Brunei, the southeast Asian kingdom, have announced that their controversial anti-gay and anti-adultery law will come into effect next week. Adultery and homosexuality will be punishable by stoning to death as strict Sharia penal codes come into force. This is not a sudden decision to legislate a medieval practice this issue has dominated international conversations concerning Brunei for the past 4 years.
International human-rights institutions have heavily condemned the imminent law which previously had delayed its implementation into official legislation. Although the pressure to drop the barbaric punishment has not subsisted, the Sultan of Brunei will not back down from governing his country in accordance with their extreme Islamic beliefs.
The Sultan is under no illusion that the majority of the world heavily condemns this penal code and “does not expect other people to accept and agree with it, but that it would suffice if they just respect the nation in the same way that it also respects them,” as noted on the government website. This seems like a tall ask for countries that have made sizeable leaps in the advancement of gay rights and acceptance of 21st relationships in the last half-century.
“The international community must urgently condemn Brunei’s move to put these cruel penalties into practice,” said Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Amnesty’s Brunei Researcher. “To legalise such cruel and inhuman penalties is appalling of itself. Some of the potential ‘offences’ should not even be deemed crimes at all, including consensual sex between adults of the same gender,” she added.
Outside of the human-rights sphere, celebrities including George Clooney and Elton John have called for the boycotting of the Sultan’s international assets. This list includes but is not limited to; The Dorchester (London), 45 Park Lane (London), The Beverly Hills Hotel (LA), Hotel Bel-Air (LA), and Le Meurice (Paris).
Brunei is not shy from controversy. Recently, a civil servant was fined $1000 Bruneian dollars under the Syariah Penal Code Order for cross-dressing, showing that Bruneian society seems to associate homosexuality with effeminate men. This highlights the misinformed connection Bruneian’s make between homosexuality and femininity. The reasoning behind Brunei’s stance on these matters is that acts such as homosexuality and non-masculine behaviour are tarnishing the model, modern, and moral image of Islam.
Homosexuals and adulterers are not the only persecuted minorities in Brunei. Christians, who make up 10% of the country’s population, are also subject to discrimination. The import of Bibles and the public celebration of Christmas are banned and the teaching of non-Muslim religions in schools is prohibited. At least the Sultan remains consistent in his dislike of individuals freely expressing their love, whether that be for their same-sex partner or their God.
From an outsider’s perspective, it is rather bizarre that the Sultan and the Bruneian government wish to suppress worshipping the God of Abraham since that is also their God. If it did not result in such abhorrent persecution it would almost be rather amusing to witness Muslims, Christians and Jews restricting each other’s freedom when they are all, in essence, plagiarism of one another. Fortunately for homosexuals, countries in which the latter of the two religions are predominate generally means they are afforded equal legal rights.
Islam was once predominantly known for its golden-age of cultural, economic and scientific flourishing. But in recent times, it is better known for its continued and relentless persecution of minorities and countless human rights abuses. Brunei is not a medieval trend-setter but instead just one of many Islamic literalist nations that are comfortable with a systematic betrayal of what westerners would call personal liberty.
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