In Brunei, relatively high standard of living now comes with death by stoning
Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah announced Tuesday the phased introduction of tough Islamic punishments, including death by stoning, for crimes such as adultery in the monarchy’s latest step towards conservatism. Photo by Dean Kassim/AFP/Getty Images.
The sultan of Brunei announced Tuesday that Sharia law will be added to the oil-rich country’s penal code, but will apply only to Muslims, which make up about two-thirds of the population.
According to a BBC report, the strict Islamic code is expected to introduce stoning to death for adulterers and amputating limbs for theft. Crimes of drinking alcohol or abortion could result in flogging. However, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said judges would be given discretion in their sentencing. The country’s top Islamic scholar said that the Shariah law “guarantees justice for everyone and safeguards their well-being.”
“Let us not just look at the hand-cutting or the stoning or the caning per se, but let us also look at the conditions governing them,” Mufti Awang Abdul Aziz said. “It is not indiscriminate cutting or stoning or caning. There are conditions and there are methods that are just and fair.”
But representatives of Human Rights Watch disagreed: “Brunei is showing its feudal characteristics as an 18th-century state rather than an important member of a regional Southeast Asian economic and social consensus in the 21st century,” and that “respect for basic civil and political rights is near zero in Brunei, said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of HRW.
The Southeast Asian country is rich in oil and natural gas, and according to the IMF, ranks fifth in the world in terms of per capita GDP, following Qatar, Luxembourg, Singapore and Norway. (The U.S. ranks sixth.) It also ranks as having a very high human development score, similar to that of Greece and Cyprus, according to U.N. calculations.