Muslims, including two women, are arrested by religious
authorities in Pahang state for illegally consuming alcohol. Eleven others are
detained for unlawful close proximity to members of the opposite sex.

Feb. 9, 2010 -- Four men and, for the first time, three women, are caned
after being found guilty in an Islamic court of having sex out of wedlock.

The move to cane the women under the country's Islamic Shariah laws has
raised fresh concerns about the growing political and judicial influence of
Islam in what traditionally has been one of the world's more moderate
Muslim nations.

The vibrant, resource-rich country came under intense international scrutiny

last year after a Shariah court sentenced 32-year-old Kartika Sari Dewi
Shukarno to be caned after she was caught drinking beer in a hotel bar.
Many moderate Muslims and non-Muslim Malaysians saw that verdict as
reflecting the growing reach of Islam in Malaysia over the past several years.

The caning of Ms. Kartika, who is a Muslim, still hasn't been carried out
despite her requests to the Islamic courts to get it over with.

Due to this canning issue, followed another announcement that three Muslim
women were caned on Feb. 9 for having illicit sex thus came as a shock to
many Malaysians.

Later in the day, in a statement that four men also were sentenced and
caned in connection with the case.

All seven were found guilty of illicit sex and sentenced by a Shariah court in
the Kuala Lumpur area between December and January.

Two of the women and the four men were each struck six times, while the
other woman was struck four times.

Malaysia has a two-track legal system in which Shariah laws are applied to
its majority Muslim population, while its large ethnic-Chinese and Indian
minorities answer only to civilian courts.

There is positive and negative response are existing according to this Kartika
issue’s caning, including from a top level of Ministry, politician, Non-
Government Associate, academician and individual.

Political analysts say the rapid growth of Malaysia's Shariah court system in
recent years, however, is threatening to undermine the country's reputation
as a tolerant, progressive Muslim nation that has been able to attract sizable
foreign investments in manufacturing and services.

"As Shariah courts expand their reach, there is a question of jurisdiction --

about whether there should be corporal punishment at all," said Mr. Kesavan,
the bar council president. "We think it is degrading, and as Malaysia evolves
towards adopting international standards in other areas, we should observe
international standards in legal matters, too."

Some analysts have ascribed the increasingly political role of Islam in the
country to the country's race-based politics. Many ethnic Malays view their
Islamic faith as a symbol of their racial identity and a sign of their privileged
economic status, which includes a wide range of affirmative-action policies
providing them preferential treatment over non-Malay minorities.

The country's increasingly Islamic outlook also reflects the growing political
role of the faith as the ruling National Front and the Pan-Malaysian Islamic
Party -- one of the main parties in an opposition coalition -- compete to
demonstrate which has the strongest Muslim credentials.

3. The objective (s) that the policy was designed to solve.

While Mr. P. Gunasegaran (No to whipping for drinking, 28 Aug 2009, Star)
and those in the similar vein are entitled to their freedom of expression, it
nonetheless needs to be pointed out that his abrasive intrusion into the
intoxicating whipping debate is in extreme bad taste and a blatant affront to
Muslim sensitivity.

His high and mighty pronouncement based on his secular theology and his
one sentence reference to some unnamed Muslim scholar, makes him an
overnight jurist !

Despite 52 years of Merdeka, quite apparently and most unfortunately, the

civilized and democratic values of mutual respect is sorely missing in our
multi-religious co-existence. And as far as Muslims are concerned, there has
been one too many Islam phobic sentiments snowballing by the day in the
mainstream editorials, press reports and cyber portals.

Fed by deep-seated prejudice, and popular misconceptions towards Islam

and the Shariah, the words "barbaric", "cruel", and "inhumane" are hurled
without regard for the sensitivity of Muslims.

Barbaric, cruel, and inhumane are after all relative terms that are employed
to demonize the other. This media onslaught, directly or indirectly, knowingly
or unknowingly, attempts to belittle and humiliate the Shariah justice
system, an entire institution whose place in our nation is legitimated by
history and the Constitution.

