“Concern as Brunei brings in system of Islamic law with punishments that include the dismemberment of limbs and stoning to death,” by Andrew Buncombe in the Independent, March 29:
…The Sultan of Brunei, one of the world’s wealthiest rulers and a close ally of Britain, will this week oversee his country’s transition to a system of Islamic law with punishments that include flogging, the dismemberment of limbs and stoning to death.
The 67-year-old absolute monarch declared last year that he wanted to introduce a full sharia system in his oil-rich nation and warned critics who took to social media sites to complain that they could be prosecuted using the new laws.
…The Sultan of Brunei says he wants to set up a ‘firewall’ against globalisation. Brunei is two-thirds Muslim and has long implemented some sharia, mainly for civil matters such as marriage. But last year the Sultan, who is said to be worth £24bn and lives in a 1,788-room palace, announced a plan to introduce full Islamic law.
Offences include insulting the Prophet Mohamed, drinking alcohol, getting pregnant outside of marriage and “sodomy”. The latter will be punishable by stoning.
“It is because of our need that Allah the Almighty, in all his generosity, has created laws for us, so that we can utilise them to obtain justice,” the Sultan said at the time.
It is unclear precisely what is motivating the Sultan, who also serves as the country’s prime minister and assumed the throne in 1967. But in a speech in February to mark the country’s National Day holiday, he claimed the system of an absolute Islamic monarch acted as a “strong and effective firewall” against the challenges of globalisation. He referred specifically to the internet.
…Father Robert Leong, a Catholic priest in Brunei, said there were concerns that baptisms of newborn babies could breach the new rules, which prohibit the “propagation of religion other than Islam to a Muslim or a person having no religion”. He said that the law was being introduced in three phases, with the harshest punishments, including the death penalty, being phased in over two years from Tuesday. “There will be no baptisms. There is not a lot we can do about it. We will have to wait and see what happens,” he said…
What is sharia?
Sharia is the Islamic legal system that derives from the Koran, the example of the life of the Prophet Mohamed and “fatwas”, which are the rulings of Islamic scholars. Different schools of thought exist, resulting in different interpretations.
Yes, but the various interpretations agree on about 75% of all rulings. The differences between the various schools of jurisprudence are not very large.
What does it cover?
While Western law confines itself predominantly to crime and civil matters, sharia is a guide to help Muslims understand how they should lead every aspect of their lives. This ranges from deciding whether to enter a bar with someone wanting to drink alcohol to the punishments for theft or for criticising the Koran. Its treatment of women is particularly controversial. Judgements have banned the holding of property once married, enabled beatings for insubordination, and required a husband’s consent to divorce.
Where is it used?
Mauritania, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Maldives, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Nigeria all apply sharia. Some states, including UAE, Jordan and Egypt, use some form of sharia in their judicial system.