Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno is a rather successful Malaysian model. In December 2007 she did what many westerners would take for granted, and started to enjoy a beer in a hotel lobby. But under Malaysian two-tier legal code, which prescribes one set of laws for non-muslims and another based on their local interpretation of Sharia law for Muslims, she broke the law.
Now beer and other forms of alcohol are widely avaiable in Malaysia, though prohibitively expensive - your average beer costs the same as it does in Ireland, even though wages about 1/3 of what they are here. And Irish drink prices are a legendary rip off to start with. Most drinkers are either foreigners, Hindus or Chinese. Malaysia, like its next door neighbour Singapore, is hugely multicultural. Except when it comes to the legal code.
While many people assume Malaysia is a "moderate" muslim state, quite severe laws exist. Now we know all about this in Ireland. Not enforcing hugely discriminatory laws is not an excuse for those laws remaining on the law books, as Ireland legendarily tried to do in the context of the Norris case in the 1980s. Sure we don't enforce it so we're grand out. Same thing goes on in Malaysia. Unfortunately, with the increasing threat of more extreme forms of islamic political models flooding into south east Asian Muslim states (such as the Aceh province in Indonesia and Muslim-dominated provinces of other countries), previously mainstream and seemingly moderate Muslim states such as Malaysia are starting to pull the law book out of the hat and start to enforce the law.
The fact that Ms Shukarno agrees with her punishment and that she is the first Malaysian woman to be sentenced to caning is no excuse. These laws simply have no place on the law books of a so-called civillised nation. Now there is another side to all of this. Recently, the government, who normally prohibits alcohol related promotions and in particular alcohol sponsored concerts, reversed an outright ban on and then a ban on Muslims attending a Guiness-sponsored Black Eyed Peas concert. Living in a city where local institutions such as the opera house and so-called jazz festival have been drink sozzled to such an extent that the opera house rarely shows opera and the so-called jazz festival is merely a drinking festival punctuated by mediocre live music most of which is not jazz, its a pity to be so inconsistent if not hypocrytical when it comes to protecting innocent minds.
The reality is, very dangerous models of Islamic legal codes are spreading rapidly around the entire globe. They are using and abusing existing institutions and needs in order to establish themselves. In places like the Gaza strip they have effectively ousted the democratically and respectful legitiate Fatah movement (which is secular political movement which respects Israel's political legitimacy) for one which preaches a form of Islam where "freedom" means freedom for men to virtually imprison women and infidels. This movement, unlike its kinder, more established older brother in the West Bank, believes that Israel should be entirely eliminated (they are silent on the plight of its Jewish majority, but I can only assume that some kind of new "final solution" involving mass murder and/or deportation would be considered appropriate). Its extremely depressing to see the extent to which these organisations have built up a support network in the West via anti-Israeli lobby groups. Interestingly, if you read Indymedia Ireland it shows a very clear anti-Fatah bias in favour of Hamas. That Fatah is democratically legitimized and does not conceal its terrorist activities behind "good causes" such as running schools (or should I suggest indoctrination camps?) and hospitals seems beyond the point.
Either way, Ms Shukamo's case remains a valid reminder of why we need to continuously fight the pro-millitant backlash, especially when it hides behind seemingly legitimate causes such as that of the Palestinian states, and read between the lines.
I leave you with this very important link on why you should NOT boycott Israeli goods as a lot of people have been taken in by this policy which does nothing but polarise more extremism on both sides.