Brunei introduces draconian sharia law

May 10, 2014 • 6:53 am

Brunei, a small country (about 6000 square km) on the north coast of Borneo, is the fifth richest country in the world—from oil, of course. It’s also an “Islamic republic,” and up to now hasn’t been nearly as oppressive as Muslim countries in the Middle East about issues like women’s rights.

That’s just changed, for the imposition of new sharia-based laws, drawn up last fall, has just begun. According to articles in the April 30 Guardian and the May 1 Los Angeles Times, the Islamic hammer is about to come down on Brunei’s residents. From the Guardian: 

The sultan of oil-rich Brunei has announced the introduction of tough Islamic criminal punishments, pushing ahead with plans that have sparked international condemnation and rare domestic criticism of the fabulously wealthy ruler.

“With faith and gratitude to Allah the almighty, I declare that tomorrow, Thursday 1 May 2014, will see the enforcement of sharia law phase one, to be followed by the other phases,” the absolute monarch said in a royal decree on Wednesday.

Plans for the sharia penalties – which will eventually include flogging, severing of limbs and death by stoning – triggered condemnation on social media sites in the tiny sultanate earlier this year.

Confusion has swirled around implementation of the punishments following the unexplained postponement of an expected 22 April start date that raised questions over whether the Muslim monarch was hesitating.

But 67-year-old Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah – one of the world’s wealthiest men – said in his decree that the move was “a must” under Islam, dismissing “never-ending theories” that sharia punishments were cruel in comments clearly aimed at detractors.

“Theory states that Allah’s law is cruel and unfair but Allah himself has said that his law is indeed fair,” he said.

That about sums up the irrationality of Islam (and other faiths as well): Allah said it; I believe it; that settles it.

It’s stunning to me that amputation of limbs and, especially, death by stoning, are punishments that people can implement in the 21st century. Death by stoning is a horrible way to go, for Islamic law prescribes that the stones be large enough to cause injury but not large enough to cause instant death. In other words, you slowly get battered to death. I’ve watched some incidents of stoning on the Internet (you can find them if you look hard enough, but believe me, you’ll get ill), and it’s absolutely horrible.

And what are the crimes that merit stoning? Nothing as nasty as just murder (my emphasis):

The initial phase beginning on Thursday introduces fines or jail terms for offences ranging from indecent behaviour, failure to attend Friday prayers, and out-of-wedlock pregnancies.

A second phase covering crimes such as theft and robbery is to be implemented later this year, involving more stringent penalties such as severing of limbs and flogging.

Late next year, punishments such as death by stoning for offences including sodomy and adultery will be introduced.

Sodomy? Adultery? And it doesn’t matter if you’re Muslim or not; you’ll get stoned if you’re a practicing gay even if you’re a Christian or an atheist gay. From the L.A. Times:

The law applies to those of all religions in the sultanate, where Muslim Malays constitute a 70% majority of the country’s 400,000 citizens, the news agency reported. Non-Muslim Chinese account for about 15% of Brunei’s population.

Residents of Los Angeles have been picketing the Beverly Hills Hotel, which is owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, in turn the property of the Sultan of Brunei. So far the hotel management has just shrugged its shoulders.

The irony of all this is that Brunei is considered a “developed country” by the United Nations. Wrong. It’s a medievally barbaric country.

What this shows is two things: economic development doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with moral enlightenment, and that Islamic malfeasance isn’t limited to the Middle East.  So much for those who say it is. What we’re in line for is a bunch of new floggings, stonings, and amputations—none of which would occur without religion.

h/t: Steve

80 thoughts on “Brunei introduces draconian sharia law

  1. What really makes one shudder with disgust is that this sadistic, deluded old bastard probably has high sanctimonious admiration for himself as virtuous for having introduced horrific sufferings to his people.

    1. I think ‘old’ is the keyword here. It seems he wants to earn brownie points with Allah before he kicks the bucket.

      1. Because he thinks he’s able to outsmart Allah because Allah can’t know what all the Sultan’s been up to.

        He’s right that Allah knows nothing, of course.

          1. That should be Jon Snow.

            Sorry, I’m not getting this either. Last I heard, Jon Snow was a pretty decent UK TV journalist.

          2. Ah. Thanks. I don’t watch TV much. And it’s been a while since I’ve been much engaged in heroic fantasy as a literary genre, alas.

