The Sultan of Brunei, one of the world’s wealthiest rulers, is this week overseeing his country’s transition to a system of Sharia law that will reinstitute the death penalty he had earlier set aside.
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 they could be prosecuted under the new laws.
The decision has triggered alarm among Brunei’s non-Muslim communities, who will also be subject to some of the rulings.
In a letter to Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, the International Commission of Jurists said it deplored the new rules, adding that, if implemented, they would lead to serious human rights violations.
“Brunei has not implemented the death penalty for years, so it came as quite a surprise that the new law has reintroduced it,” said Emerlynne Gil of the commission.
Brunei is two-thirds Muslim and has long implemented some Sharia codes, mainly for civil matters such as marriage. But last year the Sultan announced his intent to introduce full Islamic law, including stoning for adultery.
“It is because of our need that Allah the Almighty, in all his generosity, has created laws for us, so that we can utilize 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 took the throne in 1967. But in a speech in February, he claimed the system of an absolute Islamic monarch acted as a “strong and effective firewall” against the challenges of globalization. He referred specifically to the Internet.
He claimed that there were those, both inside and outside Brunei, who wanted to see “internal turmoil.”
Ten Muslim-majority counties—Mauritania, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Maldives, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Yemen—all assert to apply Sharia law in its entirety.