Brunei has rejected growing global criticism of its implementation of Islamic laws that allow death by stoning for adultery and homosexuality.
The Muslim-majority East Asia state with a population of around 400,000, will implement the Sharia laws from April 3. They seek to punish anyone found guilty by a sharia court of sodomy, adultery, and rape with the death penalty, including by stoning. Those found guilty of theft may face amputation of a limb.
The penalties, which also apply to children, are outlined in new sections under Brunei’s Sharia Penal Code. The legal changes were announced in a discreet notice on the attorney general’s website, as Breitbart News reported.
Brunei first announced the measures in 2013, but implementation has been delayed as officials worked out the practical details, and in the face of opposition by rights groups. Some aspects of the laws will apply to non-Muslims.
The Prime Minister’s office said in a statement on Saturday that it still plans to proceed with the new legislation:
The (Sharia) law, apart from criminalising and deterring acts that are against the teachings of Islam, also aims to educate, respect and protect the legitimate rights of all individuals, society or nationality of any faiths and race.
The abolsolute monarchy of Brunei is one of the most developed nations in East Asia, deriving much of its wealth from oil. Its healthcare, education system and public services are heavily subsidised, yet it retains an absolute monarchy with no sign of democratic reform for the foreseeable future.
It is situated on the island of Borneo, which it shares with Malaysia and Indonesia.
Although the new Sharia code is believed to be popular among the Muslim ethnic Malays who make up 70 percent of the country’s population, the laws will also apply to non-Muslims. Around one-third of Brunei’s residents are non-Muslim, including substantial Buddhist and Christian communities.
Oppositon to the plan has been wide, with actor George Clooney calling for a boycott of hotels in Brunei, as well as hotels owned by companies based in the country.
The Beverly Hills Hotel and the Hotel Bel-Air are two parts of the Dorchester Collection, owned by a wing of the Brunei government referred to as the Brunei Investment Agency. They own nine high-end hotels worldwide. The Sultan himself has an estimated net worth of $20billion.
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.
In 2015 the Sultan banned the celebration of Christmas in any form, warning residents of his country that if they plan on celebrating the Christian festival, they could face up to five years in jail.
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