  2. “But for the U.S., a far more abhorrent connection with the sultan than a few hotels is the trade pact with Brunei (and other Pacific nations), the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which President Obama has been doggedly pursuing since 2009. As noted by Curtis Ellis of the American Jobs Alliance, “on the very day Brunei was phasing in Sharia law, Obama’s chief trade negotiator Michael Froman was on Capitol Hill selling the TransPacific Partnership, which would bind the U.S. to Brunei and give the Islamic Sultanate special economic privileges.”

    “Labor unions and others are concerned that the pact would harm American workers and exempt foreign companies and governments from environmental standards and allow them to bypass American courts. Nobel prize-wining economist Joseph Stiglitz warns of a “real risk it will benefit the wealthiest sliver of the American and global elite at the expense of everyone else.”

    “Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) has expressed concern over the secrecy surrounding the trade agreement, which we only know anything about via leaked documents that have shown how corporations and governments will be able to overrule laws. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other groups have warned about the TPP giving privileges not just to Brunei but to Malaysia, which also has vicious laws criminalizing homosexuality, and Vietnam, which has been accused of human rights abuses. Both countries are also among the 12 seeking inclusion in the pact, including New Zealand, Japan and Australia.”

    1. As a Kiwi it disgusts me that our government is supportive of the TPP. I am fighting apathy in our country as hard as I can – but not easy from Brazil. I’m wondering how we unite to fight the TPP – anyone know?


        There are a number of other opponents available online, also.

        We can’t have too many activists. It is not only that signing on to TPP means alignment with all manner of unsavory regimes — immoral regimes, if you like.

        TPP also, and at least equally importantly, diminishes the human value and status of all but privileged elites in every respect imaginable.

    1. offences including sodomy and adultery being a living victim of rape will be introduced.


      FTFY (It’s a “that”, not an “it”, on Slashdot ; and in strong typeface ; I don’t know if I got the correct attribute for strike-through typeface.)
      The logic goes like this : rape happens because modest men are incapable of resisting the lustful thoughts provoked by immodestly-dressed women ; a modest women who accidentally (a gust of wind, a passing temporarily-less-than-perfectly modest man) brings their irresistible sexual allure to the attention of passing innocent normally-modest men, will fight to the death to prevent themselves being raped. Therefore, if you are alive after being raped, then you must have been inciting the rape to occur. Which is adultery. Because you’re either unmarried (and at your father’s disposal) or married (and at your husband’s disposal).
      There can be no living rape victims who weren’t actually committing adultery.
      Therefore, surviving rape is a capital crime.
      There is a get-out clause : if there are four adult male witnesses who each saw the actual act of penetration AND who agree that you were trying to fight back but failed to be killed in the process, then you may be spared the death penalty.
      These laws will, of course, only apply to the population of Brunei and anyone who visits or lives there. Brunei people who live or visit abroad will be exempt. Well, if they weren’t important gambling dens and prostitution cat-houses all over the world would go out of business. At least, if 1/3 of the stories that I hear about where Brunei’s oil money gets spent are true.

  3. Entirely available on youtube: at or likely, too, your local public library ( including, there, through interlibrary loan ). 116 minutes.


  4. The thing that strikes me is the Sultan’s statement that “Theory states that Allah’s law is cruel and unfair but Allah himself has said that his law is indeed fair”. In other words, we all feel these punishments are cruel but those feelings are wrong because a deity says they are wrong. Therefore, the punishments are good. Cognitive dissonance gone!

    Religion has to be one of the most evil things on earth.

      1. William Lane Craig has to be one of the most evil things on earth?

        … oh, wait, he is.

    1. I wonder what someone like William Lane Craig would say about this. After all, this is precisely what his Divine Command Theory is that he’s trotted out against Sam Harris and others in debates.

      If God commands it, it is good. So, if this supposed command of God’s isn’t good, by what method do we determine who really didn’t get the command from God? Someone is wrong here. Or, we could go back to the literal interpretation of the holy books to settle it, because all this kind of vile retributive punishment does appear in the Bible too…

      1. If God commands it, it is good. So, if this supposed command of God’s isn’t good, by what method do we determine who really didn’t get the command from God? Someone is wrong here.

