Spare the Rod, Spoil the Country

Malaysia seeks to organize an international caning conference

Malaysia appears determined to make an international fool of itself. The latest news, according to Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, the Women’s Minister, is that the country is considering organizing an international conference on caning and whether it is an appropriate punishment for women under Islamic law.

Written by John Berthelsen, Asia Sentinel  

The announcement by Shahrizat comes on the heels of a government statement last week, nine days after the fact, that a shariah court had ordered the caning of three women for adultery. A fourth, far more publicized, is the case of Kartika Dewi Shukarni, a part-time model who was ordered by a shariah court to be caned for drinking beer. The case is still hanging fire while the Regent of Pahang decides how to treat the matter.

This all is in addition to the widely publicized show trial of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on charges of consensual sex with a male, a selective prosecution at best even if he did it, since Kuala Lumpur throngs with gay bars, and political persecution at the worst over widespread suspicion that the charges were trumped up. There is also the January violence in the wake of a high court judge’s decision to allow the Malaysian Catholic Church to use the word Allah as a synonym for God in its Malay-language editions of its newspaper, the Catholic Herald. Eleven churches, a Sikh temple and two Muslim prayer rooms were attacked.

Many critics hold UMNO responsible for fanning racial disharmony. In the cases of the prayer rooms, eight UMNO members were arrested for attacking them in an apparent attempt to make it look like either Chinese or Indians had done it. There are similar suspicions that ethnic Malays had thrown pigs’ heads with money in their mouths into mosques in Kuala Lumpur.

That, plus the continuing political turmoil, appears to be driving up flight capital totals and citizens who are leaving along with their money. And it is giving international investors some serious second thoughts at a time when the export-led economy is finally starting to emerge from the global financial crisis that began in October of 2008.

As to the caning, in the first place the government ought to organize a conference on whether caning, Malaysia style, is an appropriate punishment for anybody, anywhere. Although it is officially outlawed in only 25 countries, it is rare in a lot more, and in very few is it practiced as barbarically — on men — as it is in Malaysia, which until quite recently was regarded by the world as one of the globe’s most advanced Islamic states.