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Stoning Gay People? The Sultan of Brunei Doesn’t Understand Modern Islam

April 9, 2019 in Economics

By Mustafa Akyol

Mustafa Akyol

At a time when Islam’s place in the modern world is a
matter of global contention, Brunei, a small monarchy in Southeast
Asia, has offered its two cents. By April 3, the nation, which is
predominantly Muslim, had begun adhering to a new penal code with
harsh corporal punishments. Accordingly, gay men or adulterers may
be stoned to death, and lesbians may be flogged. Thieves will lose
first their right hand, and then their left foot.

Understandably, these bits of news brought outcries from the
United Nations, human rights organizations and celebrities like George Clooney. In return, the
Brunei government dismissed all criticisms,
reminding
the world that the country is “sovereign”
and “like all other independent countries, enforces its own
rule of laws.”

As a Muslim, I should first tell my coreligionists in Brunei
that their argument is not very good. Of course every country can
enforce its own laws, but the content of those laws isn’t
immune from criticism when it violates human rights. Otherwise, we
would have no basis to criticize
China’s totalitarian persecution of Uighur Muslims
or the
illiberal bans on “religious symbols,” including the
Islamic head scarf, in France and, more recently, Quebec.

Of course every country
can enforce its own laws, but the content of those laws isn’t
immune from criticism when it violates human rights.

However, the real issue isn’t Brunei. It is Islamic law,
or Shariah, the penal code from which law is applied not just in
Brunei but in about a dozen other nations as well, such as Saudi
Arabia, Iran and Sudan. It includes brutal corporal punishments
that shock the rest of the world. It also criminalizes acts that
shouldn’t be crimes at all — such as consensual sex,
loss of faith in Islam (“apostasy”) and the right to
criticize it (“blasphemy”).

Muslims who insist on keeping or reviving these measures have a
simple logic: Shariah is God’s law, and enforcing it is a religious
duty. But their blind literalism is wrong for three reasons.

First, the corporal punishments in the Quran — amputation
of limbs and flogging — may simply be related to the context
of the Quran. In seventh-century Arabia, where the Prophet Muhammad
lived, there were no prisons in which to incarcerate and feed
people for a long time. For the same reason, corporal punishments
— much cheaper and easier than imprisonment — were the
universal norm until a few centuries ago. The Hebrew Bible
commanded many of them, as did pre-modern European laws.

Second, much of the Shariah is actually man-made. Islamic
scholars expanded jurisprudence based …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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