I shouldn’t have been surprised at the number of first-time commenters who came out of the woodwork to defend the indefensible: the Sultan of Brunei’s new imposition of sharia law on his country, including mandatory attendance at Friday prayers, penalties of amputation and stoning for sodomy or adultery, and so on. Such is the number of Islamic apologists, and they’re not all Muslims, either.
I present a few select comments from this week’s first-time commenters on my post, “Brunei introduces draconian sharia law.” There are a variety of tactics these folks adopted when trying to defend this barbaric practice:
1. Argue that sharia law applies only to the guilty, so it’s okay.
From reader “IqraIslamQA”:
draconian for criminals not for common people http://iqraislamqa.wordpress.com/
Yeah, that totally makes it okay! Why not break them on the wheel, too?
2. It’s not sharia law that mandates these punishments, and besides, the British did it, too.
From reader “Marc Claess”:
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” http://www.corpun.com/singfeat.html)As far as I know, her majesty’s government has never made any serious attempt to redress this horrofic [sic] legacy, let alone to apoligise for it. If the British government really ment [sic] 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!
At least this comment is fairly rational. I’ll agree that flogging is not unique to Islam (but I’ll add that Islam is the state religion of Malaysia). Nevertheless, these sharia punishments are new to Brunei and are explicitly noted as mandated by newly-adopted sharia law. It’s religion, Jack. I’m sure the Inquisition got many of its horrible punishments from earlier sources, too, but applied them in the name of Catholicism.
Notice how Mr. Claess subtly shifts the blame for what’s about to happen in Brunei from the Sultan himself to the British. Frankly, I’m tired of this argument. Of course earlier regimes and other countries did bad things as well, but that doesn’t excuse Brunei from its proposed and present course of amputations and stoning—explicitly introduced as part of Islamic law. Nor do I think that all of us must apologize for all the transgressions of our ancestors or our country before criticizing injustice and cruelty in the here and now.
3. Tu quoque: some people approve of inhumane punishment in the U.S.
From reader Phil:
This is terrible. But if you’ve read the bushels of comments (probably not the best use of one’s time) on the botched execution in Oklahoma you say many to the effect that the guy being executed deserved the extra agony and fear–and, indeed, much much worse. Got to wonder if there aren’t a fair number of pretty barbaric people here too.
Indeed, those few readers who said the executed guy in Oklahoma deserved the pain he got are, in my mind, reprehensible. But there are such people everywhere, and how on earth does that bear on the immorality of Brunei? Note the three words “it is terrible” balanced against the rest of the post, which uses a lot more words to diss the “barbarism” of readers.
4. You can’t judge Brunei unless you’ve lived there.
From reader “I’d rather not” (my emphasis):
Look, guys, I have to say, that all this hype about the Sultan is very unsettling. I mean, there is talk within the Western community about the rights of the citizens of Brunei and in fact, any resident living here, is being violated by the introduction of the Shariah Law. The equality of women within Brunei is also being brought into question, no? But, and I say this with the utmost confidence, I am willing to bet that up until recently, none of you have ever even heard of Brunei. None of you have lived here or even been here, and therefore you have very little understanding of how it is life works here.
There seems to be the common misconception that Bruneians are weak, uneducated and ignorant of the outside world, and are being oppressed by its’ ruling bodies.
This is untrue.
Yes, for a relatively small population, Brunei is incredibly wealthy, and I assure you that the wealth is not being blown off on lavish and unnecessary expenses. Name me a country which is as generous as Brunei can be, wherein every citizen is given the right to a home supplied with electricity and clean running water, with no strings attached and all of the bills generated by these taken care of? Wherein, each citizen, and expat alike, is given free healthcare by specialist health centres and access to health facilities without the common-caveat found in other countries that is the taxation system? The disadvantaged are taken care of, with donations made as they are needed, and with a tolerant attitude taken towards members of the LGBT community, compared to countries like the UK and the US wherein they are marginalised and made to feel like social pariahs. I sat next to a lady who was not born a lady at my cousin’s wedding, and she was very happy to be there.
The Shariah Law does not change this, and if you are to believe otherwise, then you are wrong, for you have been duly misinformed by whatever media outlet you have heard about this from.
Now, at the mention of the word “Shariah”, there seems to be some sort of allergic reaction on the part of the Western community. Images of public humiliation and harsh penalties seem to be the only things people ever think about, and it is fascinating that people should immediately associate Brunei with events that have happened in the Middle East. This is appalling; it is the equivalent of America adopting a set of doctrines, for example, democracy, and then being held liable for the mistakes other nations who have adopted the same mindset, have made.
To a degree, it is even insulting that Brunei is immediately painted in the light as being some sort of oppressive, totalitarian state under tyrannical rule. Yet again, until any of you have actually travelled to Brunei and have stayed there for a substantive period of time, and by that I mean at least a month, you have very little right to make such uncalled for accusations- accusations of which, nonetheless, you have based on what you have been fed by the media and general public opinion.
Ironically, the comments being aimed at Brunei are incredibly one-sided and biased towards Western interpretations, with very little or no regard being held for the other side of the story- you are literally behaving like the tyrannical and dictator-like characters you describe. When has Brunei described itself as an “Islamic Republic?” Yet another name being assigned by bigots who believe that Brunei is “draconian” ‘untermenschen’.
Yes, all of this is coming from a Bruneian, and you might be slightly surprised to see that my English isn’t full of the grammatical fallacies of my compatriots, but is this not evidence of the fact that we are not uneducated, and that we do have an understanding of the world around us, and that we are not spineless lifeforms incapable of being offended, and having opinions? I will have you know, that I was born here, and have lived here for nearly twenty years. I am UK educated, and have friends from many nations. Even my expat friends who have only been living here for a year are shocked at the response from their Western counterparts, and have too been open advocates for the understanding of the enactment of the Shariah Law in this country. There has not been a mass exodus of the foreign workforces, and even with those who have elected to have and raise children here are indifferent to any of these changes.
I speak for all of us, when I say that you do not know nearly as much as you think you do.
Where does one begin with this? The first thing is to say that you don’t have to live in a place to decry horrible practices there. Do we have to live in Nigeria for a month before you can criticize the abduction of 200 schoolgirls? Second, the new laws, by every account I’ve read, and in many venues, do indeed mandate the punishments I’ve mentioned. Third, sharia law is misogynistic, brutal, and unfair. There is nothing, so far as I can see, to be said in its favor.
What we have here is a butthurt resident of Brunei who will defend the indefensible by proclaiming it as “misunderstood by the West.” Sorry, but until the Sultan says, “Wait, guys—I didn’t say that!”, I’ll continue to argue that the Sultan is a monster and the law he’s imposed is draconian and horrible for that society, even if the country is well off financially.
5. Allahu akbar. Then there were comments from addled individuals who actually think that this kind of law is good, even as specified. This is from reader Tanveer Rauf, who has her own website called “Just Bliss”, (linked to in the post). She’s apparently a teacher in Pakistan.
I strongly agree and pleased that Brunei is going to follow the SHARIA AND its LAWS. REWARDS AND PUNISHMENTS GO SIDE BY SIDE TO MAKE A BEARABLE AND JUST SYSTEM FOR ONE AND ALL
There is no reasoning with such folks. They don’t belong in civilized society.
Here’s Rauf’s self-description on the “About moi” page:
Children’s books about their moral character? What are the next ones, Khadeeja Gets Stoned and Amir Loses His Arm?
I won’t put up the many creationist comments I got this week, as well as remarks from those who had violent objections to the statue of Satan proposed for the Oklahoma Capitol grounds.