(Reuters) – Malaysia has dropped a caning sentence imposed on a woman for drinking beer, a case that has raised concerns of intolerance in the mainly Muslim country. Shukarno Mutalib, the father of the 32-year-old woman, told Reuters he had received a letter from Islamic authorities indicating the caning has been replaced by another penalty, but few details had been given.
“I have also been asked to present my daughter before the religious authorities on Friday for her to undergo a ‘three week’ punishment, but we do not know yet whether it will be community service or detention,” he said.
Islamic affairs officials could not be immediately contacted.
The woman, Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, was sentenced to six strokes of the cane and a fine after she was caught drinking beer by Islamic enforcement officials two years ago at a hotel lounge in the central state of Pahang.
In February, three Muslim women were caned for the first time under Islamic laws for having sex out of wedlock.
Malaysia practices a dual-track legal system, with Islamic criminal and family law applicable to Muslims. Non-Muslims, who make up about 45 percent of Malaysia’s 28 million residents, are subject to civil law.
The canings reflect growing conservatism in a country long portraying itself as a moderate Islamic state and have begun to concern investors.
Since taking office in April last year, Prime Minister Najib has pledged political and economic reforms to woo investments and reverse his ruling coalition’s historic election losses in 2008.
But ethnic and religious tensions have worsened following a row sparked after a court in December last year allowed Christians to use the word “Allah.”
Political uncertainties in Malaysia since the 2008 election has hit net portfolio and direct investment outflows to the tune of $61 billion in 2008 and 2009, according to official data.
(Reporting by Razak Ahmad; Editing by Ron Popeski)