ABDULMOHSAN ALMUTAIRI WRITES– In April, the world witnessed a tragic blow to the progress of humanitarian efforts in Brunei as the sultanate country formally enacted a law that made homosexuality and adultery acts of crime punishable — by death. People from all over the world decried this new attack on modern morals as inhumane and cruel.
Brunei’s mandates are influenced by Sharia law, a branch of Islamic laws that condemns such acts. The issue regarding the illegality of homosexuality had been a serious concern since 2014 when the kingdom introduced a dual legal system–Sharia and common law–prompting many LGBT citizens to consider fleeing the nation as the pressure was clearly mounting.
Adding to the slew of restrive conservative measures, Brunei also banned the sale of alcohol, and is limiting the public space of other religions while encouraging people to convert to the nation’s official religion of Shafi’I Islam, one of the four schools of Sunni Islamic laws. Adding to that, religious rituals such as Christmas are forbidden to be celebrated, and other religions are not allowed to preach their religion or insult the ‘official’ religion.
The implementation of the new law that went into effect on April 3 has garnered international opprobrium. In the West, celebrities such as George Clooney and Elton John have come forward to criticize the nation’s crackdown and have urged other people to boycott Brunei owned hotels, such as the Dorchester Collection chain in London and the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles. The result of such campaigns is already starting to gain traction as the British conservative party cancelled one fundraiser event at the Dorchester Hotel, and Beverly Hills Hotel had two events scheduled in May cancelled. What’s more, Elton John announced that he and his husband, David Furnished, had “long refused to stay at these hotels and will continue to do so.”
Clooney’s initiative of spearheading the campaign against Brunei’s laws was surely encouraged by his wife Amal Clooney, the well-known human-rights lawyer. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, termed Brunei’s move “inhumane” and urged the nation to stop implementation. She considers the move to be a severe setback for Brunei and its citizens’ human rights. As of this writing, however, criticism of the nation’s decision has drawn little more than verbal criticisms.
The Office of the Prime Minister of Brunei, who is also the Sultan of the nation, released a statement in response stating that the law was being implemented to deter actions that go against the teachings of Islam and also to “to educate, respect and protect the legitimate rights of all individuals, society or nationality of any faiths and race.”