Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The rule of law

Disturbing but true. The act of shaming an errant individual to serve as a reminder to the larger body of members. The iron rod of religion that encroaches on human decency and esteem - as the world progresses, so should institutions that uphold the society. Of course, basic fundamentals of an institution established from its foundation ought not be questioned and made issues of controversy, but the method of dealing with errant members - that should be addressed with wise judgment and deliberation of the circumstances surrounding the erroneous act.

Often times the very body or authority that passes such strict judgment and punishment are not angels themselves and are as frail a being in need of grace and redemption as the common folks. A balance of judgment ought to be struck - a balance that poses the question: Am I passing this judgment based on the standards of a reasonable person living in this current age and time or am I simply upholding a traditional form of judgment which even I myself may question its validity had I been the defendant.

Of course, it is easy for someone down the chain of command to question the judgment and action of a governing authority who has a wide and often privileged spectrum of issues and policies to consider before arriving at certain conclusions. The benefit of the doubt given, and I say this in respect, that it is prudent that governing authorities check the rule of law from time to time to critically study if they are serving the people they are meant to serve or have they turned tyrannical and irrelevant.

Straits Times - Jan 14, 2009

Malaysian waitress ordered to be caned for drinking

KUALA LUMPUR: A religious court has sentenced a Muslim woman to six strokes of the cane for drinking alcohol, possibly for the first time in Malaysia.

The Syariah High Court in Pahang also handed the same sentence to a man on Monday, and is due to make a decision on another woman in May.

Mohamad Nasir Mohamad, 38, a father of four, and waitress Noorazah Baharuddin, 22, were found drinking beer separately in pubs in July last year in central Pahang state, said reports released yesterday.

Nasir admitted that he had drunk beer at a pub in Cherating on July 11, while Noorazah was caught drinking at the pub where she worked, in Jalan Gambut.

Both were also fined RM5,000 (S$2,100) each by the Pahang court on Monday.

The third accused was part-time model Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, 32. According to the New Straits Times, Kartika, a Singapore permanent resident, could not attend court as she is studying in Singapore.

Judge Abdul Rahman Yunus said that he had given the maximum fine and caning as a deterrent to other Muslims, but had spared them a jail sentence.

'The caning is to shame them and should be done at any of the prisons in the country,' he was quoted as saying by NST.

The case comes after two controversial fatwas, or edicts - one over tomboyish behaviour by women and the other concerning the practice of yoga - sparked intense public debate over decisions made by the country's top religious body.

Malaysia has a two-track legal system, with the civil courts operating alongside state-based syariah courts. Muslims are governed by syariah laws in family and personal matters, while ethnic Chinese, Indians and other races come under civil courts.

According to NST, this is the second time such a sentence has been handed down. In 2005, the same judge sentenced two Muslim brothers to six strokes of the cane after they were caught drinking.

However, the caning has yet to be carried out as the men are appealing against the decision.

Alcohol is widely available in Malaysia, and Muslims are rarely punished for consuming it.

'It's rare but it's within the law and Muslims are subject to such law in this country,' said lawyer Pawancheek Merican, a syariah law committee member of the Malaysian Bar Council.

MP Salahuddin Ayub, the youth chief of the opposition Islamic party PAS, said he 'agreed' with the court ruling.

'The ruling only concerns Muslims and it does not affect the non-Muslims. It is to remind the Muslims not to drink,' he said.

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