Bandar Seri Begawan (AsiaNews / Agencies) - "Due to unavoidable circumstances" the Sultanate of Brunei has delayed its implementation of sharia, or Islamic law, originally timetabled to enter into force today. Strongly backed by the Sultan , the norm has been forcefully condemned by the United Nations and has raised fierce internal debates over the danger of a gradual " Islamization " of the state. So far, the government has not indicated exalt when it will be introduced by have promised it will happen "in the very near future". Experts explain the Sultan - currently in Singapore - who is considered the real "moral" leader , is the only person capable of declaring the full entry into force of the controversial law . However, the "declaration ceremony" is going ahead as planned on April 30 to launch the first phase of the new penal code.
In recent months, the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah (pictured) has introduced Islamic law (Sharia), for Muslims including death by stoning for adultery, amputation for thieves, flogging for other crimes such as abortion and consumption alcohol, the death penalty for blasphemy. The 67 year old Sultan said that "with the entry into force of the law", "our duty to Allah" will be "fulfilled". For centuries, the same family has held power in the small oil rich kingdom of 400 thousand people; in office since 1967, aged 21, he has been pushing for the introduction of Islamic law - and its punishment - in the state since 1996.
Even the local Catholic leadership has commented recently the introduction of sharia , speaking of a "challenge and opportunity" for the community. Bishop Cornelius Sim , apostolic vicar in the Sultanate, pointed out that, faced with a gradual "Islamisation" in the last two decades , the Church must show a "creative" response to overcome "the present challenges". The pressures exerted by political power are subtle but constant, while the local press - under establishment pressure - never misses an opportunity to talk about conversions from Christianity to Islam. The prelate says he remains "serene" even though Christians and minorities are becoming "second-class citizens".
The Sultanate of Brunei is a small state located on the island of Borneo, which is also home to parts of Malaysia and Indonesia. It is a developed country, and one of the richest in the world. Malay is the official language, but English and Chinese are both widely spoken. About 70% of the population of this nation - which is an absolute monarchy- is Muslim, around 10 % of the population is atheist, 13 % is Buddhist, and a small number have indigenous beliefs. Christians, half of whom are Catholic, constitute 10 % of Brunei's population.