Madness in Brunei

By: Daniel Nardini

                      Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary I visited this country a long time ago. At the time, it was a conservative Muslim sultanate that had strict rules for Muslims, but was not noted for brutality. The small country, with a population of only 250,000 people, also has a Chinese minority and a very small western expat community. The ruler of the Sultanate of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, was noted for being an enlightened person. The Bruneian monarchy provides the people with generous free housing for the poor, an excellent and yet free medical care system, and no taxes. Unemployment is virtually unknown, and poverty is almost unknown as well. The country is noted for its oil and natural gas as well as its bio-energy products.
                        But there is one dark side to this seeming paradise. There is no freedom of speech and virtually no freedom of the press. Worse, the sultan is now introducing a more Saudi Arabian-type of fundamentalist Islam on his people. To give some examples, adultery will now be punished with death by stoning, theft will be punished by cutting off the hands, arms and legs of thieves, and there will be whipping for offenses ranging from abortion to consumption of alcohol among Muslims. According to the Bruneian government, these shariah laws will apply to Muslims only.
                            I am not so convinced of that. These laws are brutal in my view even to Muslims, and I have to ask why such draconian laws are being introduced now when the incidents of theft is next to non-existent, when alcohol consumption is next to non-existent (even among the Chinese and western communities in Brunei), and punishing adultery with the death penalty is ludicrous. The death penalty should only be used for capital crimes like murder (also intentional homicide, rape, arson that causes the murder of the innocent, and terrorism).
                          What makes all of this spooky is that all Muslims will be tried in shariah (religious) courts—where only testimony and hearsay is used, and no evidence is presented. While non-Muslims are said to be excused from shariah courts, I have to wonder how long this will be true. I should point out that all businesses, whether they are Muslim or not, must be shut down on Friday for religious prayers for Muslims. What I find scary in all this is that Brunei is becoming a part of a greater extremist trend towards fundamental Islam. I now have to wonder how far this trend will go in the Muslim world?!

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