Sultan of Brunei questions delay in Syariah law enforcement


HIS Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, yesterday ordered authorities to explain the two-year delay in the phased enforcement of Syariah Penal Code Order.

The monarch said the Syariah law has remained “stagnant” without any progress after being actively pursued for a brief period following the launch of the Order in 2014.

Delivering his titah during a meeting with the Brunei Islamic Religious Council (MUIB) at the Legislative Council (LegCo) building, His Majesty questioned how many of the Syariah law provisions have been enforced.

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“How long has passed since it was launched and gazetted until now? It has already been two years but it is still at the stage where only general offences are dealt with.

“What about the other phases? When will they be implemented? I expect the ministry concerned might respond by saying that the Syariah Penal Code could not be fully enforced at this stage because the CPC (Syariah Courts Criminal Procedure Code) has not been finalised,” the Sultan added.

The CPC outlines the rules for conducting criminal proceedings, from the investigation to prosecution.

His Majesty said authorities might respond by saying they are still waiting for the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) to finalise the vetting of the draft documents.

“My next question is when will the draft law be sent to the AGC? Their response might be that it was already sent in 2014,” His Majesty said.

The Sultan went on to say that if this was the case, it is most regrettable because two years have passed and yet the CPC has not been completed.

“How thick is the draft? The AGC might tell us there are many other legal documents that need to be urgently dealt with too. The vetting of the CPC will only be able to be finalised in June 2016, after it has stalled for two years,” the monarch said.

His Majesty said this is an “unacceptable excuse”.

“It is as if people will be under the impression that the Syariah Penal Code is worthless as a law mechanism. Where is the Minister of Religious Affairs? And where is the Attorney General? Why have they not come forward to remedy this unsatisfactory situation?” the Sultan questioned.

The first phase of the Syariah Penal Code was enforced on May 1, 2014. His Majesty added that before the second phase can be implemented, the country has to wait for another 12 months after the CPC can be gazetted.

“Now two years have gone by, but the CPC is not gazetted yet and the vetting process has not even started. This means that after it is gazetted in 2016, we have to wait another year, until 2017 before the second phase can be implemented.”

He said it will be 2018 by the time the third phase of the Syariah law can be enforced.

“So when will the penal code be ready to be fully implemented? Is it true to say that the officers responsible in vetting the draft legislation could not do so as a matter of urgency? Is it just a matter of vetting or did they intentionally refuse to vet?” His Majesty questioned.

The monarch asked why had the religious affairs minister and attorney general failed to keep tabs on how the work was being done by their officers.

“May I remind all that we did not formulate the law out of whims and fancies but we do it solely for the sake of Allah, not in pursuit of glamour. Working for Allah must be done earnestly,” His Majesty said.

Religious education

His Majesty also raised concerns on the direction and future of Arabic education in the country.

Arabic schools are established to bring forth those who are competent in religious knowledge, with the objective of eventually getting Islamic scholars or ulama. With this in mind, Arabic schools must prioritise religious subjects such as Arabic language, fiqh, tauhid, Quran, hadith and tafsir, he said.

He added that this must be done without ignoring the importance of subjects such as Malay language, English language and Mathematics.

Everything went well since the inception, but Arabic schools introduced the science stream from the 1980s, making it compulsory to take Physics, Biology, Chemistry and Additional Mathematics – subjects that are available in mainstream schools under the Ministry of Education, he said.

This meant that students who took the science subjects are required to reduce the number of religious subjects so that it will not be too burdensome, and thus science subjects came to gain more prominence than religious subjects, he continued.

Science stream classes at Arabic Schools currently only offer classes up to O-levels. After completing their O-levels, the students would have to transfer to mainstream schools if they wish to pursue the sciences.

“At that point, they are no longer considered students of Arabic schools and they completely stop studying religious subjects after their O-levels,” he said.

The monarch said there is a need to review the impact of introducing the sciences in Arabic schools when it was implemented in the 1980s.

“Unfortunately, no such research has been done, we do not know the implications whether good and bad of introducing Science stream classes back in the 1980s,” he said.

The Arabic religious education system is experiencing major changes with the implementation of the National Education System for the 21st Century (SPN21).

