Brunei sultan demands ‘stronger’ Islamic teachings as new anti-LGBT+ laws come into force

04-Apr-2019 Intellasia | The Independent3 | 6:00 AM Print This Post

The sultan of Brunei has said he wants to see “stronger” Islamic teachings in the country as it introduced harsh new Sharia laws on Wednesday that include punishing gay sex with death by stoning.

Amid international outcry, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah who is also the country’s prime minister told an audience at a convention centre that Brunei was a “fair and happy” place.

The small oil-rich nation had said it would complete the roll-out of Sharia laws today to include those crimes that are deemed punishable by amputation or death.

Under the Sharia Criminal Code, which will be applied alongside the former British protectorate’s existing Common Law system, offence including rape, sodomy, adultery, robbery and insulting the Prophet Muhammad could result in a death sentence.

It makes theft punishable by amputation of the hand, and women who receive an abortion could face public flogging.

The laws, described as “draconian” and “inhuman” by the UN’s top human rights official, will mostly apply to the country’s roughly two-thirds majority Muslims. But some including a ban on “encouraging” children to take up any religion other than Islam will apply to non-Muslims as well.

More than 15,000 Britons visit Brunei each year, according to its government, and Hassanal Bolkiah’s regime has made great efforts to promote tourism to the country, which sits surrounded by Malaysian territory on the island of Borneo.

“Anyone who comes to visit this country will have a sweet experience, and enjoy the safe and harmonious environment,” the sultan said on Wednesday, according to the AFP news agency, apparently without referring directly to the new laws.

Meanwhile, the US government joined a swathe of foreign powers in condemning the changes to Brunei’s legal system.

State Department spokesman Robert Palladino urged the country “to ratify and carry out the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which it signed in 2015″.

“Brunei’s decision to carry out Phases Two and Three of the Sharia Penal Code and associated penalties runs counter to its international human rights obligations, including with respect to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” he said.

Germany’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday that its diplomats had protested the laws, appealing to Brunei’s ambassador to “abide by existing international human rights obligations”.

Hassanal Bolkiah holds Germany’s Federal Order of Merit, a distinction bestowed on him in an exchange of honours during a state visit in 1998.

Amid suggestions from German opposition politicians that this honour be revoked over the new anti-LGBT+ laws, the office of president Frank-Walter Steinmeier said it was not possible to rescind awards given in state visits but said the president condemned the “cruel punishments” in question.

The actor George Clooney and singer Sir Elton John have led calls for a boycott on the Brunei Investment Agency, a sovereign wealth fund that owns some of the most famous hotels in the world. They include The Dorchester in London and The Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles.


Category: Regional

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