An international Islamic conference would be held soon to discuss whether it is the norm to cane Muslim women found guilty of committing offences under Sharia law.
Women, Family and Community Development Minister Senator Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said she hoped the conference, to comprise Islamic experts and ministers from Muslim nations, could be convened within three months.
“I will bring this up with the Cabinet soonest possible,” she said, adding that her ministry, through the Secratariat for the Defence and Empowerment of Women, would organise the conference and the venue would be confirmed later.
Ulamak and NGOs (non-governmental organisations) would also have their forums at the conference, she said after signing a memorandum of cooperation between her ministry and the Sultanate of Oman’s Social Development Ministry on Monday.
On a question by a reporter on whether such debates would create tension, Shahrizat said, “We should not fear debating any issue.”
She said that Syariah laws, when implemented with wisdom and fairness, were “the most beautiful laws” in the world.
On concerns over differences between the various Islamic denominations, Shahrizat said these denominations should learn from one another and she herself would be interested to learn from other Muslim countries.
Asked whether women were caned in the Sultanate of Oman, its Social Development Minister Dr Sharifa Khalfah Al Yahyaeiyah said the country adopted Syariah law as the main law of the country and the issue of caning did not exist because women and men were not caned, whether under Syariah or civil laws.
“As a moderate, progressive and modern country, women and men are treated equally under the law,” she said.
When women or men committed illicit sex, they were imprisoned for a year but not caned and when a person murdered another, he was not only jailed but also had to compensate the victim’s family, she said.
On Feb 9, three Muslim women, aged between 18 and the mid-20s, became the first women in Malaysia to be caned under Sharia laws for engaging in illicit sex.
In July last year, the Kuantan Syariah High Court sentenced part-time model Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, 33, to six strokes of the rotan for drinking beer, but the sentence has yet to be executed.
The ministries of the two countries would cooperate in fields such as women, family and children development, senior citizens and people with disabilities, as well as gender studies, said Shahrizat.