Brunei enacts Sharia Law, Strong Islam

Brunei has enacted a new penal code which falls under Sharia law and imposes death by stoning for adultery and even gay sex, amputations for theft and widespread criticism. There has been widespread criticism over the move. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, has been an absolute monarch since 51 years of the oil-rich nation, had initially announced the new penal code in 2013 but its implementation had been delayed.

Bolkiah who is 72, is the second longest ruling monarch of the world and is ranked among the wealthiest persons of the world. The new law will be primarily applicable to Muslims although there are some aspects which will also apply to non-Muslims like the death penalty for many offences like rape, adultery, robbery, sodomy and also insulting or defaming the Prophet Mohammad. Public flogging has also been introduced as a punishment for abortion in addition to amputation for theft. The new law also criminalises exposure of Muslim children to the beliefs and practices of any other children except Islam.

The plans for imposing the code were first announced by the Sultan in 2013. Brunei which is a small nation has a Muslim majority and all the penalties which have been introduced come into effect from Wednesday. These will make Brunei the first nation in East and Southeast Asia to have imposed a Sharia penal code at the national level thereby joining mainly the Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia.

The new laws have been severely condemned by people from many walks of life, a long line of politicians, various rights groups, celebrities etc. which also include George Clooney, Elton John etc. Many people have also called for a complete boycott of various hotels which are owned by the sultanate. Latter include the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Dorchester in London, the Plaza Athene in Paris etc.

The Deputy Asia Director for Human Rights Watch, Phil Robertson, has stated that the code was “barbaric to the core” thereby imposing brutal and archaic punishments for various acts which cannot even be justified as crimes. Robertson categorically stated that there is no place for such laws in the 21st century.

The US has strongly opposed the laws, and the deputy State Department spokesman Palladino also said that “the US strongly opposes violence, criminalisation and discrimination targeting vulnerable groups”. Many other governments have also said that the new law and its punishments stand counter to Brunei’s “international human rights obligations”.

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