Sharia Law Becomes Effective In Brunei: Law Permitting Stoning To Death Of Gays, Adulterers And Apostates Will Follow

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

The Sultan of Brunei
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah

Absolute monarch Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei announced in January a harsh form of sharia law will be enacted. Effective in three phases beginning now and spanning two years, the edict eventually allows for the stoning to death of homosexuals, adulterers, and apostates; for amputation of limbs for those convicted of theft; and flogging for abortions and the consumption of alcohol. The capital offense provisions of the law reportedly apply only to Muslims.

Sultan Bolkiah claims this is a step in solidifying a long cultural tradition in the sultanate which was established in the fourteenth century. Increasingly conservative Muslim politicians and officials in Brunei, Malaysia, and Indonesia are beginning to move from sharia being limited to family matters to now criminal law and capital offenses. Acheh in Indonesia is included especially. While Brunei enjoys one of the highest per capital income in the world, has many social benefits such as effectively free health care and education, its population of over 416,000 individuals now is seeing human rights restricted in a trend that is generating international condemnation in the West. Al-Jazeera reported that many members of the Muslim ethnic Malay majority have voiced cautious support for the changes. However, non-Muslim citizens, who are fifteen percent of the population, led a rare burst of criticism on social media earlier this year, but largely went silent after the sultan called for a halt.

Emblem of Brunei“Theory states that God’s law is harsh and unfair, but God himself has said that his law is indeed fair,” the sultan said.

But will Western governments be willing to isolate countries engaging in abuses of individuals and oppression of the human rights of populations or is trade and money going to become the focus and inconveniences such as abuse continue to be ignored?

In another familiar trade above human rights story, on the day this sharia law measure took effect the Obama Administration’s chief trade negotiator Michael Froman was lobbying Capitol Hill to ratify The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), strongly sought by President Obama and others since 2009, which would bind the United States to providing the sultanate with economic privileges.

Senator Elizabeth Warren stated her concern about the secrecy of the trade agreement (leaked to various news organizations) and how this agreement will allow corporations and governments the ability to override existing laws.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other NGOs have expressed concern and worry that governments such as Malaysia and Brunei which now both have laws criminalizing homosexuality are now given special trade privileges, whereas trade sanctions and other measures by corporations, governments, and individuals to attempt to instigate change in these governments to protect their citizens should be instead used. Providing trade advantages only serves to reward violations of human rights.

There are concerns in the non-Muslim cultures within Brunei. According to The Diplomat the sharia bans the propagation of religions other than Islam or atheism. The offense will carry a $20,000 fine and/or a prison term of up to five years. This has compromised the 30,000 Filipinos living in Brunei and prompted a warning from a Catholic priest in the tiny, oil-rich sultanate that there will be no baptisms. “There will be no baptisms. There is not a lot we can do about it. We will have to wait and see what happens,” he told Britain’s Independent newspaper.

Schools have also been warned that children are not to be exposed to any religion, be it through ceremonies or acts of worship, but Islam and that non-Muslims would be subjected to some aspects of the new laws. It was not clear exactly what parts of Sharia law would be imposed on non-Muslims.

Human Rights Watch LogoOn the International front Phil Robertson, Deputy Director for the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch, said: “Brunei’s decision to implement criminal Sharia law is a huge step backwards for human rights in the country. It constitutes an authoritarian move towards brutal medieval punishments that have no place in the modern, 21st century world. The entire world should express its outrage and heap criticism on this ill-considered move and urge the Brunei government to immediately reconsider.” Rupert Abbott of Amnesty International, noted the laws carried the death penalty for acts that should not be considered crimes and would “take the country back to the dark ages.” He further added, “Brunei Darussalam’s new Penal Code legalizes cruel and inhuman punishments. It makes a mockery of the country’s international human rights commitments and must be revoked immediately.”

In a carefully worded statement the UN has said it considers some of the penalties to be “torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” under international law. As such their use could warrant an investigation from the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Beverly Hills HotelThe backlash against the sultanate and its business interests is generating in the United States in certain circles. The sultan owns the Dorchester Collection which includes the iconic and luxurious Beverly Hills Hotel and is now experiencing this. Entertainer Jay Leno protested outside the hotel with the Feminist Majority Foundation The foundation moved its Global Women’s Rights Awards from the hotel as did Gill Action’s Political OutGiving conference. Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres called for a boycott and Virgin CEO Richard Branson tweeted “No @Virgin employee, nor our family, will stay at Dorchester Hotels until the Sultan abides by basic human rights.”

