PETALING JAYA: The Terengganu government today defended the state Shariah High Court’s decision to hold a public caning of two women for lesbian sex, saying critics should not make assumptions without witnessing the form and method of carrying out the sentence.
Satiful Bahari Mamat, the state executive councillor for shariah implementation, education and higher studies, said the caning was different from the harsher whipping imposed by civil courts.
“The critics may not have understood or witnessed the punishment but made an assumption based on civil laws which provide for harsher penalties.
“That is why caning under civil laws is done in prison and on the bare buttocks.
“However, under shariah laws, the offender is caned while seated and with the aurat covered, and the caning is done lightly because the objective is to educate,” he told FMT.
The two women, aged 22 and 32, pleaded guilty to attempting to have same-sex relations and were caned six times each at the Shariah High Court in Kuala Terengganu on Monday, watched by about 100 people.
It was the first time that such caning was carried out in the state.
The punishment has been widely condemned by legal and human rights organisations and politicians including Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin.
Islamic Renaissance Front director Ahmad Farouk Musa described the caning as inhumane and a form of humiliation, adding that the country was “regressing to the Middle Ages”.
“Although it happened in a state not governed by the Pakatan Harapan federal government, such degrading laws should not be allowed in this country,” he said, referring to PAS-ruled Terengganu.
Satiful called Farouk’s criticism contempt of court.
“What was decided by the judge was based on existing laws. It is a decision of the court and everyone should be able to differentiate between the powers of the government and the courts,” he said.
He pointed out that there was a similar case which involved Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarnor in Pahang, except that the caning penalty was not carried out.
Satiful also said many people were confused about the punishment which was only carried out after the offenders admitted guilt and agreed to be punished.
“The offenders in this case were given time to file an appeal but they chose not to do it. In Islam, opportunity is given to the offenders to repent, to defend themselves and they are punished only after they admit guilt,” he said.
Referring to comments by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mujahid Yusof Rawa that the presence of outsiders during the caning in Terengganu needed to be looked into, Satiful said the process was in line with provisions in the Quran.
He said the Quran stated that punishment should be carried out in public for the purpose of educating them.