- Brunei last week introduced new laws that would see gay people stoned to death.
- Critics say the new move toward conservative Islam contrasts with the reputation of the country’s ruler, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, as an international playboy and big spender.
- Sultan Hassanal and his immediate family regularly flaunt their wealth, and he reportedly used to send people around the world to “comb the globe for the sexiest women they could find.”
- Human-rights activists say there is a “high degree of hypocrisy” with the sultan’s new move to conservative Islam.
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The 72-year-old sultan of Brunei may have enacted his country’s new anti-homosexuality laws to overhaul his own reputation as a playboy and big spender, critics say.
The new laws, which were issued as a direct order from the sultan, state that homosexuality, sodomy, adultery, and rape offenses will be punished with death by stoning.
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei made a rare public address to the nation last week. “Touching on the attainment of blessings from Allah, I want to see Islamic teachings in this country grow stronger and more visible in the country,” he said, according to CGTN and CNN.
“This system preserves and guarantees the rights of all the people regardless of their race and faith,” he went on.
‘There is a high degree of hypocrisy here’
The sultan’s emphasis on moving his country to a more conservative interpretation of Islam appears contrary to his family’s reputation as big spenders and “sex-crazed” playboys.
“The sultan is getting on in years now, and his family hasn’t always had the cleanest of reputations,” Matthew Woolfe, the founder of the human-rights organisation The Brunei Project, told CNN.
“Certainly, there are a lot of people talking about the hypocrisy of laws that the sultan and his government are implementing when his family, in the past, could have been seen as being in violation of these laws with some of their antics,” Woolfe said.
“Some people see it as a way of cleaning up and perhaps creating his legacy.”
Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, told Business Insider that members of the Brunei royal family had “hardly been paragons of virtue while overseas” and that “some of their past behaviour would have fallen afoul of this law had it been effect back then.”
“So there is a high degree of hypocrisy here, and the sultan and his family need to be called out on this,” Robertson said. “If the sultan wishes to live a more virtuous life, that’s his business, but he … should not be promoting medieval punishments like death by stoning, whipping, and amputations for anyone or violating the rights of people because of who they chose to love.”
5-star hotels, exotic vacations, and a ‘sex-crazed’ brother
Sultan Hassanal is one of the world’s richest heads of state and is worth about $US20 billion. The kingdom of Brunei, which shares the island of Borneo with parts of Malaysia and Indonesia, is incredibly wealthy because of its oil reserves, and when it gained independence from Britain in 1984 the country had one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, The New York Times reported.
In the 1980s, the sultan and his younger brother, Prince Jefri, raced their Ferraris through the Bruneian capital of Bandar Seri Begawan, sailed on yachts, and bought luxury hotels and companies around the world, Vanity Fair reported in 2010.
Vanity Fair added that the brothers “allegedly sent emissaries to comb the globe for the sexiest women they could find in order to create a harem the likes of which the world had never known.”
Since the introduction of the new anti-gay laws, celebrities and activists have called for a global boycott of many of the sultan’s properties, including Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles, The Dorchester in London, and Le Meurice in Paris.
Prince Jefri has also been referred to by British and American media as a “sex-crazed prince” after a court case revealed that he had displayed in his Long Island mansion six life-size statues of him and his then-fiancée having sex.
The judge in the case ruled that photographs of the statues could not be shown to the jury, The Guardian reported at the time.
Though Sultan Hassanal and Prince Jefri have since fallen out, over accusations that the prince mismanaged Brunei’s state funds, the sultan’s immediate family has not shied away from displays of wealth and opulence.
Sultan Hassanal’s son, Prince Abdul Mateen, regularly posts photos of himself going on exotic vacations, playing polo, and wearing expensive watches.
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