Who buried ‘The Brunei Times’?

Image result for the brunei times closure

This was back on July 1, 2010 when The Brunei Times introduced a compact version and I was so kiasu that I headed to The Brunei Times office to grab the first copy that entered the office. Photo courtesy of Rano360.com.

More bad news for press freedom in Southeast Asia.


THE Brunei Times
, the second-largest publication in Brunei’s small and heavily censored media landscape, has been shut down. The paper was issued an official order to “cease publication and operations on 7 November” just three days prior, leaving 110 employees jobless in face of an economy analysts have describedas “spluttering.

This is a significant loss to journalism in a nation ranked 155th in the world for press freedom, compared to Thailand’s ranking of 136, and Myanmar’s ranking of 143.


The last issue of The Brunei Times, which has been publishing since mid-2006, contained an announcement stating the closure was due to “business issues, reporting and journalistic standards that should meet the mark set, and also issues relating to business sustainability.”


However, unsatisfied Bruneians on social media are pointing to a different tale.

An ex-writer for The Brunei Times reported in Pakistani news that the real motive behind the shutdown was a complaint filed by the Saudi Embassy, after The Brunei Times published quotes from an unnamed source in a story published on 26 October. The article covered the increase in Hajj and Umra visa fees for Bruneian residents, with the unnamed embassy spokesperson describing the hike as a result of economic downturn from falling oil prices (click here to view a text archive of the now deleted article).

Although an apology was issued on 4 November, there are angry suggestions circulating on social media that the complaint provided the final incentive for government to shut down the publication, which often toed the line of Bruneian censorship standards — even though they may have annoyed authorities from time-to-time.

According to the report, the anonymous ex-employee source stated, “The government had been angry with the paper for quite sometime for its work but the Saudi Embassy story proved to be the final straw.”

Students and researchers are also mourning the loss of the newspaper, which provides an invaluable source of information on Brunei spanning the last ten years.

In a country where there is virtually no criticism of government and where voices are worn weary under the threat of harsh and repressive legislation, we may very well never know what, or more darkly who, buried The Brunei Times. In an age of wavering press freedom in Southeast Asia, this is deeply troubling, solemn news.

New Mandala

Wed, 9 November 2016









Prof Dr Mohd Kamal Hassan: “‘Wasatiyyah’ (moderation) is an important part of Islamic identity that has been forgotten”

A NEW breed of leaders is needed to reconstruct a civilisation based on wasatiyyah or moderation, a Malaysian scholar said yesterday.

Tan Sri Prof Dr Mohd Kamal Hassan, eminent visiting professor of the Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Centre for Islamic Studies, said new leaders are those who possess moral excellence and technological brilliance.

In his public lecture “Malay-Islamic Civilisation: Its Birth, Development and Wasatiyyah Identity” at Universiti Brunei Darussalam, he said wasatiyyah is an important part of Islamic identity that has been forgotten.

“But now Alhamdulilah, people are coming back to the term wasatiyyah,” he said.

Wasatiyyah means a sense of justice, excellence and balance between extremes, he said.

The source of the term wasatiyyah is derived from Surah Al-Baqarah, verse 143: “And thus we have made you a justly balanced community that you will be witnesses over the people and the messenger will be a witness over you”.

There are three pillars of Al-Wasatiyyah, he said. First is justice — which includes strength, power and dignity — followed by goodness and excellence, and third, balance/moderation.

He said all three are connected, not separated, and that Muslims are supposed to represent these qualities. Religious identities of Muslims that uphold justice, moral excellence and upholding the principle of balance and moderation in certain aspects, he added.

In his lecture, he talked about major civilisational transformation and intellectual revolution of Malay culture brought about by the worldview of Islam.

Tan Sri Prof Dr Mohd Kamal Hassan

Tan Sri Prof Dr Mohd Kamal Hassan

“The worldview of Islam consists of mainly three parts: aqidah (belief system), syariah and akhlak (character). The worldview of Islam represented by aqidah of tauhid (Oneness of Allah SWT), syariah and the morals of Islam brought about cultural and intellectual revolution with a new tradition of learning, learning by the book and not learning on the basis of myth, superstition and wrong beliefs,” he said.

With this change in the culture of the Malays, we have the development of what we called the tradition of Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah, he added.

The whole of South East Asia came under the influence of Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah (people who followed the sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH) and the practices of Muslims who are the companions and followers of the Prophet (PBUH).

This tradition of Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah also brought together three major branches of knowledge known as Ilmu Tauhid (Oneness of Allah), Ilmu Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) and Ilmu Tasawwuf (focuses on the spiritual development of the Muslim), he added.

He said the Malay world, which includes Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Muslims of Philippines, Thailand and Singapore, still preserve this integration of these three branches of knowledge.

Tan Sri Prof Dr Mohd Kamal is presently a professor at the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation, International Islamic University Malaysia.

The Brunei Times

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


‘SE Asia set to lead Muslim world’: Malaysian Muslim Scholar

Quratul-Ain Bandial

THE “centre of gravity” of the Muslim world will shift from the Middle East to Southeast Asia in the next 20 years, a well-known Islamic scholar said yesterday.

Speaking during a public lecture titled “Islam and the New ASEAN Community” at Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD), Tan Sri Dr Mohd Kamal Hassan said the economic, political and social resources of the Middle East are drained.

Tan Sri Dr Mohd Kamal Hassan

Tan Sri Dr Mohd Kamal Hassan

“I feel that given the chaos, the turmoil in the Middle East, the uncertainties and atrocities after the Arab Spring. What we have is not a spring but an eruption which has destroyed so much,” he later told The Brunei Times in an interview.

As half of ASEAN’s 600 million people are Muslims, countries like Brunei and Indonesia can lead the shift in moral and intellectual authority to Southeast Asia, he said.

“Brunei can be moral exemplar. How I see the possibility of Brunei playing a leading role is because religious values are being integrated, and corruption is low,” said the International Islamic University Malaysia professor.

“Although the sultanate is small, it can still lead because it is blessed with political and economic stability. A larger country like Indonesia can complement this by providing intellectual and academic leadership.”

Dr Mohd Kamal added that corruption and a culture of complacency are problems that plague the Muslim world, but what distinguishes ASEAN is its inter-communal relations.

“We have always lived with non-Muslims as our neighbours… there may be some political problems but we still respect people of other religions.”

“The cultural qualities of Southeast Asian people – the tolerance, the dynamism – Middle Eastern people should be looking at Southeast Asian people as the carriers of the humanitarian promise of Islam.”

Dr Mohd Kamal will be delivering a second public lecture at UBD’s chancellor hall today on Malay Islamic civilisation.

The Brunei Times
Tuesday, November 3, 2015



‘Religious differences should not harm unity’: Indonesian Muslim Scholar


INTERFAITH cooperation is the way forward in maintaining unity among ASEAN member states and protecting their people from being drawn into radicalisation and violent extremism, a visiting Indonesian religious leader said.

Kyai Hj Hasyim Muzadi (pictured), a member of Indonesia’s Presidential Advisory Board, said ASEAN member states need to understand that they have people practising different religions in their countries.

“Differences in religious beliefs should not harm the unity and humanity,” he told reporters on the sidelines of his visit here yesterday.

KH Hasyim Muzadi

KH Hasyim Muzadi

The religious leader had earlier this week met His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam.

He said ASEAN should set a good example of promoting common understanding among people with different religious backgrounds.

To combat terrorism, he said ASEAN countries should promote “moderate thoughts of Islam, and put the religion in its place”.

“ASEAN should combat terrorism through moderation, not fundamentalism, not liberalism because moderation is the balance between faith and tolerance,” he said.

“If we have faith without tolerance, we will head towards fundamentalism and radicalism. If we radicalise religion, we will probably lose our faith and integrity in Islam or in other religions,” he added.

Kyai also spoke on the importance of building unity in diversity and putting into practice the rule of law.

“Each country in ASEAN must safeguard their people (against radicalisation and violent extremism) by putting into practice the rules and unity in the respective nation, such unity will subsequently be implemented together in the region as a whole,” he said.

Kyai said the real threat in connection to extremism includes an influx of thoughts that did not originate from Southeast Asia, but from other regions such as the Middle East or Europe.

“When such thoughts spread in the ASEAN region, what they bring in is not their religious faith or rituals but their political system and political situation from their country of origin,” he added.

The cleric also spoke on the importance of building unity in diversity and putting into practice the rule of law.

Earlier this month, the Special ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Rise of Radicalisation and Violent Extremism was held in Kuala Lumpur, in view of the security threats terrorist groups pose.

The Brunei Times

Saturday, October 31, 2015


Islamic, Malay arts not the same

IT HAS become common for members of the public to misinterpret the Islamic arts and Malay arts as the same, a visiting Malaysian professor said.

Professor Dato Dr Othman Yatim, a visiting professor at Universiti Brunei Darussalam’s (UBD) Academy of Brunei Studies, said it is important to understand differences between the Islamic and Malay arts as it may affect the identities of Muslims and Malays.

“The Malay arts is not all Islamic, they are not the same, it focuses on daily activities of Malay culture but there are similarities,” he said during the Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Centre for Islamic Studies (SOASCIS) Graduate Seminar Series at UBD.

Professor Dato Dr Othman said misconception of the two arts could distort the Malay community and Islamic community’s identity, resulting in confusion between the two.

He explained that the Malay arts focuses on flora and fauna, and showcase local knowledge through associations with nature and traditional architecture.

In contrast, the Islamic arts aim to emphasise the beauty and ethical values of Allah SWT through visual art –such as mosques and zikir, he said.

“The Malay arts uses arts and crafts (objects of daily use) to emphasise Malay culture, while the Islamic arts uses calligraphy, cosmology and geometry to glorify and devote oneself to Allah SWT,” he added.

Prof Dato Dr Othman Yatim

Prof Dato Dr Othman Yatim

The professor said the public must understand and be aware of the differences, in which he plans to educate the public through seminars and workshops.

“The youth is the target because they will continue practising our culture and identity for future generations, so they must know the differences at an early age,” he said.

Professor Dato Dr Othman also encouraged schools to educate students to ensure they understand the differences between the two cultures.

“We, as Malays and Muslims, have to know and preserve our identity by being aware because having the wrong perception is dangerous as it plays a major role in the unity of all Muslims in the world,” he added.

During the seminar, over 30 people attended to further their knowledge of the Islamic and Malay arts.

The Brunei Times

Sunday, August 23, 2015


Muhammadiyah grants scholarships to 1,419 Thailand students

Muh muk din

MUHAMMADIYAH as one of the major Muslim Organizations in Indonesia provided scholarships to 1,419 students of Thailand, general chairman of Muhammadiyah executive board Din Syamsuddin stated.

“Thousands of Thai Muslim university students have studied in a number of Muhammadiyah higher learning institutes in Java Island,” Din said here on Wednesday on the sidelines of attending Muhammadiyah 47th National Congress.

The scholarships were awarded to young Muslims from four provinces in Thailand in effort to gain knowledge in Indonesia which later will be applied in their country, he added.

“They study in Indonesia do not only relate to religious knowledge but also study at the faculty of agriculture, economics, technology, management and several other faculties,” he explained.

Muhammadiyah is holding its 47th National Congress here from August 3 through August 7.

At the congress, a new agenda for the next five years will be formulated, and a new leader to replace two-time chairman, Din Syamsuddin, will be elected.

muh muk logo


NU Chairman: ‘Islam Nusantara’ (Archipelago Islam) not new sect

said aqil siradj

THE general chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) Islamic organizattion, Said Aqil Siradj, reiterated that “Islam Nusantara” (archipelago Islam) was no a new school or sect.

“It is not a new school or sect but it is the view of the Indonesian Muslims which is blended with the Nusantara culture,” he said at a discussion on “Strategy to Realize Indonesia without Human Rights Violations.”

He said Muslims in Indonesia were closely associated with the cultures of where they are living and this what has been the foundation of the concept of Islam Nusantara. “This is what differentiates us from our brothers in the Middle East,” he added.

He said the Islam Nusantara concept describes Indonesian Muslims who are blended with the local cultures created originally by loca communities which do not run against the shariah. “We must integrate with the culture as long as it is good and not against Islam as it will make Islam more beautiful. We cannot fight cultures so long as they are not against the shariah such as gambling, adultery, drinking and others,” he said.

When asked if he was not worried that it might in the future develop into a new sect Said Aqil said he was not and he believed clerics would always be there to prevent it from happening. “No I am not. I am convinced clerics will be there to prevent it and a lot has been written about it and they may be used as a reference,” he said.

NU is one of the biggest Islamic organizations in Indonesia. Said Aqil is now seeking reelection as chairman of the organization in the next congress in Jember, East Java, on August 1-5 that will also carry out the Islam Nusantara as its theme.

Thu, 30 July 2015