Najib .

Najib said enforcement of syariah law should first go through the process of educating.

Corporal punishment in enforcing syariah law, especially on women, should be the last choice, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

He said enforcement of syariah law should first go through the process of educating the offenders and tempered with mercy and compassion, and that the authorities concerned should not make women the victims.

“There are already too many cases involving divorce and maintenance claims where women are the victims when there is no enforcement of the decisions made by the syariah courts,” he said at the launching of the National Women’s Day 2009 celebrations, here, tonight.

Najib said sympathy, compassion and the “tarbiah” (education) process were the essence Islamic teachings that were practised and enjoined by Prophet Muhammad, and which Muslims should follow.

“We must not go overboard…we must look at Islam as a religion that is fair, just, merciful and compassionate and above all, it gives the opportunity to redeem and correct oneself, which is more important than punishment.

“I hope the right people would hear what I have just said.”

On another note, Najib said the government was committed to pursuing the empowering and development of women agenda in line with the National Women’s Policy, so that women could occupy at least 30 per cent of the top decision-making positions.

He said although women’s achievements in various fields and their ability to compete with the men were commendable, there was still room for improvement.

“I’ve heard Datuk Seri Shahrizat (Abdul Jalil)’s suggestion loud and clear that women’s participation in politics, government administration and corporate sector be increased.

“I believe this will, in stages, become a reality,” he said.

At the fnction, Najib also launched the National Women’s Policy 2009, which is a continuation of the policy that was formulated in 1989 to spur government efforts in putting women in mainstream development.

“The main aspect stressed in this policy is providing a conducive or enabling environment for women to play an active and effective role in the national development process.

“We must also ensure that women are free from any form of gender discrimination and this requires changes to the procedures or laws, or a change in mindsets so that we do not see women as weak but equal with men.”

He said the government was committed to empowering and developing the potential of the country’s 13.4 million women.

“Indeed, investing in women is smart economics, because according to a study by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec), the region’s economy lost about a RM289 billion each year when women dropped out of employment or business.

“So, if we take this into consideration, women can make even bigger contribution than what they have now to the future of this country,” he said.

Also present at the dinner function were Najib’s wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, Information Communication and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim, and Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil. — BERNAMA