PAS may say that public caning under shariah law is not a punishment to inflict pain but is imposed merely to serve as a gentle reminder to Muslims that they should not commit moral sins.
However, what should be remembered is that the Quran forbids the shaming and embarrassing of fellow Muslims. Nowhere in the Quran does it provide for the caning of sinners in public.
In addition, not all Muslims agree that in today’s world we should be obsessed with humiliating people who commit personal sins, in violation of the modern concept of justice that even the worst criminals deserve to be treated with respect. A murderer sentenced to death deserves to die in dignity and in privacy.
PAS may think they are upholding God’s law and therefore, public opinion does not matter. But it does matter in everything we do to unite the country and become a developed country.
As Malaysia has a democratic constitution with laws based on universal values of justice, the Kelantan law on public caning will raise concerns about Malaysia’s image as a progressive Muslim country.
Malaysians will feel embarrassed about explaining the public caning in Kelantan because it is not civilisational Islam. It is instead a medieval form of punishment practised in ancient times even before Islam on the concept that flogging, crucifying and beheadings should be done in a public place so that men, women and children can join in humiliating the convicts and learn a lesson from their punishment.
Malaysia will have a tough job defending this as an isolated case of Islamisation and proving that the country’s justice system is safe from religious ideology.
No one will believe our story.