As unlikely as it looked that any of the United States would implement Sharia law (in spite of people who believed it possible), other nations seem more willing.
The AFP reports the tiny nation of Brunei, noted as the third wealthiest Muslim nation in the world for its rich oil and gas exports, has just seen its equally-wealthy monarch, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, officially introduce the Sharia Penal Code that his lawmakers have been designing. It will “come into force six months hereafter and in phases,” he said in a conference.
Here is where Brunei is on a map, in relation to Malaysia:
“By the grace of Allah, Brunei Darusallam, as a blessed nation, has never sought permission from [anyone] when we chose Islam as our national religion,” the Sultan continued. “Similarly, we do not ask anyone from anywhere to implement our Sharia Penal Code for us, because the code is a ‘special guidance’ from Allah to us all.”
Sharia Criminal Law, which stringently applies only to Muslim religious adherents, can include punishments from stoning, amputation, and flogging for crimes such as abortion and drinking alcohol. Brunei’s population consists of roughly 70 percent Malaysian Muslims, and a 15 percent non-Muslim ethnic Chinese minority.
Human rights advocates are lampooning Brunei’s decision. The Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said “Brunei is showing its feudal characteristics as an 18th-century state rather than an important member of a regional Southeast Asian economic and social consensus in the 21st century.” He focused on Brunei’s economic position because the country’s per-capita income is higher than every other Southeast Asian nation except for Singapore.
Sultan Hassanal rules as an absolute monarch from a dynasty that has controlled Brunei for over 600 years. He first called for Sharia implementations in 1996, and Brunei’s laws are considered conservative when compared to Malaysia and Indonesia; for example, in Brunei, it is illegal to buy, sell, or consume alcohol publicly.
Brunei will not overwrite its current law, but rather amend the entire legal code to be “Sharia-compliant.” Brunei’s resident top Islamic scholar, Mufti Awang Abdul Aziz, said regarding the implementation that “the Sharia criminal law is very neat, very cautious and its conditions are very tight. There must four witnesses, and all four must be just. This is different from civil court, which accepts whoever as a witness, including children and sinners.”
[Main image via this Brunei Times YouTube video]