The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno's challenge.

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno is a 32 year old Malaysian Muslim part time model. She is also the first woman to be sentenced to be caned under Malaysia's sharia law - in her case, for drinking alcohol at a hotel nightclub. She is due to receive 6 lashes.

Now, her case is a very interesting one for it seems to me that Malaysia has a lot more to lose from this case, than Kartika does. Kartika would suffer pain, from her caning yes...but Malaysia will lose a lot more: its international standing.

It seems that Kartika is very well aware of this. She has already challenged the authorities to cane her in public. I think this is a strategy to make Malaysians, and people the world over, aware of the realities of what this caning punishment involves. A public caning would really bring home to them just how barbaric this procedure is. The authorities, of course, have refused her request.

The Prime Minister Najib Razak has urged Kartika to appeal her sentence, saying that she should not accept it so willingly. He is seemingly concerned about the overseas effects should this punishment go ahead. Kartika, on the other hand, and very revealingly has said, in response: "I won't file any appeal. Carry on and cane me. Don't waste my time." These words lend themselves to three interpretations. Kartika could be so certain of the rigidity and inflexibility of the religious legal authorities in Malaysia, that she is sure the caning will go ahead, no matter how she appeals. Thus, "Don't waste my time." Alternatively, she could feel that she deserves the punishment, having bought into the sharia position on her drinking. Finally, it could be that she understands, very well indeed, that it is Malaysia that will lose most, in this situation. She could, therefore, be punishing her country, by simply going ahead and being caned. The effect on Kartika will, most probably, be pain, bruising, but probably not scarring since a lighter rod is used for women, than men and the beating is not meant to break the skin. Kartika will, therefore, recover in a few weeks. However, Malaysia will not recover from this punishment. It will henceforth be seen as a barbaric state not in tune with modern thinking on crime and punishment. It will lose its cherished status as a "moderate" Muslim nation.

These are difficult matters. Whatever one thinks of sharia law, it is Malaysia's right to abide by such law, if it so wishes. All nations should be free to choose their own path. However, and this is a big, "however", the world is now very interrelated. Nothing that is now done, goes without an effect on the wider world. Most of the rest of the world does NOT abide by sharia law. Most of the rest of the world does NOT understand it. Most of the rest of the world considers its punishments frequently too excessive for the "crimes" being punished. I have placed "crimes" in inverted commas because many of sharia's "crimes" are not even considered crimes in most of the rest of the world. They are, in fact, normal behaviours in most of the rest of the world. Thus, following sharia law places a nation in the difficult position of being at odds with the majority thinking in the world, on crime and punishment. Indeed, by comparison, certain sharia punishments are seen as barbaric by the outer world. This does not place a nation in a good international position. If a nation comes to be seen as barbaric, it might lose trading partners. Furthermore, people may be reluctant to do business there, not being comfortable with the legal climate in the nation. Foreigners may choose not to relocate to the nation in question, to live and work there and so on. The repercussions of a barbaric reputation are endless - and all detrimental.

Any Muslim nation has a difficult balancing act to make. They must balance their adherence to Muslim law and thinking, with their need to survive and prosper in the wider world. The leaders of all nations need to understand and pay heed to the fact that other nations will judge them by their own standards - and that those standards will differ. However, there is also the majority opinion to be considered: what would most nations think of a particular law, action or punishment? In the case of the caning of Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno for simply drinking in a night club, almost all nations on Earth would consider that punishment excessive and, dare I say it, barbaric. So, Malaysia must consider its actions with regards to Kartika in the light of the majority opinion of the world, with respect to her punishment. There is a lot more at stake here than seeing that a young woman is properly punished for her transgression of a local law. There is the very standing of the nation in question.

In essence, by being part of an international community, all nations have to pay heed to the standards, in all things, deemed acceptable by that community. There is, in some sense, a giving up, to a degree, of the complete freedom of choice to do whatever it pleases, of a nation. Being part of a community means that those choices are moderated, by how the other parties will perceive the nation that so acts.

Malaysia may wish to stick to the letter of sharia law, whatever the price it pays internationally for doing so. That is up to Malaysia. However, its decision should be made in the light of two considerations: applying sharia law in such a way as to cane a young woman, for a "crime" that is not considered a crime at all, almost everywhere on Earth, is going to cause grave damage to Malaysia's international reputation. Yet, moderating her punishment, so that it does not involve physical punishment, would show that Malaysia is willing to integrate itself with the international community and open itself up to the myriad benefits that come with that.

Kartika's challenge to Malaysia is basically a simple and very powerful one: show the world who you are...barbarians or a civilized society.

It is an odd situation. You see if Kartika IS caned, then she will have WON, for Malaysia will be far the greater loser in that situation. Malaysia will suffer far greater, long-term pain, than Kartika. Interestingly, I think both parties know it, now. Kartika's case has been placed under review - even though she did not seek a review. It seems that Malaysia is trying to find a way to save itself from a self-inflicted wound. We will have to wait and see what is decided.

(I would like to make it clear that, in this piece, I am not criticizing sharia law, at all. I am just pointing out that the international standards of punishment for the same "crimes" differ greatly and, in many instances, the international community considers sharia punishments excessive. Thus, what I am discussing is the differing views on the same issues that must be reconciled. I should also point out that I am a non-drinker, myself!)

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 7:25 PM 


Blogger Syahidah and Valentine said...

To the poster from Ontario(which I haven't posted)...

I fear you have misunderstood my intent.

My intent, above, is to show how the Non-Muslim world will view the punishment of Kartika, under Sharia law. I have stated, quite clearly, that a nation is free to have whatever system of law it wishes - but, I have tried to explain, that most of the world differs in its views, from Sharia law, and will not be able to accept what seems like a very harsh punishment for something which, under their own system of laws, would not be a punishment at all.

My post makes it clear that I am not indulging in a critique of sharia law...I am just stating that the rest of the world doesn't agree with it. That should be clear.

If a nation chooses sharia law, it must understand that many other non-muslim nations will have difficulty accepting that legal system, since it is very different from their own. That is all.

I think my post should remain since it is trying to explain how most of the world views the situation. Those who think from within sharia may not understand it needs to be pointed out.

Thanks for your comment.

4:43 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I meant above: "under their own system of laws, would not be a CRIME at all".


5:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If caning is a Shariah law and is justified in accordance to the believe system, why only 3 states in Malaysia are upholding it? Are those 3 states more heavenly as such nation of that state are categorised as more Islamic and holy? Moreover, is an imprisonment and a fine of RM5000 in accordance to the Islamic faith? How does such laws derived and permitted? I wonder if this is going to be a 1Malaysia law.

10:57 AM  

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