What else does one make of the following headlines “and lets do away with a
slew of outmoded, archaic laws in the statute books, both syariah and civil”.
He further adds “there is real danger of disarray when man purports to
speak for God”. I hasten to respond by asking - should we then let him (the
editor) play God or better still be God ?

Islam, meaning ‘submission’- however awkward such a notion is to secular

liberal thinking – is acceptance with a free conscience both the tenets of the
faith and outwardly the injunctions of the Shariah which encompasses formal
ritual worship and the regulation of personal and social mores based
on sacred texts.

Believers of other faiths, liberal secularists and secular atheists need to

understand that Islam is the governing principle in every aspect of a
Muslim's life to a degree seldom seen in the adherents and practitioners of
other religions. Islam is not just a matter of rituals and worship; Islam is a
complete way of life. For those who cannot or will not accept the crucial
importance of this most important reality in the life of all Muslims we can
only say, hopefully without insult, please stay out of our business.

As Muslims we have no difficulty accepting that non-Muslims have different
beliefs and live their lives differently than we do. Please show us the same

His editorial among others, reflect the distressing trend that non-Muslims are
making ill-informed, prejudiced and unwelcome comments on the religion of
the majority of people of this country. This is very unhealthy,
and dangerously crossing the lines of civilized discourse.

There exists a myriad of opinions on the issue of consumption of intoxicants.

But the Muslim scholars are unanimous that the offender must be punished.

If the offence is considered under the jurisdiction of hudud (limits), as is

embraced by the schools of thought of Syafie, Maliki and Hanafi, caning must
be meted without exception. This being the stipulate of God for the good of
the bigger society.

However, Al-Qaradhawi, the celebrated contemporary scholar, in consonant

with the likes of At-Tabari, Ibn Munzir, As-Syawkani and Ibn Qayyim opines
that this offence is within the domain of ta’zir (discretionary penalty). Thus,
the judge may choose to forgive the first time offender or he may elect to
cane the offender and would stipulate the number of canings. As alluded by
others, the caning is unlike the brutal and vicious whippings as prescribed by
the civil courts.

Asst. Prof. Dr. Zulfakar, who lectures Islamic criminal law in the International
Islamic University of Malaysia, and Datuk Abdul Munir Yaakob, SUHAKAM
commissioner, concurred that the courts acted within the State Shariah
Criminal Offences Act notwithstanding the seven day remand order.

The Shariah court is part of Malaysia's dual justice system which has
jurisdiction over Muslims and the decision of the Kuantan Shariah High Court
must be respected as such That is the rule of law enjoyed by both the
Shariah and Civil courts and outside interference would tantamount to
contempt of court. The due process of appeal is open to the victim if justice
is not done or seen to be done.

In this media frenzy, the irony has not been lost that Kartika herself has
accepted the sentence and has refused appeal despite the suggestion by no
less the Prime Minister himself. This underscores one of the objectives of the
Shariah, to guide Muslims to be more observant of their religious obligations
through remorse and repentance.

The controversy surrounding Kartika's sentencing also exposes the

sometimes uneasy co-existence of the world views of Islam and that of

modern secular society. Attempts to fit Islam into the secular world view is
like forcing a square peg into a round hole.

Globally, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that alcohol causes
1.8 million deaths (3.2% of total) and 58.3 million (4% of total) of Disability-
Adjusted Life Years (DALYs). The U.S. Department of Justice Report on
Alcohol and Crime found that alcohol abuse was a factor in 40 percent of
violent crimes committed in the U.S. The British Home office reports a figure
of 45% which rose to 58% in cases of attacks by unrecognized persons. We
have not even begun to mention the primary role of alcohol in road traffic
accidents, domestic violence, drug dependence, alcoholism, women and
alcohol, adolescents and alcohol, fatal alcohol syndrome, alcohol and liver
cirrhosis, alcohol and brain damage, alcohol and cancer risk, the causal link
between alcohol and 60 different types of diseases etc.

God says in the Quran, Chapter 2, Verse 219 :

“They ask you concerning wine and gambling. Say: 'There is a great sin in
both of them, and (some) profits for people; but their sin is greater than their
profit …”

As Muslims, our absolute love and allegiance is to our Creator, whose infinite
wisdom we do not question. Thus, it is completely unacceptable and
reprehensible that any from amongst his creations, should instruct us
otherwise applying their fallible human and secular opinions and standards.

4. Evaluate the policy measurement/program implemented to solve

the problem.

April 01, 2010 :Kartika's Caning Sentence Commuted To Community

The caning sentence imposed by the Kuantan Syariah High Court on former
part-time model Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarnor has been commuted to
community service on the orders of the Sultan of Pahang.

Kartika's father Shukarnor Abdul Mutalib said his daughter received a letter
stating as such from the Pahang State Islamic and Malay Culture Council
"Kartika was ordered by the Sultan to do three weeks of community service
at a welfare home in Kuantan instead. “

this issue added that the family was relieved by the latest development and
hoped it would help Kartika to move on with her life, now that there had
been closure to the case.

Kartika, meanwhile, said she was ready to carry out the community service
although the decision came as a surprise.

"I hope this community service will serve as a lesson to others to stay away
from alcohol," said the single-mother.

Kartika was sentenced in July last year to six strokes of the cane and a fine of
RM5,000 for drinking beer in December 2007 at a beach resort in Kuantan, in
violation of Islamic laws.

On Aug 24 2009, she was to be brought to the Kajang Prison to undergo the
caning punishment but it was called off at the eleventh hour.

After a period of being in limbo (as to whether the caning punishment would
be carried out), the matter was brought before the Sultan and hence this
latest development in her case.

Was the policy achieves its objectives?

My personel evaluation is the policy is achieves it objectives because this

Kartika's Caning Sentence Commuted To Community Service as a
lesson to others to stay away from alcohol

5. Suggest or recommend various areas for improvements.

I am utterly flabbergasted looking at the prejudices and misgivings of

certain quarters of our people against religious teachings. I am speechless
in awe reflecting on the degree of denial and obstinacy shown.

Time and again it is portrayed over the ill-perceived conflict between the
syariah and civil laws. The recent incident, arguably claimed to have taken
the nation by surprise, even considered a sad black day in the history of
the country, is the purported local and global ‘outcry’ resulting from the
whipping punishment meted and carried out on Muslim (women) syariah
offenders not long ago.

While the offenders themselves obviously had no qualm about the

punishment, many irrelevant others are immensely immersed and drown
into unnecessary perplexing quandary.

Human rights advocates have been fighting for equality before law for all
genders. Yet, astonishingly, when Islamic law stands in support of their
claim, the very same people accused Syariah as uncompromising,
inhumane, discriminatory, etc.

It is understandable if the criticism-cum-refusal came from the non-

Muslims. But it is almost incomprehensible to witness that the rejection
came from the Muslims themselves. Combined together, this group seems
to glorify human rights doctrines more than honouring their own religious
pronouncements, or the principles of true ethics and morality, if they ever
embraced or understood any. This is secularism at its best.

It represents a process of secularization as certain section is influencing

certain others to shy away from religion and any good value system.

Islam does not lay rigid emphasis on punitive actions. The whole religion is
about knowledge, education and the inculcation of good values onto human
being. Islam asks Muslims to refer to strict legal solution to solve disputes
only as their last resort. Even this is always preceded with words for
forgiveness and mediation.

Islamic law does not differentiate between male and female offenders. In
fact, in achieving salvation, Islam is giving equal opportunity to both sexes.
In the recent execution of the punishment, apart from the three women
caned, four other male criminals were flogged. But those human rights
vanguards close one eye on this.

For Muslims in this group, their secular inclination manifests their

inadequate Islamic upbringing, resulting in confusion, and ultimately,
compounded ignorance. It is ‘compounded’ because even after being told
the truth, they stubbornly hold firm to their misunderstanding and false


For the non-Muslims, they appear to have lost the sense of adab, the sense
of respect of other religions. Camouflaging under the ‘sacred’ pretext of
human-rightism , they claim the questionable right to interfere in the
domain they have minimal or no knowledge about - Islam.

