Source: Asis Times:
Though no organized opposition group has ever openly challenged the state’s religious stance, some observers believe the laws aim to placate Islamists who may otherwise be put off by the monarchy’s ostentatious displays of wealth.
Some analysts regard Brunei’s adoption of sharia law as a bid to attract more investment from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Situated between Asia’s largest Muslim majority countries, Brunei has long sought to become a regional hub for Islamic banking, finance and services.
While there is no evidence to suggest that sharia law influences the investment decisions of GCC countries, harsher Islamic laws would put Brunei’s legal and religious strictures closer in sync with Saudi Arabia and others.
In March last year, King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud became the first Saudi monarch to visit Brunei. The brief appearance of the Saudi royal, who claims religious guardianship as custodian of Islam’s holiest sites, served to affirm the sultan’s own religious position and legitimacy.
While the introduction of sharia law may have sullied perceptions of Brunei in the West, China has moved to become the sultanate’s largest foreign investor in recent years. The Bank of China (BOC) established a branch in Brunei in 2016 to facilitate FDI, including ventures related to its global Belt and Road Initiative.