Professor Bridget Welsh on Implementation of Sharia Law in Brunei

Professor Bridget Welsh

Professor Bridget Welsh

Associate Professor of Political Science Bridget Welsh spoke to international media about the recent introduction of the legal code of sharia law in Brunei. She highlighted that the controversial dimensions of the law have to do with the introduction of hudud or the corporal punishment provisions. Brunei has introduced the death penalty by stoning for LGBT sex and adultery and ratcheted up punishments for other perceived violations of moral behavior, including not fasting in public during the Holy month of Ramadan. The legal code will apply both to Muslims and non-Muslims in Brunei and can extend to children as young as seven. While these laws are not the first legal provisions introduced in Brunei or Southeast Asia more broadly, they are the first adopted by a country as a whole and reflect the pressures of growing Islamic conservatism in Southeast Asia.

Prof. Welsh pointed out that sharia laws in the region to date have disproportionately been applied to women and the LGBT community. The new laws have provoked an outcry from human rights groups globally and a boycott of businesses owned by the Sultan of Brunei, including two hotels in Italy.  Welsh explained the factors that have contributed to the new adoption of the laws, notably political pressures within Brunei resulting in greater dependence on religious legitimacy, a declining economy, and shifts toward China away from the West. She also noted that these laws served to contribute to Islamophobia around the world as they negatively reflect on the diversity of views about Islamic jurisprudence within Southeast Asia and globally.

Bridget Welsh is a specialist on Southeast Asian politics, working on Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Indonesia, and Brunei.

Here is a selection of media outlets that have interviewed Professor Welsh:

BBC Radio (around 7:30)
South China Morning Post: Brunei’s adoption of hardline sharia laws signals shift to China, turn away from West: observers
The Simi Sara Show
New Straits Times: ‘Brunei becoming Saudi Arabia of Southeast Asia’
CNN: Is the sultan of Brunei imposing Sharia law to clean up his family’s image?