Most Malaysians accept the caning of women under the country’s Shariah courts, Islamic Development Department (Jakim) director general Datuk Wan Mohamad Sheikh Abdul Aziz said on Wednesday.
“Jakim held a seminar to discuss caning long before it became an issue among Malaysians. The outcome was encouraging because the participants understood the whys and hows of it,” he said as quoted by newspaper Web site thestar.com.
“We are aware that some parties are still unable to accept the punishment but given time and more explanation, I believe they will come around.”
He added that Jakim was “willing to explain the issue all over again, to whoever needs an explanation.”
Malaysia’s Women’s Minister, Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, said on Tuesday that she hoped to organize a conference with representatives of other Muslim-majority countries to discuss the punishment.
She told the Malaysia Insider website she respected the caning sentence recently doled out to three women, but she believed physical punishment was not the only option.
“Wrong is wrong, but there are many ways to handle the issue, including rehabilitation and counselling,” Shahrizat said.
The women were caned for having sex outside marriage. They have since publicly defended the punishment, saying it gave them a chance to repent.
Authorities used a light rattan stick to hit the women on their backs while they were fully clothed. The caning of men in Malaysia, by contrast, is done on bare skin and can cause bleeding and scarring.