Dhaka, Sept 6 (UNB) - The Malaysian 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, reports The Star Online from Petaling Jaya.
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.
"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.
Phnom Penh, Sep 6 (AP/UNB) — Cambodia's one-party legislature on Thursday confirmed Prime Minister Hun Sen for another five-year term, cementing his status as one of the world's longest-serving leaders.
The National Assembly approved the appointment with all 125 members voting in favor without any debate. Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party won a July 29 general election by a landslide, but critics consider the polls unfree and unfair because the only credible opposition grouping, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, was dissolved by court order last year in an action seen as politically motivated.
The 66-year-old Hun Sen has been in power for 33 years, combining guile and strong-arming to dominate his country's politics. He declared before the election that he intended to serve two more terms at the helm.
A crackdown on critics and opponents was launched after the 2013 general election and local elections last year showed a softening of support for Hun Sen's ruling party. The founding leader of the now-defunct Cambodia National Rescue Party is in self-imposed exile and his successor in prison awaiting trial on what is widely seen as a trumped-up charge of treason.
In a speech at the assembly's opening session on Wednesday, King Norodom Sihamoni conveyed his warmest congratulations to the new lawmakers and urged them to fulfill their duties under the law and to work for the benefit of the entire country. However, in a sign of continuing international rejection of the election process, no representatives from the U.S., British and Australian embassies attended the event. Many other diplomats also appeared to be absent.
The United States in December imposed visa restrictions on top Cambodian officials because of the anti-democratic actions taken in the lead-up to the vote , and said it was disappointed by the "flawed elections."
Hun Sen has aligned his country firmly with China in recent years, both politically and economically, allowing him to largely ignore criticism from the West, upon whom he used to depend for development assistance.
Hun Sen was a member of the radical communist Khmer Rouge during its successful five-year war to topple a pro-American government, then defected to Vietnam during Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot's 1975-79 genocidal regime that left nearly 2 million Cambodians dead.
He became prime minister in 1985 in a Vietnamese-backed single-party communist government and led Cambodia through a civil war against the Khmer Rouge, which eased off with the 1991 Paris Peace Accords that also installed a democratic political framework.
New Delhi, Sep 6 (AP/UNB) — India's top court on Thursday struck down a colonial-era law that made homosexual acts punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a landmark victory for gay rights in the world's largest democracy.
In a unanimous decision, five Supreme Court justices ruled that the law was a weapon used to harass members of India's gay community and resulted in discrimination. After the ruling, opponents of the law danced and waved flags outside the court.
"We feel as equal citizens now," activist Shashi Bhushan said. "What happens in our bedroom is left to us."
The law — known as Section 377 — held that intercourse between members of the same sex was against the order of nature. The five petitioners who challenged the law said it was discriminatory and led to gays living in fear of being harassed and prosecuted by police.
Arvind Datar, the attorney for the petitioners, argued in the court that the penal provision was unconstitutional because it provides for the prosecution and sentencing of consenting adults.
A New Delhi High Court in 2009 declared Section 377 unconstitutional, but that decision was overturned in a ruling by three Supreme Court justices in 2013 on the grounds that amending or repealing the law should be left to Parliament. But lawmakers failed to take action and in July the government told the Supreme Court to give a ruling in the case.
Over the past decade, gays have gained a degree of acceptance in parts of deeply conservative India, especially in big cities. Some high-profile Bollywood films have dealt with gay issues. Still, being gay is seen as shameful in much of the country.
Karan Johar, a Bollywood producer and director, said Thursday's verdict was history in the making.
"So proud today! Decriminalizing homosexuality and abolishing section 377 is a huge thumb up for humanity and equal rights! The country gets its oxygen back!" he wrote on Twitter.
Tokyo, Sep 6 (AP/UNB) — A major Japanese airport flooded by a typhoon will partially reopen Friday.
Kyodo news agency said domestic flights at Kansai International Airport will resume Friday. The report cited Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as saying Thursday that international flights will restart when the airport is ready.
The airport in western Japan is one of Japan's busiest and is a gateway for Asian tourists visiting Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe. The closure had raised concerns about impacts on tourism and the economy.
Typhoon Jebi blew across the middle of Japan's main island on Tuesday, causing 11 deaths and damage in and around Osaka.
One of the two runways and part of a terminal building at the Kansai airport were flooded, and the bridge connecting the airport to the mainland was damaged.
Manila, Sep 6 (AP/UNB) - A Philippine town mayor who was linked by the president to illegal drugs was fatally shot in his office Wednesday in the latest brazen attack on local officials.
Four gunmen barged into the Ronda municipality's town hall in Cebu province early Wednesday and repeatedly shot Mayor Mariano Blanco, who was sleeping in his office, police said. The men fled in a van.
A police report said the gunmen ordered two watchmen to lie on the ground at gunpoint, rushed to the town hall, and then "a burst of gunfire was heard from the mayor's office." The watchmen later found Blanco dead and notified the police.
President Rodrigo Duterte had included Blanco in a list of officials allegedly linked to illegal drugs. The mayor had denied any wrongdoing and had been alternately sleeping in his office and his nearby house after reportedly receiving death threats, officials said.
Last year, Blanco was stripped of control over the local police due to his alleged links to illegal drugs. Blanco's nephew, Ronda Vice Mayor and lawyer Jonah John Ungab, was shot and killed in his car by motorcycle-riding men in February after attending a court hearing for a client, a suspected drug lord, in central Cebu city.
Investigators were trying to determine whether Blanco's killing was related to a local political rivalry, a personal feud or his alleged links to the drug trade, police said, without elaborating.
Attacks on local officials by motorcycle- and car-riding assassins have continued despite concerns raised by a national association of town and provincial officials which has sought additional security.
In July, Mayor Antonio Halili was fatally shot in the heart while singing the national anthem at a flag-raising ceremony in Tanauan city, south of Manila, in an assault by gunman positioned on a nearby hill. The shooting was captured on cellphone videos which were posted online, prompting police to order tighter security.
The next day, the mayor of northern General Tinio town was killed in an SUV by motorcycle-riding assassins.
The killers of both mayors, among several who have been slain under Duterte, remain at large.
The killings have taken place alongside a national anti-drug crackdown ordered by Duterte that has left more than 4,500 mostly poor drug suspects dead in the last two years. Duterte has denied condoning extrajudicial killings but has openly threatened drug suspects, including officials and policemen involved in the drug trade, with death.