Some organizations went to some considerable length to voice their resolve against the Beverly Hills. According to Fox411 the teen suicide prevention charity Teen Line forfeited its $60,000 down payment to take the event elsewhere, and the Hollywood Reporter notified the Beverly Hills Hotel that it will not hold its annual Women in Entertainment breakfast there. The Beverly Hills City Council is meeting to discuss a resolution condemning Brunei’s new laws, and encourage “the government of Brunei to divest itself of the Beverly Hills Hotel.”

Women in BruneiThe sultan claims that the law allows wide discretion on behalf of judges on whether or not to impose these internationally condemned punishments of gays, adulterers and others judged to be in violation of these sharia laws. But it remains to be seen how this is actually carried out. The fact that these laws are in force is a moral outrage in more open and free societies.

Since Brunei is ruled by an absolute monarch it remains to be seen how influential international and internal pressures to embrace core human rights will be. One could argue that it only requires the changing of one mind to end this return to a dark chapter in Islam that is seemingly increasing in some areas of the world. But when face and other pressures are at hand this might prove difficult. Brunei does have a parliament yet it is completely subservient to the sultanate. Yet with a nation as developed and committed to modernism in trade and international monetary issues as Brunei, it does on the surface seem rather disconnected with its departure from the tenets of basic human rights and justice.

By Darren Smith

Sources:

Huffington Post
BBC News
Fox News
The Diplomat
al-Jazeera

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

99 thoughts on “Sharia Law Becomes Effective In Brunei: Law Permitting Stoning To Death Of Gays, Adulterers And Apostates Will Follow

  1. Not sure Nick has a list so much as he has a person in mind that he is tired of asking him questions.

  2. Anonybonony – we just seem to bring out the best in people. Want to discuss the topic or the lack of commenters.

  3. Why are there are so few people commenting besides Paul, the topic seems interesting enough. That is a good question actually.

  4. Dave’s response was against all religion as tyranny. I felt and do feel that is bigoted. I have stated my take on sharia law both here and there.

  5. Yes, Paul: punching my lights out highlights how peaceful the religious-minded are. The imposition of violence to censor what is deemed offensive, circling back to the intent of my initial comment.

    Please, keep reinforcing your weakness with another feckless retort. Maybe my family should be punched out too, Ayatollah?

    • Dave – when you attack someone’s core belief system, they sometimes resort to violence. And religion is a core belief for many people. I know that you probably don’t read the Bible, but I think there is a phrase that is apt in this situation, You reap what you sow.

  6. Wayne,

    Most denominations are just like yours and are no threat to my freedom from religion. However, some religions are more authoritarian and there is a small robust subset that is very authoritarian that definitely does wish to control many aspects of both public and private life – the Dominionists. Admittedly, there are few of them. But there are large numbers of fundamentalist evangelicals that are having quite an impact on public life – creation museums, creation textbooks, denial of science, teaching biblical inerrancy, seeking passage of personhood laws, seeking criminalization of abortion (even in the event of miscarriage), severely limiting Planned Parenthood clinics. interfering with birth control, passing amendments to state constitutions banning equal marriage, and most recently, had Christian prayer in a government forum sanctioned.

    In my opinion, I find there is something bigoted about the reaction to Islam in this country. Witness some of the comments in this thread. Heck, I was given something of a warning for even asking what is the American Muslim’s version of Shari law. I have read (not very carefully) that it is related to domestic life. Many states are writing laws forbidding it. Outside of stoning, lashings and hands getting cut off which in this country is nothing but fear-mongering, what is it that they fear? What are they protecting themselves from? What is Sharia in an ordinary American mosque?

    I would hope that there is no need for me to explain to anyone in this forum that I do not favor Sharia law as practiced in SA, Brunei, Pakistan, or any other fundamentalist regime.

    • feynman,

      Thanks for an excellent explanation.

      On a somewhat related matter: I’m have some Forum or Blog issues because at times I cannot get a simple comment posted. I’ve had success on this Thread but not on any others…is their an email list available where I can contact someone to find out the problem? I can’t seem to find anyone’s email either? Maybe I’m just having one of those days😉

      • Wayne – if it refuses to post it is a WordPress problem. Post that you are having a problem and hopefully you will get help.

  7. Wayne,

    There are no assigned monitors and the only email address available is Prof. Turley’s but that is for complaints – not lost comments. If a Guest Blogger is around, they will do their very best to try to free the captured comment. But they are not obligated. They have requested that your first words on any note notifying the blog of a problem, is “Help”. Poor guys often have to slog through pages and pages of spam.

    BTW, WordPress does not allow any more than three (is it three?) links to a single comment. Certain vulgarities are also prohibited. I don’t think that is a problem that will concern you.