Under the education system, Arabic school students will be able to master both religious and Science stream subjects. Year 11 students at Arabic secondary schools will have to sit for two major examinations, including the O-levels for their mainstream subjects and the Brunei Islamic Studies Certificate (SPUB) for their religious curriculum.

In Year Nine, the students will be divided into three streams based on their results: 1) fast track Science stream for students who obtained excellent results; 2) normal track Science stream for students who obtained ‘very good’ results; and 3) Arabic stream for students who obtained ‘good’ results and below.

The Sultan said the grading of the three streams reflects that the Arabic stream is of third class level, not on par with the other two categories.

They are also required to study all subjects for their SPUB and O-level examinations simultaneously, possibly doubling the number of subjects that need to be taken in mainstream schools, he added.

“Wouldn’t such a system make it burdensome for Arabic school students and difficult for teachers to teach and complete the syllabus with that many subjects?”

He added that this can cause students to choose the Science stream over the Arabic stream.

The monarch said it is generally known that religious education subjects are more difficult and taxing compared to the other subjects, a factor that can push students away from Arabic classes in favour of the sciences.

“All these need to be deliberated on as thoroughly as possible to save and popularise religious subjects so that they will be seen as a good choice, more attractive and more appealing than non-religious subjects, not a means to open an opportunity for them to get away or escape from.

“This is a matter of much concern to me – the future direction of Arabic schools. Are their roles fading into irrelevancy or diverting towards another direction. All these call for a thorough reassessment to turn back to its original course. Let it not be changed,” he added.

Islamic propagation

The monarch said da’wah (dissemination of Islamic teachings) in the country is still weak and needs to be strengthened amid uncertain times and social ills affecting the country.

Among the issues raised were the number of propagators at the Islamic Da’wah Centre and whether they were properly trained.

“In addition to having many propagators, we want the da’wah delivered to be effective. Effective da’wah is successful da’wah,” he said.

His Majesty pointed out that one important medium of the da’wah is through the mimbar. The mimbar is a pulpit where the imam delivers the sermon in mosques.

“It is vital to deliver effective messages in the sermons. That is why all aspects must be taken into account, starting from preparation, content, writing, policy guidelines and lastly, the individual who will deliver the sermon,” he said.

His Majesty said it is important to practise discretion in deciding the content of the sermon, adding that the content must be appropriate.

He gave an example of an incident where SEA Games become the topic of a sermon. “The khatib (sermon readers) called upon congregants and Muslims to flock to the stadium to witness the events that would take place. We might say that sports is not something Islamically impermissible, but for a khatib to persuade and herd people to the stadium, in my opinion, is something that needs to be given thorough deliberation.

“Have we exhausted all topics and there is no other more important issue other than the SEA Games? This is what discretion is in the choice of topic along with the need to adhere to policy guidelines on sermons,” he added.

The Sultan said khatibs need guidelines on the correct way of delivering the sermon.

“Some readers are too tense and some were repetitive in their presentation. Is this what is expected of them by the Mosque Affairs Department? Where are the mosque affairs officers? Have they not come across incidents like these,” he asked.

Official visits and functions

His Majesty went on to say that it is not necessary for both the Minister of Religious Affairs and his deputy to make visits together as one should stay at the ministry and attend to pressing matters, such as the need to formulate policies for schools and the Islamic Da’wah Centre.

“The minister and his deputy minister should not simply enjoy making visits upon visits, for instance to schools, mosques and elsewhere. In doing so, both of them pay a visit to the same place and enjoy media coverage,” His Majesty said.

The monarch also said there is no need for all senior government officials to attend official functions that were held either in the day or at night.

“It is alright to make a visit and hold a function, but if the events are becoming too many and frequent, what about office work and worse, if too many attend them – the minister, his deputy minister and a horde of other officers! Is it not more reasonable for one of them to make the visit while the other stays behind?

“Is it not true that there are a lot of more pressing matters that need to be dealt with and given serious thought in the office?

He said other pressing matters include formulating policies for schools, Islamic Da’wah Centre, mosques, zakat (tithes), following up on the development of new converts, maintenance and upkeep of Muslim cemeteries and burial grounds, as well as halal certification.

Following the meeting, His Majesty visited the Ministry of Religious Affairs, which houses several units under the Islamic Religious Council before making a stop at the Islamic Da’wah Centre.

