News from Brunei, Saudi Arabia and France

Tuesday's World Events   —   Posted on October 29, 2013

BRUNEI – Sultan introduces death by stoning under new Islamic laws


Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei

The Sultan of Brunei has introduced a new code of sharia (Islamic) law which will be implemented in Brunei in six months and which include stonings introduced for adultery, amputations for thefts and public flogging for drinking alcohol.

Hassanal Bolkiah, who is one of the world’s richest men (worth $32-20 billion) and who has close links to Britain, announced the new legislation yesterday as part of a shift in his kingdom towards a more strict brand of Islam.

The move sparked condemnation from human rights groups, who called on Britain to review the many honors that it has conferred on the 67-year-old monarch during his 46-years of absolute rule.

As well as a knighthood from the Queen, he holds honorary law doctorates from Oxford, King’s College London and Aberdeen Universities, and an award from the President of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh.

A former British protectorate, Brunei is also a member of the Commonwealth, which has its biennial summit meeting in Sri Lanka next month. …

image1128cThe oil-rich kingdom, whose population of 415,000 enjoy a high standard of living by south-east Asian standards, already enforces Islamic teachings more sternly than other majority Muslim nations in the region, such as Malaysia and Indonesia. The sale of alcohol is strictly banned, and evangelism by other religions is forbidden.

The Sultan said that the sharia penal code, which would be applied only to the island’s 67 per cent Muslim majority and not to its Christian and Buddhist minorities, should be regarded as a form of “special guidance” from God.

“By the grace of Allah, with the coming into effect of this legislation, our duty to Allah is therefore being fulfilled,” he told a legal conference yesterday.

Brunei’s top Islamic scholar, Mufti Awang Abdul Aziz, told the conference that it would be only applied in specific cases after judges had deemed it justified.

“Let us not just look at the hand-cutting or the stoning or the caning per se, but let us also look at the conditions governing them,” he said. “It is not indiscriminate cutting or stoning or caning. There are conditions and there are methods that are just and fair.”

Brunei already permits flogging with a rattan cane as a penalty for some crimes, although under sharia it may be done in public rather than private.

SAUDI ARABIA – Authorities warn of punishment for women drivers

A woman drives a car in Saudi Arabia

A woman drives a car in Saudi Arabia on Oct. 22, 2013. Credit: Reuters/Faisal Al Nasser

A few women filmed themselves driving in Saudi cities on Saturday, defying government warnings of arrest and prosecution to take part in a campaign against men-only road rules, organizers of a campaign to end the ban on women driving said.

But some others stayed at home, put off by phone calls from men who said they were from the Interior Ministry, reported organizers of the demonstration against an effective ban on women drivers.

Police put up checkpoints in some parts of Riyadh, Reuters witnesses said, and there appeared to be more traffic patrols than usual on the streets of the capital – the latest sign of the sensitivity of the issue in the Islamic kingdom.

“I know of several women who drove earlier today. We will post videos (online) later,” one of the campaign organizers told Reuters by phone.

Five videos were published on the campaign’s YouTube feed and Twitter on Saturday morning, dated October 26 and purporting to show women driving in Riyadh, the oasis region of al-Ahsa and the city of Jeddah.

It was not possible to verify when they were filmed.

King Abdullah has pushed some cautious reforms, expanding female education and employment. But he has also been careful not to open big rifts with [Muslim] clerics.

Mosques across Saudi Arabia broadcast sermons on Friday telling women to stay at home.

Protests are illegal in Saudi Arabia, and public demands for political or social change have traditionally been interpreted by the authorities as an unacceptable challenge to the ruling al-Saud family’s authority, local analysts say.

However, organizers said their call for women to drive on Saturday was not a political protest as they had not called for gatherings, rallies or processions of cars.


Instead they have asked women with foreign driving licenses to get behind the wheel accompanied by a male relative and drive themselves when performing everyday tasks.

