PETALING JAYA: The Cabinet thinks the caning of the two women convicted of lesbian sex in Terengganu gives a bad impression of Islam, says Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
He said the Cabinet had discussed the issue in a meeting on Wednesday (Sept 5) and were of the opinion that the caning of the two women did not reflect the quality of justice and sympathy in Islam.
Dr Mahathir said they further took into account the fact that it was the women's first offence, and therefore it would have been more appropriate that they first be given advice.
He added that the women should not have been punished by whipping, which resulted in the whole country learning of the incident.
"This gives a bad impression of Islam.
"That is why we feel that even if there are cases such as this, consideration should be given under certain circumstances, where in Islam we can mete out a lighter sentence while also giving advice and more," he said in a video on his Facebook page on Thursday (Sept 6).
Dr Mahathir said it was important to demonstrate that Islam was not a cruel religion or one that loved to mete out heavy punishments that humiliate others.
He added that this was not the way of Islam.
"This is the Cabinet's opinion, and we hope that we can be more careful not to show that Islam is a religion that does not know how to compromise or to be considerate.
"In fact, when we start something, we start it with 'Bismillahirrahmanirrahim', in the name of Allah, the most Gracious and Merciful, but then we act as if in Islam there is no generosity at all," he said.
The Cabinet's response came in the wake of two women pleading guilty to attempting to have same-sex relations and being caned six times on Monday (Sept 3) at the Syariah High Court.
It resulted in criticism from both sides of the political divide and from civil society groups.