Brunei to enforce strict Islamic law from April

Published: 4:02 AM, October 23, 2013
Updated: 3:50 AM, October 24, 2013

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN — Brunei will enforce Syariah criminal law next year with punishments that could include stoning to death for adultery and flogging for drinking alcohol, the Islamic kingdom’s Sultan said yesterday.

The law would be enforced from April, said Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, one of the world’s wealthiest people who has presided over a shift to more conservative Islam and anti-sedition laws in recent years.

The Sultan, 67, who is also the Prime Minister, added that the Syariah Penal Code should be regarded as a form of “special guidance from God” and would be “part of the great history” of the tiny, oil-rich monarchy.

Many crimes under the new code have a high burden of proof and Syariah Court judges would have discretion over punishments, which could also include amputations for theft.

Brunei’s Syariah Court had previously handled mainly family-related disputes.

The kingdom has been preparing to introduce the code for years. The Sultan has previously said Syariah criminal law should be established to work alongside the country’s civil law more prominently.

He has been hoping to implement the new law to bolster the influence of Islam in Brunei, where Muslims comprise about two-thirds of the population of nearly 420,000 people.

The sultanate already enforces Islamic teachings more sternly than Malaysia and Indonesia, the other Muslim-majority countries in South-east Asia, with the sale of alcohol banned and evangelism of other religions strictly forbidden. Agencies