KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 6 ― Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman today said the public caning of two women after they were found guilty by the Terengganu Shariah Court of attempting lesbian sex is a ‘big step backwards for Malaysia’.
The youth and sports minister said he had spoken out against the public punishment during the Cabinet meeting yesterday in hopes that they will not recur.
“I raised my objection in Cabinet yesterday (Tuesday) on the method used to educate the two women in Terengganu and if anything it’s a step backwards for Malaysia,” he said during the launch of the Under-15 Astro Junior Championship at Bukit Kiara today.
“Malaysia is a moderate multiracial country and the way to promote Islam is through peace and education.
“Some people summarised what happened as a simple caning process but it’s more than that. It’s done in public, it’s humiliating and people now know the two women’s identities.
“Not only that, children and toddlers were watching it. It’s a big step backwards for Malaysia,” he added.
The two young Muslim women were dealt six lashes of the rotan each as 100 people watched at the Terengganu Shariah Court on Monday, setting off a whirlwind of criticism around the world.
Syed Saddiq said he felt the matter could have been approached in a more humane way and that Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was in agreement with him.
Syed Saddiq said such a way would have been to counsel or educate the wrongdoers or even order them to do community service.
“The good thing is the Cabinet and the Prime minister believes very strongly with this. He objected to the method used as well,” said Syed Saddiq.
“In a day or two there will be a statement released regarding this matter and while I can’t divulge the full details on this statement I can say we’re objecting the method used for punishment.”
Earlier today, Dr Mahathir said in a statement on his official Facebook page that the Cabinet was of the view that the punishment meted out on the two women for a first offence had tarnished Islam.
He said they called for consideration for lighter sentences to be given in future to prevent a repeat of the case, adding that the government must be careful not to show Islam is without mercy and being uncompromising on penitents
A 1.35-minute video of the prime minister speaking on the matter was also included.
It was the first time the Cabinet had weighed in on the thorny subject that saw widespread condemnation.
Amnesty International had criticised the caning as a black day for human rights in Malaysia, while others called the punishment “barbaric” and a “torture”.
An actor on popular US sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine called for a boycott of Malaysian products.
The Malaysian Bar called for the end of such corporal punishment.
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