Those Muslim and non-Muslim detractors simply defy authoritative religious

precepts, authentic knowledge, reliable authorities, irrefutable historical
facts, the rules of reason and logic, and the rules of ethics and morality. In
the process, they have consciously or unconsciously become atheists,
agnostics, sophists, and secularists par excellence, or any appropriate
combination of two or more.

It is amazing to learn the paradox that people conveniently acknowledge

the authority of certain professionals in certain fields but hardly do the
same in some other areas. For example, many will not risk their health or
life visiting any unqualified physician for their medical problems and later
on question the prescription given.

They do not dare challenging any registered lawyer, accountant, engineer,

or architect for any matter within their respective fields of expertise and
professionalism. Ironically when it comes to religion, many believe that it is
a free trade zone for everyone to interfere with.

I fail to understand what kind of logic these people are holding to.

Pondering upon, we are fortunate because our nation is blessed with an

abundant lot of educated people. But it appears that many do not have the
wisdom that is supposed to come with that education. A considerable
number simply do not know their limit.

One of the signs of wisdom is for one to know one’s limit of knowledge. This
implies that one is not supposed to make comments on things that one is
not well informed off. If one lacks knowledge on anything, one must first
gather a sufficient amount of information, data or whatever necessary to fill
the vacuum. Hearsay evidence or mere observation will not do justice to
any particular problem at stake.

After gaining certain knowledge, only then one may issue any remarks. But
even this is to be done with a clear conscience that one may need to
responsibly alter or retract one’s opinion if someone more knowledgeable
points to him that he is mistaken in certain respects or in the entire subject


Failure to fulfil the prerequisites, i.e. to cross the aforementioned boundary

means one is not wise anymore. Not knowing the limit in a way signifies
stupidity. If and when one simply does that, and declines to take right
advice, one does not only exposing one’s ignorance, but worse, one’s sheer

Knowledge is not something neutral. It is laddered with values that one

must not ignore: good and evil, right and wrong, beneficial and harmful.

In our context of a multi-religious society, every member of every group

must always alert of each other’s sensitivities. If a non-Muslim is making
unfair comments on Islam and its institutions, no sound Muslims will just
keep quiet.

Similarly, if Muslims are making noise, for instance, questioning the

rationality of the Christian’s concept of trinity, or the Hindu’s multiplicity of
gods, or the practice of the caste system, the leaders and followers of
these religions will just shut their mouths doing nothing.

Therefore it is extremely important for all groups in our pluralistic society,

regardless of our religious and cultural background, not to touch the nerves
and sensitivities of each other, especially those that pertain to theology
and matters that have been granted by our esteemed Constitution.

Let’s affirm the general position that matters of religion do not fall under
the purview of any layman on the street, even an educated one, as there
are conditions to be met. Let’s maintain the status quo that religion is the
business of those qualified experts and professionals.

Yes, religion is open to human interpretation, but not just by anybody. If

one has fulfilled certain requirements, there will be no objection for one to
engage into any religious discussion. In the case of Islam, this applies to
everybody having the desire, determination and efforts for a better

I believe that the reality out there is not that worse. All the clamorous hue
and cry over certain issues have been sensationalized by irresponsible
perpetrators like unscrupulous journalists and manipulated by social
activists to achieve certain agendas only known best to them.

Amidst the above, all that we need to bear in mind is that we shoulder the
same responsibility to maintain the long inherited peaceful and harmonious

living of the nation as it will tremendously drive the country further towards
development and prosperity to the benefit of all.


1. Al-Quran and Sunnah

2. Portal of JAKIM, JKSM, Jabatan Penjara Malaysia, Persatuan Peguam

Syarie Malaysia.

3. An article to Chronology of issue’s caning of Kartika.

4. World News: Malaysia Says Muslim Women Caned

James Hookway. Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.:
Feb 18, 2010. pg. A.11.