Plans to introduce Sharia Law within the next few months in Brunei has its supporters. Writing in the Brunei Bulletin, “Jaya” perhaps summed up the sentiments of many in the Islamic Kingdom when he wrote that he was looking forward to the introduction of strict laws.
“Our youth could run wild listening to Western music, as well as live a completely unrestrained lifestyle,” he says. “It has also not helped women being allowed to drive alone.”
He goes on: “They could go anywhere without their husbands or parents knowing about it. They could be too free. I look forward to when all places of leisure and all hotels are strictly regulated. I also think that a regulation where girls are only allowed to drive when accompanied by their husbands or a male member of the family is necessary.”
Brunei has already been warned its plans to introduce Sharia Law are incompatible with international law and the Brunei Times is also carrying stories warning the public not to make negative comments about its introduction, which criminalizes extra-marital affairs, consensual gay sex and also re-introduces the death penalty by stoning and amputations for thieves, ending a long-standing moratorium.
But of course the biggest change will probably occur within the royal household, whose members are famous for their extravagant parties and big-time gambling in the halls of European casinos.
Chief among them is the former wife of the Sultan of Brunei. In London a court has heard how Mariam Aziz lost half-a-million pounds playing the tables in London, although she denied she once blew three million pounds in a single gambling spree.
These breaches of Sharia law became known after Aziz gave evidence at the trial of her bodyguard Fatimah Lim, accused of stealing diamonds worth 12 million pounds from her employer, replacing them with replicas that were close to worthless.
This pales in some respects when compared with Prince Azim – dubbed the Playboy Prince – who hosted a lavish New Year’s Eve party at the five-star Dorchester Hotel that included the celebrity likes of Mick Jagger’s former wife Jerry Hall and the actresses Sophia Loren and Faye Dunaway.
Lots of alcohol was on hand and there were unsubstantiated allegations of other illicit substances within reach.
Mariah Carey, who has shown a penchant for upsetting human rights groups by performing for African dictators, was apparently paid about 900,000 pounds to sing Auld Lang Syne among a few other of her favorite melodies.
Brunei’s royal rulers have a long history showing off in gaudy style their excessive wealth, generated by the country’s substantial oil and gas assets. Prince Jefrie Bolkiah, the Sultan’s elder brother, was famous for his excesses. He blew $14 billion and apparently kept a harum of 40 women.
The lives of the fabulously rich and perhaps not so bright have always been entertaining for the masses, but in Brunei the days are approaching when such behavior could result in a lengthy stint in prison or far worse. That of course presupposes that Sharia law will be imposed evenly and to all who live in the Islamic Kingdom.
Luke Hunt can be followed on Twitter @lukeanthonyhunt