Respecting culture vs. recognizing crimes

Kassidy Crown


Brunei, a country in Asia near the Philippines, recently announced its adoption of a form of Sharia law. Sharia law is a religious law derived from elements of the Islamic tradition, such as the Quran and the Hadith.

With this adoption, one of the most appalling consequences is the fact that LGBTQ+ persons are now punishable by death for gay sex.

Discussions about implementing these laws have been ongoing for several years, but have largely been paused due to criticisms from human rights groups. It is unclear why Brunei decided to implement the law last Wednesday, since there are still people protesting it around the globe as a human rights violation.

Under the law, Agence France-Presse reports that “[d]eath by stoning for the following [is now in effect]: Male gay sex, [a]dultery, [r]ape, [r]obbery, and [i]nsulting or defaming the Prophet Muhammad.”

AFP notes that the laws are only applicable to Muslims, but renouncing Islam is also punishable by death.

Other sources, like the BBC and the New York Times, report conflicting information; stating that the punishment for lesbian sex is now 40 lashes and the punishment for robbery is amputation of a limb, not death.

The New York Times also reported that these punishments may apply to those who would be considered minors in the West, and if the children have not yet reached puberty but are considered old enough to know the difference between right and wrong, they can be flogged.

These punishments are archaic and destroy the human right to life and liberty. They are a form of abuse that deprives someone of their free will and dehumanization to the horrific nature of the death penalty being implemented.

As Christians, we should be aware of different cultures and respect their differences. We should attempt to understand something that is different than what we are used to rather than just naming it as “bizarre” because it is not something that the white, western world is used to.

That being said, a line must be drawn between recognizing and understanding cultural differences and clear violation of human rights. That line should not only be drawn at death, though. This is not an issue of whether or not we should respect different cultures, but whether or not we should respect a person’s rights of being human.

These laws should be condemned as unreasonably extreme and clear violations of human rights. We are granted the basic right of life, and Brunei’s Sharia law is a denial of this by criminalizing someone’s private life and actions.

Furthermore, the method of the death penalty being implemented is not only outdated, but a barbaric form of torture that demonizes increasingly commonplace acts.

“S,” a Brunei citizen, remarked to Time magazine that he is now afraid to use gay dating apps in case a government spy were to intercept his communications and show up when he is on a date.

The United Nations, the United States, and other foreign governments have condemned Brunei’s implementation of these laws, and many American celebrities have called for boycotts of hotels owned by Brunei.

As Christians, we should keep open minds about different cultures. But we also must be acutely aware of violations of human rights and not stand for torture or insidious forms of the death penalty.

As a single voice, we must speak out about these crimes and let the world know that we will not stand for this form of fear mongering and criminal invasion of what it means to be human.