Brunei — the tiny, wealthy nation on the island of Borneo — officially implemented a strict form of Islamic law known as Shariah last week.
The new code includes harsh penalties like amputation and stoning for offenses like theft and gay sex. The law went into effect May 1, with even more draconian punishments being phased in over the next two years.
International human rights groups decried the change, with Amnesty International
saying it will “take the country back to the dark ages when it comes to human rights.”
The kingdom of about 415,000 had already functioned under a conservative set of Muslim laws. According to CNN, it is the first country in East Asia to embrace the even stricter code of Shariah law, which is widely used in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and a handful of other Middle Eastern and North African countries.
The punishments for various criminal and moral violations will become increasingly severe, according to Reuters:
[Right after the law was enacted], residents of the country dominated by Malay Muslims face conviction by Islamic courts and fines or jail terms for offenses like pregnancy outside marriage, failure to perform Friday prayers, and propagating other religions.
A second phase comes into effect 12 months later covering offences for theft and alcohol consumption by Muslims, punishable by whipping and amputations.
The death penalty, including by stoning, will be introduced in the final phase a year later for offences including adultery, sodomy and insulting the Koran or the Prophet Muhammad.
Most of the new laws will also apply to non-Muslims, who make up about one-third of the population.
Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah is one of the wealthiest men in the world, thanks to the nation’s massive oil reserves. He is also the owner of Los Angeles’ Beverly Hills Hotel, which is facing boycotts from celebrities and Hollywood groups over Brunei’s new laws.