Title: Comment - Brunei: Abode of Pain Credit: Politics and religion commentator Craig Young Comment Thursday 8th May 2014 - 9:49am1399499340 Article: 15034 Rights
The Sultanate of Brunei is about to introduce shariah law and order the execution of lesbians and gay men. In this article, the Sultanate's history and the implications of shariah law will be described. Brunei is a small Sunni Islamic sultanate on Borneo, bordered by Malaysia to its west, Indonesia to its east and south, and the Philippines to its north. Its population numbers slightly over 400, 000 inhabitants. From the thirteenth to seventeenth centuries, Brunei was a Sunni Muslim kingdom, centred on Borneo in the Indonesian archipelago, and controlled a small South East Asian empire which incorporated what are today the Malaysian territories of Sabah and Sarawak and islands within the Southern Philippines. However, the sixteenth century saw Spanish invasion and the reduction of the Sultanate to a vassal state. As Spain's empire disintegrated in the nineteenth century, Britain took over in its stead, administering Brunei as a protectorate although keeping its royal family in place. Much the same occurred when the Japanese invaded and occupied the sultanate during the Second World War. After 1945, the British returned. Oil was discovered in 1929. In 1959, the Sultanate gained relative autonomy from the United Kingdom, except in matters of foreign policy and defence. The United Kingdom helped suppress an anti-monarchist rebellion in 1962. In 1984, the Sultanate became fully independent once more. Brunei's petrochemical wealth has financed public education, agriculture, maritime infrastructure and infectious disease control. Brunei is an absolute monarchy. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah is Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Defence Minister. Brunei is a member of the British Commonwealth, United Nations, ASEAN and APEC. Royal Brunei Airlines is trying to position Darussalam as an international travel hub between Europe and Australasia. Shariah law is Islamic penal and correctional policy which extends across the Muslim world, from Northern Nigeria to Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Sudan, Pakistan, Iraq's Shia fundamentalist Mahdi Army...and now Brunei. Its exact prescriptions vary from Islamic society to society, although it usually deals with crime, politics, economics, sexuality, hygiene, diet, prayer, everyday conduct and dietary abstinence. It is a combination of edicts from the Qu'ran, Islamic scholarly consensus, clerical consensus and analogical reasoning from prior applications. In Saudi Arabia, Iran and Brunei, it is interpreted as warrant for capital punishment, while Northern Nigeria, North Sudan and some Malaysian states make do with corporal punishment and flogging of convicted gay men and lesbians. Like the Christian Bible, the Qu'ran also has an account of the mythical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, whose alleged offence was gay sex, described as lavat within Muslim political and correctional theory. Shariah law and its applicability are a matter of keen debate within Islam itself. Unfortunately, Brunei's version appears somewhat hardline. As well as ordaining the death penalty for lesbian and gay sex, it also does so for straight infidelity and violence against women, although these will be brought in over a three year period. Brunei's Shariah law variant also requires fines and imprisonment for theft, extramarital sex, false claims of extramarital sex, causing physical injury, alcohol consumption and conversion from Islam. Two years after the introduction of shariah law, amputations for theft will occur. Amnesty International, the Office of the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner and celebrities Ellen de Generes and Stephen Fry have condemned the measure. Given that the Sultan of Brunei owns the Dorchester Hotel Group, the celebrities have suggested boycotting it. Other suggestions include similar boycotts of Royal Brunei Airlines. As yet, New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully has remained silent about developments in Brunei. Recommended: Breaking the Silence; Human Rights Violations Based on Sexual Orientation: London: Amnesty International: 1997. Crimes of Hate, Conspiracy of Silence; Torture and Ill-Treatment based on Sexual Identity: London: Amnesty International: 2001. Brian Whitaker: Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East: London: Saqi: 2006. Tim Lindsey and Kerstin Steiner: Islam, Law and the State in South East Asia: Volume 2: Malaysia and Brunei: London: IB Tauris: 2011. E.C.Paul: Obstacles to Democratisation in South East Asia: A Study of the Nation-State, Regional and Global Order: Basingstoke: Palgrave-Macmillan: 2010. N.J.Funston: Government and Politics in South East Asia: London: Zed Books/Palgrave Macmillan: 2001. Peter Poole: Politics and Society in Southeast Asia: Jefferson: MacFarland and Co: 2009. Politics and religion commentator Craig Young - 8th May 2014    
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