Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said public caning only applies to Muslims in Kelantan and not to non-Muslims, and there are voices telling non-Muslims that they have no business commenting on it.
Interestingly, even some Muslims don’t believe that it will not apply to non-Muslims. Among them is Azrul Khalib, co-founder of the recently formed Civil Rights group Bebas, who said he was not convinced that the ruling would only affect Muslims as claimed by Zahid.
This is corroborated by the statements of the Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin that hudud, when implemented, must apply to all for, otherwise, it becomes an unjust law to the Muslim who is punished while his non-Muslim partner, companion or accomplice, or any non-Muslim committing a similar offence, is not given the same punishment.
So, what’s the purpose of the flogging law? Azrul claimed that the move was about imposing control over Malay-Muslims. “In my opinion, these religious authorities are deviating from the real purpose (of syariah law). The issue here is all about exerting control on the Malay-Muslim community.”
Non-Muslims, therefore, have a right to comment on the public caning law as the hidden intentions, as seen through Asri’s statements, are clear - the same punishment must be meted out to non-Muslims for syariah laws to be fair to the Muslims. So please stop telling the non-Muslims to remain silent on the Damocles’ sword hanging over their heads.
If the religious-political leaders and their supporters honestly believe that the simplistic, knee-jerk action of public caning will cause the so-called un-Islamic Muslims (those who commit syariah offences) to change into good Muslims overnight, then they are very naïve indeed about the process of character development of human beings.
This would be most surprising for in Malay culture there is an age-old saying, “Tatkala lagi rebung tiada dipatah, ketika sudah jadi aur apa gunaknya”? What this means is that if you have not moulded one’s character while one was a child, it is worthless trying to do so when one has become a matured adult. And it is this worthless thing that public caning is trying to do! For what? Political show-off of "power" and "will" to do things to win accolades and blind support of the gullible who look upon religious leaders as demi-gods?
Acting blindly under cover of religion is not the way of moving forward. These “rehabilitation” experts should instead be looking seriously into moulding the character of children at kindergarten and primary school levels and not allow undisciplined behaviour during this age to become gangsters in secondary schools and full-fledged criminals in adulthood, and then trying to beat them back into shape with public caning.
Our forefathers who coined the saying “Tatkala lagi rebung tiada dipatah, ketika sudah jadi aur apa gunaknya” were full of wisdom derived from experience. Today we have “experts” who make laws based on perceptions or dreams for some personal gains for themselves and not for the public good.
I am sorry to say it, but though our schools have religious and moral education classes, and these are even compulsory examination subjects, how much of the religious and moral values taught in theory are actually practised in the very same classrooms and schools even if the children are scoring As in the examinations? And nothing is being done to check this deplorable state of affairs. It is not public caning that will create a better “civilized” society, but moulding the character of children while they are very young will go a long way towards that end. This used to be done by the schools of the 50s and 60s and most of those children were different kind of adults from most of those who went through school after that, that is, the kind that religious leaders-politicians say need public flogging to try and re-shape them.