In December 2007, Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, a 32 year-old Malaysian Muslim woman, was at a hotel bar in the beach town of Cherating and had a beer.
She was busted by Islamic enforcement officers, because Malaysia has a dual law system, and Muslims are subject to not only federal law but to sharia (syariah), or Islamic religious law, and according to the latter, it’s illegal to drink. She was then handed a caning sentence by the religious court last month.
After both an international and domestic outcry over the severity of this punishment–Malaysia wants to present itself as a “moderate” Islamic nation and Kartika would be the first woman to be caned under sharia law–the religious court decided to halt the caning and review their decision. But Monday, an appeals panel upheld the decision, and the caning of the married mother of two will be carried out after Ramadan.
One fascinating aspect of this legal case is Kartika’s decision not to appeal her sentence. Malaysia’s own Prime Minister, Najib Razak, urged her to appeal back in August, presumably to avoid international embarrassment. But Kartika refused. On what grounds depends on what source you believe.
“I feel ashamed of myself for showing disrespect to my own religion. I want to respect (the court’s) decision and go through the punishment…I respect the law and Islam. Even before the sentence was passed in court, I had already made up my mind to accept the punishment and go through the ordeal,” she said.
International news agency AFP had a radically different spin on the matter, however:
Kartika, a part-time model and mother-of-two, has stared down religious authorities by refusing to appeal against her sentence, and challenging them to cane her in public.
So what cause is Kartika a martyr for (in the colloquial and not the crazazy extremist sense)? Islam or human rights? It’s hard to say, but one thing’s for sure–accepting being caned for drinking a beer on whatever grounds is some Hardass Asian shit right there.
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