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PAS’ public caning show: A curious idea

 | March 8, 2017

Who's the volunteer for the punishment? If it's painless, how will it act as a deterrent?

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With a debate in parliament looming, have PAS leaders finally decided that the party needed to better inform the public about the amendments it is proposing for the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act?

True to form, in trying to allay public fears about hudud, PAS leaders have come up with the monstrous idea of demonstrating public caning, although, according to Kelantan exco Mohamed Fadzli Hassan, the flesh would not be torn in Islamic caning, unlike in the whipping carried out under civil law.

Some Muslim countries carry out public canings and executions along the roadside or in public squares or stadiums.

In Saudi Arabia, the date, time and venue of the punishment are not announced. This is to prevent western journalists from filing reports about the barbarity of the punishment. Although no announcement is made, onlookers quickly congregate around at the scene. Some surreptitiously record the event on video and upload them to the internet.

Is PAS taking the cue from Saudi Arabia? Is this why it has withheld details of the demonstration?

Who will PAS cane in its first demonstration? Is the person a volunteer from the crowd, a willing PAS supporter or a sporting PAS leader? Or will someone who is guilty of fornication be plucked from a Kelantan prison and forced to be a “volunteer” in exchange for early release, perhaps?

Who will wield the cane? Will he wear a hood over his head?

One detail which PAS has not thought through is why it wants to exact this type of punishment. Is it merely aping what happens in some Muslim countries so that it can proudly proclaim that Kelantan’s rule is “Islamic”?

Fadzli said PAS was keen to show that the punishment would teach the wrongdoer a lesson and ensure that he does not repeat the offence.

If the punishment is not going to hurt the wrongdoer, why bother? The public whipping will only shame his family further.

Malaysia has sufficient laws. The only problem is that they are rarely enforced strictly and fully. People with connections can escape the full brunt of the law, civil or shariah.

Cynical Malaysians can already foresee what will happen. The person who steals milk for his starving children will be punished. The person who quietly steals billions of the taxpayer’s money and at the click of a button redirects this money into an offshore account will get off scot free.

If only PAS would see wrongdoers as people to be helped and reformed. PAS’ penal policy should place emphasis on prisoner rehabilitation. It needs to think about tackling modern crimes because IT-savvy criminals will not steal in the presence of witnesses.

Feather-light whipping or amputation of limbs is neither a deterrent nor a form of rehabilitation.

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.

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