    BTW – do you know the Groenke’s? They are the only people I know in Montana and since I think MT has a population of about 50 – maybe there is a chance you know them.

    • 50😉 I once lived in San Francisco which is a relatively small city ~7 miles square (49 sq miles) containing about 800,000 full time residents. Montana, the fourth largest State has 900,000 residents. I can travel for miles without seeing another car or living soul…just wildlife. On the negative side, this is May 10th and we’ve had 2″ of snow so far today.

      Sorry I don’t know the Groenke family. But we live out in the boonies with the nearest town a whopping metropolis of about 2,000. There are days when all we see are deer and bears with an occasional moose. Mountain Lions like Professor Turley wrote about the other day are plentiful, but we don’t see them, just hear about their activities.

      Thanks for your help, I’ll see what I can do with my posting issues.

  8. Wayne

    P.S. Often WordPress is just hungry. It will eat a simple one line comment for no reason at all.

  9. Wayne, You live in one of my favorite states. Welcome. Darren Smith might be able to help you w/ some of the wordpress weirdness. He is a Guest Blogger and has a couple posts up.

    • Thanks Nick..it is a beautiful State.

      I hope Darren can help, I’ve been trying to post a simple benign message on the Michael Sam thread and nothing can get through. Darren did help once before with a similar posting issue…

  10. I think Jamie Dimon makes a good point, and to extend it a little further. When one looks at the decisions of our government, both as far as internal affairs, and relationships with other countries, we are all over the place, with no consistency whatsoever. There was a time when the US was a “beacon” for the world, but–as Dimon Illustrates, places look at us now, and think their proposed solutions for ruling have to better than our actions, which seem to be plain to the rest of the world. Yes, some of the aspects of Sharia law sound a little scary to us, but I wonder if they have police who have shot almost 400 rounds of ammo into a car of two people?? Maybe we could clean our own house first before we tell everyone else how to live.

  11. The UK has now begun a process of setting up or implementing special student loans for Muslims students that don’t require them to pay interest but rather require them to pay over time into a special fund that will be used for loans to other Muslim students. The details are some what unclear but what is clear is that interest will not be charged and that critics have suggested that ultimately Muslim students will pay less that nonMuslim students. This fund was developed after Muslim students protested that interest on student loans was Usury and against their religion. It is my understanding Sharia law forbids charging and apparently paying interest on loans. Entire US based legal conferences have been held on drafting Islam complaint loan documents.

    I have my doubts about the US legal system and how it is applied but I have no interest in having a different legal system being applied in our courts or being grafted into our commercial system. I am just as uncomfortable with NY allowing some Jewish courts or leaders to be involved in matters of divorce and custody. I also object to any Christian sect that believes its rules or structure is above the law or any judge who applies such rules.

    In general, it is my opinion that religious exemptions to US laws should not be permitted. We should be able to have a discussion about these issues without cries of Islamophobia or racism. Islam is not a race and raising questions or objections is not about Sharia law is not Islamophobic.

  12. That will be an interesting challenge–Islam vs. the western banking system! I’ll have to say–money usually wins in the end. UK has set some troubling precedents in cultural-religious affairs as of late. And, it would be hard to justify not charging interest to non-muslims. Can’t say I would be very happy about that. Would anyone be OK about that?

  13. Justice Holmes said

    In general, it is my opinion that religious exemptions to US laws should not be permitted. We should be able to have a discussion about these issues without cries of Islamophobia or racism.
    ________________

    I would LIKE to agree with that first sentence without reservation. Most especially because it supports my opposition to the fierce battles being waged against women’s reproductive health. But for once, I want to be cautious.

    I want to learn what motivated the passage of the anti sharia laws by certain states. Was the American Muslim community actively pursuing the passage of some sharia laws? If so, what were those laws and the arguments supporting their passage? Was there any legislative or ANY public debate before the passage of laws banning sharia? My impression is that none of that occurred and those laws were vile, easy political attacks useful for whipping up hate. And if I am correct about those motivations, the lack of any public deliberation and perhaps even a lack of any push by the American Muslim community to incorporate sharia laws into our legal system then I do believe it can be called bigotry and examples of Islamophobia.

    I most certainly do not think either of your comments were those of a bigot nor objectionable. My response to you did not make that charge. But I have to disagree with your second sentence in that I think there is bigotry, ignorance and mindless Islamaphobia in most American discussions about Islam.

    Although many here may disagree with me, I expect most will not object to another POV.

  14. The good news about this very bad news from Brunei is that I now have one more place I can recommend as an ideal destiny to those in the US who can’t stand to live with the LGBT’s , single mothers, pro-choice men and women, atheists etc. in this country of ours.
    @Jamie Dimon: your comment rocks!

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