Speak up for western values and liberal principles

The Recent Brief Backstory

Back in 2014, there was outrage following Brunei’s actions of gradually implementing Sharia Law, the Islamic legal system that enforces strict corporal punishments. Over the last several years the government has made conservative changes, banning alcohol and being fined for missing Friday prayer or for having a child out of wedlock. At the time, there were calls to boycott the Sultan’s investments in major cities around the world, including the Beverly Hills Hotel. The Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah is one of the wealthiest individuals alive. Forbes had estimated his net worth at $20 billon (2008).

In light of the recent headlines made by this small nation more boycotts are being called for including by actor George Clooney. He called for the public to join him in immediately boycotting nine hotels – three in the UK, two in the US, two in France and two in Italy. “Let that sink in. In the onslaught of news where we see the world backsliding into authoritarianism this stands alone,” Clooney said.

Things Go from Bad to Worse on April 3rd, 2019

On April 3rd, a new set of laws and sentences will be enacted.

  • Death by stoning in front of an audience for
    • Adultery
    • Homosexual sex
    • Sodomy
    • Rape
  • Hand or foot to be cut off for
    • Theft

These laws are concerning for the 30% of Brunei’s non-Muslim population. Indonesia and Malaysia, some of Brunei’s moderate Muslim neighboring countries have cause for concern as well. Brunei’s government has called on the international community to respect it’s new laws.

Human Rights Groups Are Speaking Out

statement from Rachel Chhoa-Howard, a Brunei Researcher at Amnesty International, “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.” She goes on saying, “Pending provisions in Brunei’s Penal Code would allow stoning and amputation as punishments – including for children, to name only their most heinous aspects.”

International human rights law dictates that “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.”

In spite of international pressure, the country said it has no plans to change course. A new statement from the office of Brunei’s Prime Minister says the country has, “always been practicing a dual legal system, one that is based on the Syariah (Shariah) Law and the other on Common Law.” Former Vice President Joe Biden commented on the new law saying it was, “appalling and immoral.”

“Every single person on earth is entitled to be treated with dignity and to live without fear,” he said on Twitter. “There is no excuse — not culture, not tradition — for this kind of hate and inhumanity.”

Other Ways to Have an Impact?

Instead of falling back into what seems to be the default public action of boycotting hotels, this time I wonder how else we in the west could take a stand on the clash of values. Brunei is in good company among countries hostile to queer people. Russia, Nigeria, Honduras, to name a few. In the middle east, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia all have terrible LGBT rights records. Brunei fits in here through the common mediating variable that is Sharia law. If we in the West are against those values, then we need to have the courage to speak out openly and honestly against them and stand up for our liberal principles. Virtue signaling and boycotting the Sultan does very little to hurt his bank account, but the public outcry is what needs to be amplified.

Do you have a platform? A podcast? A blog? A social media account? In 2019, individuals have more power at their fingertips than ever before. Raise awareness and be heard. Call your representative in congress and get them to be more vocal publicly – after all, we are talking about the international stage. Big change happens bottom up, starting with the sovereignty of the individual to mobilize action into emergent properties such as cultural movements, revolutions, etc. Let’s keep the conversation going. What are your thoughts as a member of the LGBT community? As a straight ally? As a moderate muslim?

Robin S. Smith, MS, LCMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in clinical practice in Bethesda MD, and specializes in relationship issues for couples, families, and individuals, for improved quality of life. His clinical specialties include: transition to parenthood for new and expecting parents, infidelity, sex and intimacy issues, premarital counseling, and trauma. Robin has given talks to various groups including hospital administrators, graduate students, therapists, and child birth educators. He is the primary contributor to The Couple and Family Clinic Blog.

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on google
Google+
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on pinterest
Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Categories
Archives

Recent Posts

Close Menu