A rise in conservative Islam: Indonesia and Impacts of Sharia Law on LGBT in Brunei

A shockwave was sent across the LGBT community and the world when Brunei, a country in Asia, announced a Sharia law that mandated death for adultery and sex between men. A Sharia law is a strict Islamic legal code, and they are often seen is radical and cruel in the eyes of the west.

Brunei is a very small country on the island of Borneo and is surrounded by the South China Sea and Malaysia. The country is known as being a ​“small oil-rich kingdom.” In 2013, Brunei became the first and only country to bring Sharai Law into its penal code. Sultan​ Hassanal Bolkiah was the person who brought the idea into fruition. While Sharai Law is a component of the Muslim religion, only two-thirds of the population is Muslim, and the remainder is made up of both Christians and Buddhists.

Image Courtesy of Ron F. via flickr © 2019, some rights reserved

There was an outpouring of condemnation from the west in April when the law was announced. The UN ​High Commissioner on Human Rights Michelle Bachelet described ​the law as “draconian.” However, the response from Southeast Asian leaders did not carry the same level of concern over the new law. This has, in turn, raised questions over the rise of conservative Islam in the region.Outcry in the west over the issue has most notably included boycotts of Brunei-owned hotels. The Dorchester in London is an example, and following the announcement of the new law, protesters could be seen outside the hotel.

However, the announcement of the new law also included amputation for crimes such as theft. This points out a larger issue at hand. While the LGBT community has been deeply affected by the implementation of the new law, this also speaks to the culture and religious trends in the region. A rise in conservative Islam in the Indonesia region has been a topic for a few years now. In 2018, ​ABC publishedan article discussing Aceh city’s decision to not serve women food after 21:00hrs unless they were accompanied by a male family member. The mayor of Aceh discussed that Islam criminal law works well with the largely secular nature of laws in Indonesia. Jakarta is another example of countries in the region infringing on religious freedom. The country has 23 accounts of violations in 2018 ​according to ABC.

This trend towards increasing the amount that religion and laws mix in Indonesia is highly differentiated from western views that encompass separation of church and state. Many of the countries like Indonesia are considered Muslim majority countries; however, it must be noted the difference between a ‘Muslim Country’ and a ‘Muslim Majority’ country. Although, a totally secular approach is not claimed by many of the countries, like Indonesia, as about 87% of people in Indonesia do identify as Muslim.

The recent examples of Sharia Law being enacted in Brunei serve as the latest uptick in conservative Islam in Indonesia. This trend has been growing since 2017, but if more examples become apparent there may eventually be a humanitarian crisis, which makes this a very important issue to track and be aware of.



Image Courtesy of Bernard Spragg NZ. via flickr © 2009, some rights reserved