As anti-gay barbarism spreads to Brunei with the introduction of stoning to death for the ‘crime’ of homosexual acts, Rob Buchanan asks if another dictatorship is on the rise.
In the latest step back towards the barbarism of a bygone age, the Muslim state of Brunei has adopted new laws which make the penalty for same-sex activity death by stoning. The previous maximum punishment in the religiously extreme conservative state was a 10-year prison sentence. Whilst few would be surprised that nations like these would treat natural expressions of love in such a bestial way, what is surprising is the escalation of the punishment. Brunei is currently experiencing a resurgence of hard-line religious zeal. Local elections are imminent and the current legal system is now categorising homosexuality in the same category as crimes like rape.
It’s interesting to note that other ‘crimes’, such as adultery, sex outside marriage, and simply declaring yourself to not be a Muslim are also punishable by the atrocity of being stoned to death. In response to this horrendous announcement, a spokesperson for the High Commissioner for Human Rights said: “Application of the death penalty for such a broad range of offenses contravenes international law.”
Since 1957 Brunei has observed a moratorium on the death penalty, however it appears that recent trends towards extreme homophobia in Africa and even Russia may also be informing this shocking escalation. There is a wide game at play in Brunei, which includes not only the subjugation of LGBT people and women, but the freedom of everyone in the state.
It remains to be seen how the new rules will affect the one third of citizens in Brunei who are not Muslim. There around 30,000 Catholic Filipino citizens in Brunei, many of them Catholic. It’s already been announced that baptisms of newborn babies could breach the new rules, as they are a “propagation of religion other than Islam to a Muslim or a person having no religion”. Again we see opportunities for LGBT civil rights campaigners and those affected by these breeches , to reach out to other oppressed peoples to seek unity and justice.
The all-powerful Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, announced plans to phase hardline Sharia law punishments such as flogging and death by stoning for a wide range of crimes, which will ultimately see the entire country’s penal code replaced with a medieval system. His stated motives for this regression are vague. He has said he wants to strengthen the hold of Islam in the country against “potentially harmful outside influences”. He also called Brunei a “firewall against globalization”.
The Sultan, who presents himself as a model of humility and religious piety and a defender against globalisation, is worth £24bn and lives in a 1,788-room palace.
Sounds to me like another dictator has stepped up the persecution of queers for his own gain.
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