Sultan of Brunei: no stoning (for now) because of “misperceptions”

‘However, we believe that once these (misperceptions) have been cleared, the merit of the law will be evident.’

Sultan of Brunei says he will NOT enforce the death penalty for gay sex after widespread backlash led by celebrities including Elton John and George Clooney

Oxford University said it would reconsider its decision to award an honorary degree to the Sultan of Brunei (pictured)

Oxford University said it would reconsider its decision to award an honorary degree to the Sultan of Brunei (pictured)

  • Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said he won’t enforce the penalty announced on April 3
  • Brunei has often defended its right to implement the interpretation of Sharia law
  • But in rare response to criticism, said law not to be in Syariah Penal Code Order

Brunei has said it will not enforce the death penalty for gay sex following a global backlash led by celebrities such as Sir Elton John and George Clooney.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has reacted to the outcry which was sparked when he rolled out an interpretation of Sharia law on April 3 to punish sodomy, adultery and rape with death.

The small South East Asian country had consistently defended its right to implement the laws – elements of which were first adopted in 2014 and was being rolled out in phases.

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Sultan of Brunei Haji Hassanal Bolkiah has been at the centre of the storm over the introduction of the brutal Sharia laws

Sultan of Brunei Haji Hassanal Bolkiah has been at the centre of the storm over the introduction of the brutal Sharia laws

Just last week, the country sent a letter to the European Parliament to urge politicians to show ‘tolerance and understanding’ towards its decision to bring in the punishment after the UN previously condemned the laws as ‘cruel and inhuman’.

But in a rare response to criticism, the sultan said the law would not feature in the Syariah Penal Code Order (SPCO).

In a speech ahead of the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, the sultan said: ‘I am aware that there are many questions and misperceptions with regard to the implementation of the SPCO.

‘However, we believe that once these have been cleared, the merit of the law will be evident.’

‘As evident for more than two decades, we have practiced a de facto moratorium on the execution of death penalty for cases under the common law.

‘This will also be applied to cases under the SPCO which provides a wider scope for remission.’

Crimes including premeditated murder and drug trafficking already carry the death penalty in Brunei but none have been carried out since the 1990s.

Brunei was the first East Asian country to introduce Islamic criminal law in 2014 when it announced the first of three stages of legal changes that included fines or jail for offences like pregnancy outside marriage or failing to pray on Friday.

Oxford University said it would reconsider its decision to award an honorary degree to the Sultan of Brunei (pictured)Oxford University said it would reconsider its decision to award an honorary degree to the Sultan of Brunei (pictured)

Previously, homosexuality was illegal in Brunei and punishable by up to ten years imprisonment.

But the changes would allow whipping and stoning to death for Muslims found guilty of adultery, sodomy and rape.

The wealthy sultan, who once piloted his own 747 airliner to meet former US president Barack Obama, often faces criticism from activists who view his absolute monarchy as despotic.

In a rare move today, the sultan’s office released an official English translation of his speech.

‘Both the common law and the Syariah law aim to ensure peace and harmony of the country.’

He added: ‘They are also crucial in protecting the morality and decency of the country as well as the privacy of individuals.’

The law’s implementation last month prompted celebrities and rights groups to seek a boycott on hotels owned by the sultan, including the Dorchester in London and the Beverley Hills Hotel in Los Angeles.

The Dorchester had been the focus of UK-based protests.

Protesters in London demonstrate against Brunei’s anti-gay laws

Two protesters outside the hotel wear colourful clothes and hair and hold a sign which reads: 'Stoning has no place in the 21st Century'

Two protesters outside the hotel wear colourful clothes and hair and hold a sign which reads: ‘Stoning has no place in the 21st Century’

The calls come after a celebrity-inspired campaign demanded a boycott of the ruler's hotel empire, which includes the Dorchester in London, above (file image)

The calls come after a celebrity-inspired campaign demanded a boycott of the ruler’s hotel empire, which includes the Dorchester in London, above (file image)

LGBT protesters broke through a barricade outside the hotel as they rallied against the sultan on April 6.

Around 500 people turned out to take part in the protest in Park Lane, central London.

The gathering, led by human rights activist Peter Tatchell, saw many of the protesters carrying placards and banners calling for homophobia to be stamped out, as well as rainbow flags.

Ahead of the demonstration, Oxford University said it would reconsider its decision to award an honorary degree to the sultan.

And two days before the protest, a group of demonstrators stormed the Dorchester with a megaphone and called for it to be boycotted.

Canadian writer Jordan Tannahill, along with friends Andy Field, Crispin Lord and Nick Finegan, booked a table at the hotel at around 1pm before they began their protest.

But they were quickly escorted out by the hotel’s security staff.

‘Boycott the Dorchester Hotel’ to fight Brunei’s laws against LGBT

George Clooney, Sir Elton John and the comedienne Ellen DeGeneres have also agreed to boycott hotels in Los Angeles owned by Brunei (pictured, protesters at the Dorchester)

George Clooney, Sir Elton John and the comedienne Ellen DeGeneres have also agreed to boycott hotels in Los Angeles owned by Brunei (pictured, protesters at the Dorchester)

George Clooney, Sir Elton John and the American comedienne Ellen DeGeneres were among celebrities who announced they would no longer stay at any of the hotels in the Sultan’s collection.

Several multinational companies have also since put a ban on staff using the sultan’s hotels, while some travel companies have stopped promoting Brunei as a tourist destination.

Roughly translated Sharia means ‘the way’, and is a set of rules interpreted from Islamic religious texts governing how Muslims live their lives.

It is divided into four sections, one of which deals with criminal punishment, with the rest dealing with family matters, prayer, and business dealings.

The criminal section is the one most commonly associated with Sharia, and contains punishments such as removing of hands from thieves and the death penalty for homosexuals.

Sharia criminal law is highly controversial throughout the Muslim world, and is hotly debated among politicians, religious leaders, and scholars.

As a result of this debate, most Muslim nations do not enforce these laws, instead relying on aspects of British or French law which were imported during the colonial period.

One thought on “Sultan of Brunei: no stoning (for now) because of “misperceptions””

  1. There would not be a sultan of Brunei or even possibly a”Brunei” if the poms had not helped put down a rebellion against the rulers in the 1980s. It was all about resources.

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