PETALING JAYA: PKR president-elect Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim criticised the caning of the two women convicted of lesbian sex, saying that it lacked due process and understanding.
The sentence was carried out Monday (Sept 3) in court, witnessed by some 100 people, including the media.
Anwar insisted that he is not against Syariah Law, but maintained that it was important to put focus on the "high objectives of the Syariah".
“What are the higher objectives of the shariah? To ensure peace and security, justice, tolerance, education and understanding. That is not being done,” he said.
He added that one has to be careful when commenting on such issues, for fear of being labelled as "anti-Islam".
"Let us debate, and not insist that your interpretation is correct ... even if it is, is that the priority? These are questions that must be the dynamics within the Muslim communities before you embark upon the application of the Syariah," said Anwar.
The incident has sparked quite a backlash, especially from civil society.
Justice for Sisters and Sisters in Islam on Monday (Sept 3) said that Malaysia's laws are inconsistent in relation to the caning of women.
"Section 289 of the Criminal Procedure Code prohibits corporal punishment against female prisoners of any age. However, provisions under the Syariah Law allow women to be caned.
"These inconsistencies create confusion in the jurisdiction of the Prison Department thus directly affecting the rights of women in Malaysia protected by Article 8(2) of the Federal Constitution against gender discrimination," the NGOs said.
The Human Right Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) also strongly condemned the caning , and called for all corporal punishment to end.