RELIGIOUS authorities in Malaysia postponed yesterday the caning of a Muslim woman convicted of drinking alcohol until after the holy month of Ramadan.

The planned caning of 32-year-old mother of two Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno has drawn criticism from rights groups concerned by the rise of Islamic laws in this traditionally moderate country, even though Kartika had accepted the punishment.

Earlier yesterday it appeared she might have been freed when a court order that would have transferred her to a prison where she was to have been caned was ruled invalid by a justice official.

Kartika was released from a van that would have transported her to the prison in Pahang state in eastern mainland Malaysia where she committed the offense.

“The punishment has not been canceled, it was postponed due to Ramadan,” said Pahang state Executive Councillor for Religion, Missionary Work and Unity Mohamad Sahfri Abdul Aziz.

Ramadan, a time of fasting and contemplation for Muslims, started last Saturday and lasts a month.

Mohamad Sahfri said that the decision was taken after consultations with Malaysia’s Attorney-General.

Kartika, who has admitted that she drank beer at a hotel in December 2007, said that she still accepted the sentence.

“I remain steadfast with my decision,” said Kartika, wearing a cream-colored, traditional long Malay dress decorated with flowers and a headscarf.

“All I want now is to know my true situation and do not treat me like a football.”