Brunei is set to implement Shariah Law as its legal code. Over the next two years, judges in the oil rich country will be able to impose harsh punishments for crimes most other judicial systems deem as misdemeanors or illegal.
Currently, alcohol is banned in the conservative country located in the northern section of Borneo. Muslim courts in Brunei already have the authority to govern a family’s affairs. Soon, they will have Shariah Law to impose upon both Muslims and non-Muslims within its jurisdiction.
Shariah Law allows death for out of wedlock pregnancies. Other punishments include flogging, limb amputations, or stoning offences such as theft, sodomy, or adultery.
For Brunei’s Muslims, those who miss Friday prayers can be fined or jailed under the traditional law. Similar offenses apply for propagating religions other than Islam. Converting from Islam to another religion carries a death sentence.
Indecent behavior such as Muslim women leaving the home unescorted by a male member of the family falls under Shariah Law. Muslim women failing to wear a veil or to cover themselves from head to toe is considered indecent. Non-Muslim women would be forced to wear a head scarf. Anything a Brunei official dislikes could be termed as indecent behavior.
Honor killings are permitted under Shariah Law. If a woman becomes too Westernize, her father or husband can kill her. If a woman is raped, the fault is hers, not the male perpetrator(s).
Under Shariah Law, female genital mutilation is an acceptable practice. Infants to girls entering puberty experience genital mutilation which is the partial or total removal of an adolescent’s genitalia. The procedure is done with a knife or razor. There is no medical reason for the practice. No anesthesia is applied. Girls experiencing the removal of their genitalia are susceptible to unnecessary infections over the course of their lives.
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who is also Brunei’s prime minister, called the introduction of Shariah Law into Brunei’s legal system as a great achievement. The sultan believes the strict interpretation of Shariah Law signifies the people of Brunei are willing to obey Allah’s commands as found in the Koran. He does not expect the international community to accept Shariah Law and has asked the people of the world to respect the decision made by his country.
Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, publically condemned the enactment of Shariah Law in Brunei. Under international law, stoning constitutes torture. Women are likely to receive harsher sentencing due to a deeply held stereotypes and discrimination.
Human Rights Watch issued a statement calling the implementation of Shariah Law in Brunei as a monumental step backward in the area of human rights. Phil Robertson, the organization’s deputy director for Asia, said the adoption of such laws is nothing more than a move to an authoritarian system based on medieval punishment.
Human Rights Campaign also condemned the establishment of Shariah Law in Brunei. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender groups which Human Rights Campaign represents would face the death penalty. The organization found such laws horrific and sickening.
Islamic countries neighboring Brunei in East Asia practice and interpret Islam along a more conventional basis. Brunei has broken ranks with its neighbors by establishing Shariah Law into it legal code and applying it to Muslims and Non-Muslims.
By Brian T. Yates