PKR’s Anwar Ibrahim has joined the criticism against the caning of two women convicted of lesbian sex by Islamic religious authorities, saying due process was not followed in carrying out the sentence.
“I’m a practising Muslim, I don’t share that interpretation and certainly that sort of action to publicly cane without proper due process and understanding,” he told reporters.
He also said that the punishment carried out by the Terengganu Syariah Court was “not accepted by most Malaysians”.
However, Anwar said, there was nothing the Pakatan Harapan government could do as Islamic laws come under state jurisdiction.
He said the caning of the women has its origins in the “skewed and narrow interpretation of religious laws”.
Anwar added that one has to be careful when commenting on the episode or risked being labelled “anti-Islam” and “secular”.
“That will lead to a new battle within Muslim societies.”
He said he was not against shariah laws, but said as a multi-religious society, it was important to focus on the higher objectives of the shariah.
“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 said there were fears among both Muslims and non-Muslims over efforts to implement the shariah.
“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 shariah.”
He said he planned to balance civil and syariah law in Malaysia when he became prime minister.
He believed the two women should have been given adequate explanation, exposure and education (on Islam) instead.