A website set up by the campaigners to petition the government appeared to have been hacked on Saturday morning, displaying a black background illuminated by glowing red lightning bolts and bearing the message “Reason for the hacking: I am against women driving in the land of the two holy shrines”.

The kingdom’s powerful [Islamic] establishment is lavishly financed by the state, but it has opposed numerous government efforts to gradually increase women’s public role in society.

On Tuesday, around 150 [Muslim] clerics gathered outside the royal court in a rare protest against the pace of social reforms in Saudi Arabia, including women’s rights. One prominent cleric, Sheikh Nasser al-Omar, was filmed describing the campaign for women to drive as “a conspiracy”.

FRANCE – Professional Soccer leagues cancels November match weekend in protest at 75% super tax

french-footballFrench professional football (soccer) clubs have cancelled all matches over one weekend next month to protest against President François Hollande’s 75 per cent “super tax” on high salaries.

Jean-Pierre Louvel, president of the Union of Professional Football Clubs, said the tax – due to be imposed from next year – would be the “death of French football.”

“That’s why we are fighting and we will continue to fight,” he said after an emergency meeting of clubs yesterday.

All games in the top two divisions – the only fully professional French leagues – will be cancelled in the last weekend in November. Instead, the clubs will invite fans to come to open training sessions where they will be asked to join French football’s campaign against the super-tax.

How popular such open days will be is unclear. According to a poll published yesterday, 85% of French people believe that Mr Hollande’s tax on income over €1m [$1.38 million] should apply to professional football.

Although it was not made clear yesterday, it appears that the cancelled games will take place later in the year. The more cynical fans might assume that French clubs had simple extended their normal winter break.

TV companies who have multi-million euro contracts to show matches in the top division – including the crack Paris St Germain – Lyon game due that weekend– are said not to be amused. Legal action is expected.

Under a revised version of Mr Hollande’s super tax agreed by parliament last week, the burden would fall on businesses – including football clubs – not on individuals. The original proposal to force individuals to pay a 75% rate of on marginal income over €1m [$1.38 million] was declared unconstitutional earlier this year.

Mr Louvel said yesterday that it was therefore not super-rich footballers who would pay the new version of the tax but the relatively weakly funded French clubs.

“How can you tax businesses that have been in difficulty over the last three or four years?” he asked “And why have they been (in difficulty)? Because the taxes we’ve (already) been paying are too high. And people ask why we’re not competitive with other (European) leagues.” …

(The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at London’s Daily Telegraph on October 22, Reuters on Oct. 24 and The Independent (British) Oct. 24.)



The Sultan's austere vision is in contrast with the behavior of his playboy younger brother Prince Jefri, whose lavish lifestyle was revealed during a long-running High Court feud involving the two men in London. Prince Jefri, who was accused of misappropriating some $6.5 billion of state funds, famously travelled in a fleet of private planes converted to carry polo ponies, had a $162 million home in Regent's Park, and a luxury yacht called Tits, with tenders named Nipple One and Nipple Two.

The Sandhurst-educated Sultan is himself said to have a personal collection of at least 2,500 luxury cars, including hundreds of Rolls Royces and Ferraris. He lives in a palace of 1,800 rooms and 290 bathrooms, and once had his polo shoes delivered by helicopter to a field where he was playing with Prince Charles.

Last week, Oxford University declined to say whether it would review the Sultan's honorary degree. Edinburgh's Royal College of Surgeons said that the matter was being considered by its officials but that any decision would rest with the college trustees.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are aware of announcements that a new penal code has been enacted in Brunei based on sharia principles. We are looking into what this will mean in practice and will raise any concerns with the Bruneian authorities." (from the article above)



    Association football (known as soccer in the U.S.) is played by 250 million players in over 200 countries, making it the world's most popular sport.

    AFP reported this week: According to Ligue 1 teams, the new law, if implemented next year, would leave them with a 44 million euro tax bill and dissuade foreign talent such as Swedish star Zlatan Ibrahimovic -- who hit four goals in a 5-0 Champions League match at Anderlecht this week -- from signing for French clubs.