Category: Islamic Land of Brunei


May 01, 2014

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei (AP) — Brunei on Thursday embraced a form of Islamic Shariah criminal law that includes harsh penalties, a move slammed by international rights group as a step backward for human rights.

The tiny Southeast Asian nation began phasing in a version of Shariah that allows for penalties such as amputation for theft and stoning for adultery. Most of the punishments can be applied to non-Muslims, who account for about one-third of the 440,000 people in the oil-rich country.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has introduced the law as a “great achievement” for Brunei. “The decision to implement the (Shariah penal code) is not for fun but is to obey Allah’s command as written in the Quran,” he said in a speech Wednesday to announce the launch first phase of the law.

From Thursday, Brunei citizens can be fined or jailed by Islamic courts for offences like not performing Friday prayers, pregnancy out of wedlock, propagating other religions and indecent behavior. More severe punishments such as flogging, amputation of limbs and stoning for offences such as theft, adultery and sodomy will be introduced in phases over the next two years.

Human Rights Watch said the move was a “huge step backward for human rights” in Brunei. “It constitutes an authoritarian move toward brutal medieval punishments that have no place in the modern, 21st century world,” said its deputy Asia director, Phil Robertson.

The US-based Human Rights Campaign, which promotes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, condemned the changes as “draconian,” saying the death penalty for gay sex, the eighth nation in the world to have such a law, was “horrific and sickening.”

Bolkiah has said he didn’t expect the international community to accept the law but urged them to respect Brunei’s decision. Brunei is a conservative country where alcohol is banned and Muslim courts already govern family affairs.

Muslims in next door Malaysia are subject to a limited form of Islamic law that doesn’t include amputation or capital punishment, as does Aceh province on the western tip of Indonesia. In general, the interpretation and practice of Islam in Southeast Asia is more liberal than in parts of the Middle East and South Asia.

October 23, 2013

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei (AP) — A new criminal law that could include penalties like amputation for theft and stoning for adultery will be enforced for Muslims in Brunei in six months, its ruling sultan announced.

Brunei’s Shariah Islamic court had previously handled mainly family-related disputes. The sultan has been hoping to implement the new law for years to bolster the influence of Islam in the tiny, oil-rich monarchy on Southeast Asia’s Borneo island.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said the Shariah Penal Code should be regarded as a form of “special guidance” from God and would be “part of the great history” of Brunei. “By the grace of Allah, with the coming into effect of this legislation, our duty to Allah is therefore being fulfilled,” the sultan said at a legal conference in Brunei’s capital.

The law would apply only to Muslims, who comprise about two-thirds of the population of nearly 420,000 people. The others follow mainly Buddhist, Christianity and indigenous beliefs. Brunei’s Mufti Awang Abdul Aziz, the country’s top Islamic scholar, told Tuesday’s conference that the Shariah law “guarantees justice for everyone and safeguards their well-being.”

“Let us not just look at the hand-cutting or the stoning or the caning per se, but let us also look at the conditions governing them,” Awang said. “It is not indiscriminate cutting or stoning or caning. There are conditions and there are methods that are just and fair.”

Under secular laws, Brunei already prescribes caning as a penalty for crimes including immigration offenses, for which convicts can be flogged with a rattan cane. Awang said there should be no concerns that foreign travelers might end up avoiding Brunei after the law is implemented.

“Please listen to our answer. Sir, do all potential tourists to Brunei plan to steal? If they do not, then what do they need to fear,” he said. “Believe me when I say that with our Shariah criminal law, everyone, including tourists, will receive proper protection.”

The implementation of Shariah criminal law is not expected to face vocal opposition in Brunei, which has long been known for conservative policies such as banning the public sale of liquor. Sultan Hassanal, who has reigned since 1967, is Brunei’s head of state with full executive authority. Public criticism of his policies is extremely rare in Brunei.

Associated Press writer Sean Yoong in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, contributed to this report.