Kartika Drags Syariah, Justice Into Spotlight

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno’s show of remorse has the public calling for the suspension of the caning sentence. Mohammad Hashim Kamali examines the reasoning, or the lack thereof, behind the Kuantan syariah court judgment.

How does the Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno case fare from our reading of the sources of Islam ? Some aspects of the case that call for reflection are:

  • Kartika has been singled out as an odd case of prosecution and punishment for drinking beer.
  • That Kartika did not appeal against the sentence of a RM5,000 fine and six strokes of the rotan indicates repentance and remorse.
  • The case has received extensive media exposure showing Islam and syariah in a bad light.
  • Within Malaysia, the case has aroused controversy not only among the public but also among syariah judges themselves.
  • Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has publicly urged Kartika to appeal against her sentence.

The main question that occupies us here is whether it is accurate to think that punishing Kartika in this way is a requirement of syariah.