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International outrage against Brunei – too little, too late?

13 8 0

THE tiny tropical nation of Brunei is making international headlines again. Repeating the international outrage that saw the absolute monarchy’s emphasis on Islam in 2013 and 2014, global attention is again focused on the ‘recent’ implementation of the Syariah Penal Code Order 2013 (SPCO 2013). Criticism has rained down on the country, but much of it comes from misunderstanding the circumstances.

In effect, the SPCO 2013 consolidated already existing Islamic criminal offences. It brought together those under other Islamic and civil codes and filled in regulatory gaps. Significant changes included the application of certain provisions to non-Muslims – something that has interestingly not drawn significant attention so far – and of course, highly controversial punishments for certain crimes – for example, amputation for robbery and stoning for adultery.

In order to understand this, it is important to discuss the key factors at play.

SEE ALSO: Brunei says death penalty moratorium to cover sharia laws

First, this is not a recent development. Brunei has been on this trajectory for decades, moving towards further implementation of Islamic law. Considering this, the enactment of the SPCO 2013 was not surprising.

In July 1996, to celebrate his 50th birthday and reaching 10 years of independence from the UK, the Sultan of Brunei called “for the urgent establishment of Syariah Courts in their complete form in order to … enforce the Qanun Jina’i Islam, that is, the Islamic Criminal Act, as is required by Allah.”

That this was a gradual approach is also evident in the implementation of the SPCO 2013. It was implemented in phases, allowing for law enforcement officers to be trained, procedures to be set up, and the public to be........

© Asian Correspondent