Brunei sultan pushes ahead with Islamic law

Brunei sultan pushes ahead with Islamic law

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BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei: The sultan of oil-rich Brunei announced that Islamic criminal punishments would be introduced Thursday.
“I declare that tomorrow, Thursday, will see the enforcement of Shariah law phase one, to be followed by the other phases,” the monarch said in a royal decree Wednesday.

But 67-year-old Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah — one of the world’s wealthiest men — forged ahead, dismissing “theories” that the penal code was unjust. The Shariah law is indeed fair, said the sultan.
The monarch’s wealth — estimated three years ago at $20 billion by Forbes magazine — has become legendary with reports of a vast collection of luxury vehicles and huge, gold-bedecked palaces.
Bruneians enjoy among the highest standards of living in Asia due to the country’s energy wealth, with education, medicine and other social services heavily subsidised.

The sultan first proposed the Shariah penal code in 1990s, and in recent years has increasingly warned of rising crime and pernicious outside influences such as the Internet. He has called Islam a “firewall” against globalization. He announced the implementation plans in October.
Brunei is the first country in East or Southeast Asia to introduce a Shariah penal code on a national level. Situated on Borneo island, which it shares with Malaysia and Indonesia, the small state already banned the sale of alcohol.
Muslim ethnic Malays, who make up about 70 percent of the population, are broadly supportive of the move.
The initial phase beginning Thursday introduces fines or jail terms for offenses ranging from indecent behavior, failure to attend Friday prayers, and out-of-wedlock pregnancies.

A second phase covering crimes such as theft and robbery is to start later this year, involving more stringent penalties such as severing of limbs and flogging. Late next year, punishments such as death by stoning for offenses including sodomy and adultery will be introduced.
Brunei’s legal system currently features civil courts along with Shariah-compliant chambers handling non-criminal issues such as marital and inheritance cases.