        I think that what you’re expressing here is the PROOF that the only OBJECTIVE MORALITY is the one we derive from GODD!!!1!!! Otherwise, mere ignorant mortals might, in their revolting atheism, look at practices like female circumcision and the killing of rape victims by stoning and say they’re disgusting and the people who’re carrying them out even more so. Because, let us remember, the ojnly true morality comes from God.

        It’s just a real pain in the ass that God'[s so lousy at expressing his wishes. He says things like “Thou shalt not kill” and what he really means is you should stone people to death, drop white phosphorus on children, burn eccentric old ladies at the stake, and so on. Maybe if God could get a quick course in communication from Chris Mooney . . .

        I’m surprised, by the way, that some of the defenders of judicial murder on JC’s past two posts on the subject haven’t popped up here. After all, since they think killing people is all hunky-dory and just the way Mary Poppins would wish it, they must be delighted by its new manifestation in Brunei.

      2. Based on what I’ve read and seen of him, I think Craig would (purposely?) miss the point of the Euthyphro dilemma and just dismiss the sultan’s actions as irrelevant to the quest for objective morality; he might even claim the sultan’s actions as evidence that Islam is a false religion, because, you know, the True God™ wouldn’t command such barbarity. (Well, he used to, but he wouldn’t these days – changing times and such, plus the anger management courses.)

        Craig would either be unaware or hope no one else notices that he’s appealing to an extra-godular morality in making those points.

        I’ve seen him miss the point of the Euthyphro dilemma like that in debates.

        1. Well, yes, he could weasel out of it by saying God wouldn’t command such a thing. But how precisely do we demonstrate that God wouldn’t command such a thing? He’s already on record defending the slaughter of the Canaanites. So, I don’t think it’s a stretch to think Allah might support a country implementing Maiming Monday, Flogging Friday, and Stoning Sunday.

          Maybe throw in some stuff from the George Carlin bit too, imagine the hard right wingers from the world’s two major religions uniting for a single cause! Of course, there may be some internal conflict as to whether they should carry out the punishments on Friday vs. Sunday, but I have faith they can work it out in the end.
          Death Penalty

      1. No ; different capitalist pigs.
        Saudi Arabia is on the Arabian Peninsula, and not even the eastern-most bit of it. To get from Saudi to Brunei you’d fly over Oman, the Arabian Sea, India, the Andaman Sea, Thailand, Cambodia, possibly Laos, the south China Sea (or parts thereof), and only then hit Sarawak, the main island of the Indonesian archipelago ; Brunei is a small separate state on the NW side of Sarawak.
        The closest relationship between the Sultan of Brunei and the Saudi Sheikhs is in the mouths of the various western oil executives who have been negotiating (in the “swallowing” sense) with them for decades.

        1. Well, thanks for the geography lesson but I assure you it wasn’t really necessary. I could have told you that as a first grader (yeah, I was a strange kid 😉 ).

          What I was hinting at was the hypocrisy of the ruling elite of an other hyper-religious Islamic country.

          1. Nasty little bunch of hypocrites the lot of them. All of those (Persian) Gulf states. you could probably get a fag paper between them in terms of which is nastier, but it’d better be a dry paper.

          1. Funny – peculiar
            Funny – ha ha.
            Aren’t despotic monarchies despicable?

    1. You can hear her talking about this on an old episode 234 of the Marc Maron podcast. Its worth a listen.

  5. How sad for the sultan. Can’t you all see that he is just another unfortunate fellow whose sensus divinitatis is a little bit broken.

    1. Indeed. I think he should meet with Alvin Plantinga to recalibrate his sensus divinitatis.
      Maybe we can also convince good old Alvin to move to a vault in Sèvres. 😉

      1. Platinga could surely straighten him out. I mean, it isn’t like he’s some horrible atheist.

  6. hear, hear. There is so much wealth in Brunei’s tyrant’s hands, I dont suppose divestments etc would matter at all?

  7. “Fines or jail terms for failure to attend Friday prayers…” since all the other laws are supposed to apply to every resident, I guess this means that every non-Muslim resident goes to jail (or has to pay the fine)

    1. Yes to either.
      It has been frequent practice in Islamic cultures to tolerate the presence of people of other faiths (e,g, Jews and Christians in Al Andalus, southern Spain), but to either tax them differently, of impose fines on them for not being Muslims. It’s logically equivalent to fining a black man for not reflecting 90% of incident sunshine, or fining a woman for not having a penis. Very popular.
      What? you are one of those people who believe that all people deserve equal treatment under the law? That might be the case in your country, mate, but it’s not the case there, and under “cultural relativism,” that’s their belief and they’ve got the right to hold it and act on it.

