Brunei has just introduced strict sharia law which is what has people like George Clooney demanding that we all boycott the Dorchester. Easy for you and me of course as neither of us has any intention of ever staying at that hotel whatever happens to people in Brunei or the method they use to gain their jollies. It’s as if we’re being urged to boycott caviar, not something most of us will find difficult.
That the imposition of strict sharia is a gross curtailment of civil liberty is obviously true. That the new penalty for manlove is to be stoning to death is appalling. Sure, around here we tend not to be so concerned with the wilder claims – and later letters perhaps – of the LGBTQ+ world but our own view of basic freedom does indeed mean that consenting adults get to do as consenting adults wish in the absence of any third party harm. So, no, we don’t support nor excuse the execution of gays on the grounds that, as with any other consenting and no third party harm behaviour, all should be left to get on as they wish. That is, there’s nothing specifically LGBTQ+ about our objections to such laws.
That makes us unfashionable as those who insist that all, not just black, lives matter but then fashion has never really been our thing as our wardrobe proves.
But this does still bring with it the question of why is the Sultan doing this?
For the 450,000 people of Brunei, that wealth has long delivered free education and healthcare, with government jobs for anyone who wants them. However, profits have slumped along with oil prices. And natural resources are running out. Even though the country has been courting Chinese investments to try to diversify its economy, younger Bruneians will not enjoy the same benefits as previous generations. The 72-year-old sultan may be an absolute monarch, who rules as prime minister as well as holding the defence, finance and foreign portfolios, but he is also aware that discontent is rising as the economy falters. And so he has introduced harsh new punishments under the sharia penal code to bolster his Islamic credentials among the conservative majority Muslim citizenry.
That’s politics for you and yes, obviously enough, politics still takes place in an autocracy. The people aren’t happy, little can be done over what they’re not happy about so distract them by offering some crumb or prejudice elsewhere.
You know, like Bill Clinton lobbing cruise missiles at an aspirin factory in Sudan over what the meaning of is is. Shrug, that’s just the way it works. Good reason to use politics to determine as little of life as possible.