Muslims caught by religious authorities are usually let off with a warning or fine but offenders can be jailed three years and given six strokes of a rattan cane on top of a RM5,000 ($1,430) fine.

Nazarudin, who has been in jail since September 2 because he was unable to post bail, said he had financial difficulties and would not be able to pay a fine.

He is the first person in the state to be jailed for consuming alcohol in public.

"The sentence meted out to him is not meant as punishment but to serve as a lesson," the New Straits Times quoted Abdul Rahman as saying.

Abdul Rahman also accused Nazarudin of dishonouring the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan by consuming alcohol in public.

Kartika case

The same judge who had created an uproar in July by ordering Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, a mother of two, to be caned six times after she was caught drinking beer at a hotel in the same state.

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno is also scheduled to be caned for alcohol consumption [AFP]
The 32-year-old woman was given a reprieve last month when the move to cane her was postponed at the 11th hour.

However, the religious authorities intend to press ahead with the caning after Ramadan should the sharia appeals court uphold Abdul Rahman's ruling.

There are complaints that the sentence infringes on civil rights and fears that the caning could damage Malaysia's image as a moderate Muslim nation.

If the sentence is carried out, Kartika will be the first woman to be caned in Malaysia.

Just over half of Malaysia's 28 million people are Muslims and sharia, or Islamic law, does not apply to its non-Muslim population.