The Hipocrisy of Brunei’s Sharia Law

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

In the Sultanate of Brunei, everyone has national health care. Everyone is guaranteed an education. Fifty percent of the population works for the government, so they are guaranteed a regular job, and a life pension. The poor are provided free housing, so there are no homeless. The Sultan imports so many luxuries as well as basics that no one in Brunei goes without furnishings for their homes or food on their tables. There is public transport within the capital Bandar Seri Begawan (or BSB for short), and all Bruneian citizens have their own private cars. The Sultan has had amusement parks built for the ordinary people, and all of the oil, natural gas, and “green” products developed in Brunei guarantee that the country’s wealth will not run out anytime soon.

The things that Bruneians do not have are freedom of the press, freedom of speech or peaceful assembly, no right to hold hands in public, no freedom to consume alcohol (and for Muslims, no right to consume foods that are not “halal”), and certainly no right to criticize the government or the Sultan. Bruneians lived with these conditions for decades, and this status quo suited both the ordinary Bruneians and the government. But now the Sultan has introduced Sharia Law—one of the harshest and most brutal penal codes on earth. Under Sharia Law, women cannot testify in a sharia court against her husband, hands and limbs of those accused of thievery can be cut off, those accused of adultery or homosexuality are to be stoned to death, and there will be flogging for offenses such as abortion and alcohol consumption.

I have written previously about how horrible Sharia Law is, and that I believe the Sultan has gone off the deep end. I am not the only one who now thinks this. The Beverly Hills City Council voted on a resolution calling on the Sultan to sell the Beverly Hills Hotel he owns, and many noted celebrities will no longer stay at any of the hotel chains owned by the Sultan. This I consider a just response for introducing a law code that more belongs to the 11th Century than the 21st Century. Even the United Nations has expressed concern about the introduction of Sharia Law in Brunei, and for the first time a growing number of Bruneians (albeit anonymously via the Internet) have expressed serious reservations about the introduction of Sharia Law. I cannot blame them.

I certainly have nothing against Islam or Muslims, and I most certainly do not want any discrimination against Muslims or desecration or destruction of mosques. All Muslims, like all Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and other religions should have the right to practice what they believe in and have full rights under the law. Sharia Law will not guarantee this. It will just as much discriminate against Muslims as well as against every other religion in Brunei. No matter what gifts the Sultan may give to his people, if this does not include freedom of worship, freedom of the press, speech or peaceful assembly, then all the other things have little meaning. Worse, what the Sultan gives he can also take away. Yes, I live in a country where we have poverty, millions of homeless, few protections from becoming destitute, and no guarantee of work and making a living. These things the U.S. government MUST address. But at least the U.S. Constitution does guarantee me the freedom of expression, free speech, freedom of the press, and the right of peaceful assembly and the right to seek redress for grievances. These things I do not take lightly.

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