Malaysia hits out at spanking case
THE case of a Malaysian Muslim couple held in Sweden for allegedly hitting their son has drawn a sharp response from a government minister, even as diplomatic efforts to resolve the issue appear to be bearing fruit.
"Although we respect their law, I think extending the remand is harsh," said Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin, referring to Stockholm's decision to detain the couple for another fortnight.
"Their children are suffering in the meantime and this case should not be delayed any further," said Mr Khairy, who is also the youth and sports minister.
Mr Azizul Raheem Awalludin, a director of the Malaysian Tourism Board in Stockholm, and his wife, Ms Shalwati Nurshal, a teacher, have reportedly been in custody since Dec 18.
They are accused of hitting their 12-year-old son, an act which violates Sweden's longstanding anti-spanking law.
A source told The Star that the parents had scolded the boy and hit him on his hands for not performing his prayers.
Parents found guilty face a jail term of between six months and 10 years. There is no bail system under Swedish law and those arrested can be detained until their trial ends.
Meanwhile, the New Straits Times reported that Sweden has agreed to place the couple's four children under the care of a Muslim family during the course of their detention.
There were complaints that the current foster family were non-Muslim, which meant that the children had to use utensils and crockery which had been used for non-halal food. The children were also reportedly unhappy because the foster family kept a dog.
Tourism Malaysia director-general Mirza Mohammad Taiyab felt the case has been blown out of proportion.
He said: "The whole issue is a little ridiculous as it was a family matter. However, the laws in other countries vary, so we have to follow their legal procedures."
The case has also sparked debate in Malaysia, on where the line between corporal punishment and child abuse should be drawn.
Social psychologist Chiam Heng Keng said: "Discipline does not mean beating a child into obedience. However, a slap on the wrist should not be considered abuse."