Brunei’s Islam and US Christian radicals: not a good day for LGBT human rights

31.03.2019 - London UK - Silvia Swinden

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Brunei’s Islam and US Christian radicals: not a good day for LGBT human rights
Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah - net worth US$20 billion in 2008 (Image by Proudbruneian • CC BY 3.0)

Brunei and Sharia Law

George Clooney, and now Elton John (is this the beginning of #MeToo 2.0?) have called for a boycott on hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei. This is due to a new application of Sharia Law documented by Amnesty International in the following Press Release:

“Brunei: ‘Vicious’ new laws to allow stoning of same-sex couples and amputation for robbery

“Amnesty International has called on Brunei to halt plans to introduce “vicious” new punishments such as death by stoning for same-sex acts and amputation for robbery, set to come into effect next week.

“Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Amnesty International’s Brunei Researcher, said:

“Brunei must immediately halt its plans to implement these vicious punishments and revise its Penal Code in compliance with its human rights obligations.

“The international community must urgently condemn Brunei’s move to put these cruel penalties into practice.

“Some of the potential ‘offences’ should not even be deemed crimes at all, including consensual sex between adults of the same gender.”

“Pending provisions in Brunei’s Penal Code would allow stoning and amputation as punishments – including for children.

“These punishments are included in newly-implemented sections of the Brunei Darussalam Syariah Penal Code, due to come into force on 3 April 2019, according to a discreet notice which appeared on the Attorney General’s website.

“Amnesty expressed grave concerns over changes to the Penal Code when they were proposed in 2014.

“Corporal punishment breaches international law

“Under international human rights law, corporal punishment in all its forms, such as stoning, amputation or whipping, constitutes torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment, which is prohibited in all circumstances.

“Brunei has signed but not yet ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

“While Brunei retains the death penalty in law, it is abolitionist in practice. One new death sentence was imposed in 2017, for a drug-related offence.”

Adultery will also be punishable with death by stoning. Apostasy (leaving Islam) also attracts the death penalty in Sharia Law. However no every Muslim country applies it in the same way and both scholars and law makers note that in many cases it is “open to interpretation“. 

Will the boycott of a list of hotels have any effect on the decisions of an extremely wealthy country and its ruler? 

The US Christian far-right and the European elections

An investigation by openDemocracy concluded that “US Christian right ‘fundamentalists’ linked to the Trump administration and Steve Bannon are among a dozen American groups that have poured at least $50 million of ‘dark money’ into Europe over the last decade, openDemocracy can reveal today.

“Between them, these groups have backed ‘armies’ of ultra-conservative lawyers and political activists, as well as ‘family values’ campaigns against LGBT rights, sex education and abortion – and a number appear to have increasing links with Europe’s far right.

“They are spending money on a scale “not previously imagined”, according to lawmakers and human rights advocates, who have called our findings “shocking”. Reacting to openDemocracy’s findings, a cross-party group of more than 40 MEPs has called on the EU’s transparency tsar Frans Timmermans to look into the influence of “US Christian fundamentalists… with the greatest urgency” ahead of May’s European Parliament elections.

“Among the biggest spenders is a group whose chief counsel is also Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow. Another organisation has collaborated with a controversial Rome-based ‘institute’ backed by Steve Bannon. And a number of the groups are connected to the World Congress of Families: a network of ultra-conservative activists which has links to far-right politicians and movements in several European countries, including Italy, Hungary, Poland, Spain and Serbia.”

Although not comparable in terms of the type of punishments proposed, it is important to observe the growth and search for more influence of ideologies that attempt to reverse the years of struggle for gender, sexual and reproductive rights being driven by draconian religious vehicles, that is, irrational and not open to logical discussion, not to mention completely devoid of the compassion that could be expected in any spiritual context.

Categories: Human Rights, International, Press Releases
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