PETALING JAYA: PKR’s Anwar Ibrahim has joined the criticism against the caning of two women convicted of lesbian sex by Islamic religious authorities, saying due process was not followed in carrying out the sentence.
“I’m a practising Muslim, I don’t share that interpretation and certainly that sort of action to publicly cane without proper due process and understanding,” he told reporters in Makati City during a visit to Philippines to attend the CEO Conference organised by the Management Association of the Philippines.
But Anwar said there was nothing the Pakatan Harapan government could do as Islamic laws come under state jurisdiction.
He said the caning of the women has its origins in the “skewed and narrow interpretation of religious laws”.
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.
The caning was carried out before a crowd of about 100 people.
Their arrest and conviction drew condemnations from rights group, coming at a time when the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community said they were facing growing intolerance from the authorities.
Anwar said one had to be careful when commenting on the episode or risked being labeled “anti-Islam” and “secular”.
“That will lead to a new battle within Muslim societies.”
He said he was not against shariah laws, but as a multireligious society, it was important to focus on the higher objectives of the shariah.
“What are the higher objectives of the shariah? To ensure peace and security, justice, tolerance, education and understanding. That is not being done,” he said.
He said there were fears among both Muslims and non-Muslims over efforts to implement the shariah.
“Let us debate, and not insist that your interpretation is correct….even if it is, is that the priority? These are questions that must be the dynamics within the Muslim communities before you embark upon the application of the shariah.”