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Brunei Returns to the Stoning Age

by Jay Michaelson

…What will be the effects of this change? It’s too soon to say. Perhaps it is merely ceremonial in nature. Brunei has had the death penalty for decades, yet its last execution took place in 1957, under British rule. Maybe the penalties called for by shariah will be similar—although the Saudi Arabia trip suggests otherwise.

At the very least, Brunei’s government has indicated that some laws will, indeed, be enforced. The wearing of indecent clothing, for example, will get you six months in jail, as will any act that, according to the new penal code, “tarnishes the image of Islam, corrupts moral standards, causes negative influence or upsets eyewitnesses.”

However, a “senior legal officer of the Islamic Legal Unit at the Ministry of Religious Affairs” told the Brunei Times that authorities will enforce the law gradually. “If the person is wearing clothing that is too offensive or revealing, then the enforcement agencies should take action or at least advise the offender,” the official said. “But we will implement this provision with wisdom, so people won’t be shocked and angered.”

Certainly, for the 23 percent of Brunei’s 415,000 citizens who are not Muslim, the new code represents a major affront to religious liberty. Anyone who drinks liquor in a public place, Muslim or non-Muslim, will be liable to two years’ imprisonment and a fine of $8,000….


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