Caning of lesbian couple done 'without proper due process, understanding and show of compassion', says Anwar

Veena Babulal

KUALA LUMPUR: The public caning of two women for attempting same sex relations was a punishment that was meted out “without proper due process, understanding and show of compassion”, says PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

An online portal quoted Anwar as saying that the punishment carried out by the Terengganu Syariah Court was “not accepted by most Malaysians”.

“What happened in Terengganu under the Islamist party government (Pas) was completely under state laws which (the Federal Government) is not in the position to influence or change. This is because state Islamic law is under state jurisdiction,” he told the press in Makati City, Philippines, today.

He said he planned to balance civil and syariah law in Malaysia when he became prime minister.

He believed the two women should have been given adequate explanation, exposure and education (on Islam) instead.

“Unless they did harm in terms of a public display of some sexual acts. But this, again, relates to the earlier question about the narrow interpretation of religious laws which I don’t share. I am a practising Muslim. I don’t share that interpretation.”

On Syariah law, Anwar stressed that comments should be made carefully to avoid conflict in Muslim societies.

“We have to tread carefully because if you are a bit careless in your comments then you are deemed to be anti-Syariah, anti-Islam. They will use that to say that you are fundamentally secular and against Islam.

“And that will lead to a new sort of battle within Muslim societies.”

He stressed that he was not against Syariah law, but understood that Malaysia was a multi-religious and multicultural society.

He said what was more important about Syariah law was the observance of the rules’ higher objectives, which were to ensure peace, security, justice, tolerance, education and understanding within society.

On Monday, the two women who pleaded guilty to attempting same-sex relations were given six strokes of the cane in front of 100 people at the Kuala Terengganu Syariah High Court.

The sentence was carried out by a masked female caning officer from Kajang Prison in full view of the courtroom’s public gallery. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd