Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 18:00 pm (KSA) 15:00 pm (GMT)

Drinking beer can lead to caning in Malaysia

While Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country alcohol is widely available (File)
While Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country alcohol is widely available (File)

A Malaysian religious court has sentenced a man and a woman to six strokes of the cane for drinking alcohol, in a rare decision in the multicultural nation, a newspaper report said Tuesday.

Mohamad Nasir Mohamad, a 38-year-old father of four, and 22-year-old waitress Noorazah Baharuddin, were separately found drinking beer in pubs last year in central Pahang state.

A third accused, part-time model Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, a 32-year-old Singaporean permanent resident, has also been accused of the same offence and faces a decision on May 4.

The New Straits Times said the Sharia High Court in Pahang handed down the sentences Monday and fined the pair 5,000 ringgit ($1,400) each.

"The caning is to shame them and should be done at any of the prisons in the country," judge Abdul Rahman Yunus was quoted as saying by the daily in his ruling.

He refrained from giving them jail terms as he believed that would bring difficulty to their families, the paper said.

He said the sentence was intended as a deterrent to other Muslims, who make up the majority of the population in Malaysia.

The New Straits Times said this was the second time such a sentence has been handed down, after the same judge sentenced two Muslim brothers to six strokes of the cane in 2005 when they were caught drinking.

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

While Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country, with large Indian and Chinese minorities, alcohol is widely available and Muslims are rarely punished for consuming it.

Salahuddin Ayub, a lawmaker and 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 told AFP.

Malaysia has a two-track legal system, with the civil courts operating alongside state-based Sharia courts in which only Muslims can be tried for religious offences.

In the civil courts, caning is carried out with a long, thick length of rattan which breaks open the skin and leaves lasting scars.

The judge said in the New Straits Times report that the cane to be used on the convicted pair would be no more than 1.22 meters (four feet) long and 1.25 centimeters (half an inch) thick, and that the offenders would be allowed to wear their clothes and the punishment should not break their skin.

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