      1. Yep, I’m one of those deluded people. And I don’t know of a single country where everyone is treated absolutely equally, except, possibly, North Korea.

        1. North Korea? You have to be kidding. NK is one of the most rigidly stratified societies on Earth, with everyone in the entire population assigned to one of four (I think) classes defined according to supposed political reliability. From what I’ve read, the categories are hereditary, no-one is allowed to know which group they’re in, and your classification pretty much defines your entire career prospects and lifetime opportunities. If you’re at the bottom of the ladder, that’s where you and your descendants will stay. And needless to say, the very concept of equality under the law is completely meaningless in a totalitarian hellhole like NK.

          But hell, you don’t even have to delve that far into their system. Just look at Kim Jong-Un’s waistline compared to that of the average NK peasant and then try to argue that everyone’s treated equally.

          1. “…the very concept of equality under the law is completely meaningless in a totalitarian hellhole like NK…” Well, that’s exactly what I meant, thanks for clarifying it for me – when no one has any inherent rights, and anyone in any class can be jailed or executed for any reason whatsoever, everyone effectively has equal rights – none.

          1. I honestly thought my comment could not be taken as anything other than a joke – I tried to think of a society with zero rights for anyone, and I decided NK would be a perfect example. THAT is where I was wrong, apparently.

          1. That’s the way I read it first, but after the comments from Dave and Jerry, I decided clarification might be needed.

  8. My wife makes ornate hair bows and had a frequent customer from Brunei who would send us photos. Such a wonderful and colorful culture with little girls who like going around with hair bows and wearing Disney apparel mixed with their traditional silken gowns and just generally having personalities of their own.

    All of course headed soon for the black sack and ever descending curtain of fear and oppression. Sad.

  9. “Theory states that Allah’s law is cruel and unfair but Allah himself has said that his law is indeed fair,” he said.

    Man, that’s circular. Par for the course for any religion, I suppose.

  10. I fully agree, except for the last phrase: ” a bunch of new floggings, stonings, and amputations—none of which would occur without religion. ” Without religion? Forget it, at least for caning, which is surely without exaggeration comparable to flogging. Not only Brunei is currently since it independence practising this dreadful judicial torture, but also its great neighbour Malaysia and Malaysia’s own other small neighbouring country Singapore! And these human rights abuses are not due to sharia-law, but to the historic legacy of their former colonial ruler Britain! [ Read this: caning in “British Malaya” ] As far as I know, her majesty’s government has never made any serious attempt to redress this horrofic legacy, let alone to apoligise for it. If the British government really ment seriously about enforcing minimal human rights, it should have expelled these 3 barbaric countries Brunei, Malaysie and Singapore from the socalled BRITISH commonwealth a long time ago. Shame on all these hypocrite British politicians!

  11. Another “benevolent ruler” non-democracy down the drain.

    I know the more offensive stuff is, well, more offensive. But this is sad too:

    failure to attend Friday prayers

    Obligatory prayer by decree of state, or you are the outgroup. Fascism, plain and simple.

  12. the most disgusting fact is the law applies to his people but i doubt the same law is gonna apply to himself or his family or his brother for that matter ? (notorious for his adulterous playboyness)

  13. The Sultan could well be left with a series of dilemmas if his own family don’t men their ways.

    Two members of the Brunei Royal Family were convicted of an $80m fraud. They have yet to pay the fine.

    Prince Jefri, the Sutan’s younger brother was charged by the Brunei government with the embezzlement of $14.8b. In 2000 he agreed to surrender 500 properties, both in Brunei and abroad, more than 2,000 cars, 100 paintings, five boats, and nine aircraft.

    Over a period of 10 years, Prince Jefri spent an average of over $500,000 a day on the essential luxuries befitting his station. This included, it was alleged, flying in women from around the world on order to have sex with them. Prince Jefri has been married since 1970.

  14. Pingback: Law Week Nsw 2014
  15. I would say that this is a perfect example of “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” A big problem with organized religion.

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