By Alessandria Masi
Feb 28, 2014
A new law in the kingdom of Brunei bars non-Muslims from using these and other words. Is this all just a roundabout way to ban Christianity?
Brunei is a teeny but very wealthy Muslim monarchy on the north coast of Borneo in Southeast Asia, and it rarely makes headlines.
But the royal family has given us some rather juicy sex scandals in the last couple of years. The country, with a population of only about 400,000 people, has a royal family that’s into some kinky stuff. In one case, Prince Jefri, the younger brother of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, commissioned a pair of sexually active robots built to look like him and his fiancé. He also kept a harem of around 40 women at all times and has a yacht called the S.S. Tits.
The Sultan decided late last year that he’d had enough of his brother’s robot sex, and decided to introduce a very strict interpretation of Sharia law across the country, to take effect in April 2014. As part of the shift to a new penal code, there will now be almost 20 words that non-Muslims will be forbidden from uttering, in any context. Use of any of the words could result in a $4,000 fine and a year in prison, Hj Hardifadhillah Hj Mohd Salleh, a senior Sharia legal officer of the Islamic Legal Unit, announced Sunday. While the government isn’t outwardly saying it’s banning other religions, consider this: Under the new laws, no non-Muslim in the country can utter the word Allah, which simply means “god” in Arabic and does not specify which god or who’s god.
So imagine how this would work in conversation:
Non-Muslim: Do you believe in …You know, that really powerful deity who’s name begins with the letter “A”….?
Muslim: You mean Allah?
Non-Muslim: Yes, that’s the one. I’m not allowed to say it, but I’m pretty sure I can still think it.
Under the new laws, non-Muslims also can’t say the Arabic words for “believer,” “prayer,” ”tradition” and “guardian.” That is going to make it pretty difficult for Christians, which make up about 10 percent of the population in Brunei, to practice in public. The following words are also to be banned for non-Muslims in Brunei: Azan (the call to prayer); Baitullah (house of god); Al Quran fatwa (an Islamic legal ruling); Farman Allah (the Word of God); Haji (pilgrimage); Shariah Law, Ilahi (divine); Ka’bah (Muslim shrine in Mecca); Kalimah al Shahadah (word of testimony); Quiblah (Direction of the Prayers); mosque, imam and mufti (Muslim legal official).
There’s more: Salleh also said that the code would impose laws dealing with adultery, divorce and children. For example, in the case of adultery between a Muslim and non-Muslim “both parties can be punished by stoning to death if the offense is proved by confession, or the testimony of four eyewitnesses.”
According to the AFP, citizens of Brunei have been using social media this week to tweet their frustrations about the imposition of Sharia. When the new rules are enforced, Brunei will be the first country in Southeast Asia to follow that strict interpretation of Islamic law.
The kingdom’s neighbour Malaysia, however, beat them on banning words. Last month, Malaysia’s king backed a court decision to ban non-Muslims from using the word Allah, after a catholic Malay-language newspaper was permitted to use it.