The country of Brunei manifests recollections to harams of women and numerous sex scandal stories befallen in the oil rich country. Now, considering recent legislation, all that is about to be altered. According to the new Shariah criminal law, punishments for theft will be amputations while consequences for adultery will be stoning. The new penalties will go into effect within six months.
At a legal conference in Brunei, the Sultan outlined that the Shariah Penal Code would be applied to Muslims only as “special guidance” from God. He further added “by the grace of Allah, with the coming into effect of this legislation, our duty to Allah is therefore being fulfilled.”
While there are minorities of Christians and Buddhists, two thirds of the 430,000 population are Muslims who are already accustomed to the long withstanding Shariah Islamic court that handles mainly domestic disputes between families. The country’s top Islamic scholar, Mufti Awang Abdul Aziz, stated that the law “guarantees justice for everyone and safeguards their well-being.”
Offering further encouragement, Awang added, “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. It is not indiscriminate cutting or stoning or caning. There are conditions and there are methods that are just and fair.”
Sultan Hassanal has reigned since 1967 as head of state with full executive authority. Public criticism of the country’s policies is rare as is usually the case in Muslim countries where scholars reinforce legislation.
Awang directly addressed prospective tourists by saying, “do all potential tourists to Brunei plan to steal? If they do not, then what do they need to fear? Believe me when I say that with our Shariah criminal law, everyone, including tourists, will receive proper protection.”
Obviously there might be some confusion as to whether the law is intended just for Muslims in the country or the minorities and tourists alike. Considering, in the United States, the penalty for armed robbery is often life in prison, many might prefer to have their arm amputated according to Brunei’s penalty code rather than endure of life in solitary confinement. While this choice is an individualistic preference, it should nonetheless put Brunei’s new penalties into perspective for Westerners fearing it harsher than their own country’s laws.
Written By: Cayce Manesiotis