The Brunei Times

Sunday, February 28, 2016

bru penal codes

US sure Islam and human rights compatible

Quratul-Ain Bandial

BRUNEI must maintain its international human rights commitments as it rolls out the Syariah Penal Code, said a senior US official yesterday.

Shaarik Zafar, the US State Department’s Special Representative to Muslim Communities, said his government believes that Islam and human rights are compatible, although Washington has expressed concerns about some of the punishments prescribed under the Code.

Zafar, who is in the Sultanate on a two-day visit, met with His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and senior religious officials yesterday, to discuss US engagement with the Muslim world, including counter terrorism and Brunei’s introduction of the Syariah Penal Code.

“Brunei has made commitments to international religious freedom and other human rights. The US government is not in a position to say what Syariah law is and what it isn’t. What we do say is that governments that have made a commitment to uphold fundamental human rights have an obligation to do so regardless of what the particular penal code is,” he told local media yesterday.

“We were told that Islam and Syariah are fully consistent with human rights, and we fully agree with that. What we heard consistently today is there is no contradiction,” Zafar added.

The envoy said during his meetings he raised concerns about punishments prescribed under the Syariah Penal Code, such as amputation for theft, stoning for adultery and the death penalty for murder.

“What we’ve been told is the evidentiary standards that would apply are so high that in reality these penalties would never be carried out. This legislation took some time to be developed it’s still going to be taking time to be implemented,” he said, adding that the US will continue to monitor developments in Brunei. “We look forward to learning more and working with the government of Brunei.

Brunei implemented the first phase of the Syariah Penal Code Order – which incorporates Islamic laws into the existing criminal justice system – on May 1.

The Brunei Times
Thursday, October 23, 2014

Indonesian expats urged to study Syariah law

bru pekerjaQuratul-Ain Bandial

THE Indonesian ambassador yesterday urged Indonesian expatriates to familiarise themselves with Brunei’s new Syariah Penal Code to avoid any misunderstanding with law enforcement.

Her Excellency Nurul Qomar told a gathering of more than 100 Indonesian nationals that it was “important for them to know the provisions contained in the Syariah Penal Code.”

The Indonesian embassy held a second briefing on the new legislation for its nationals yesterday at the Youth Centre in the capital. The first briefing, which was attended by more than 200 people, was held back in November 2013.

“We are the biggest foreign community here, some of our nationals may not do the right thing sometimes, so we just want them to behave according to Bruneian law,” she told The Brunei Times.

Indonesian Ambassador to Brunei  Darussalam Nurul Qomar. Photo: BT

Indonesian Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam Nurul Qomar. Photo: BT

Four Indonesian nationals were detained for khalwat (close proximity) earlier this week, prompting speculation they would be the first people to be charged under the Syariah Penal Code, which came into force on May 1, 2014.

The ambassador said the Immigration Department had contacted the embassy to inform them of the arrest but declined to indicate whether the authorities would proceed with criminal charges.

Khalwat is defined under law as an unmarried man and woman isolating themselves in close proximity that “can lead to suspicion they are committing an immoral act”.

Offenders can be fined up to $4,000 or jailed for up to one year.

The Brunei Times
Monday, June 23, 2014

Myanmar expats seek advice on avoiding ‘khalwat’

Quratul-Ain Bandialbru Syariah_Mya

MYANMAR expatriates in Brunei yesterday raised concerns of being accused of khalwat (close proximity) under the Syariah Penal Code, if they are found working too closely with colleagues of the opposite sex.

Under the recently-introduced legislation — which ushers Islamic laws into Brunei’s legal existing system — non-Muslims can be fined up to $4,000 or jailed for up to one year for committing khalwat with a Muslim.

Khalwat is defined by law as an unmarried man and woman isolating themselves in close proximity that “can lead to suspicion they are committing an immoral act”.

Myanmar ambassador, Yin Yin Myint, said several citizens asked about how to avoid being charged with close proximity.

“In the case of doctors, when he is with a patient in the room without a chaperone. In the case of university students, when they go for field work… How close is close? And whether working together very closely will be punishable under the Syariah law.”

Government officials conducting the briefing said as long as no suspicion has been aroused, men and women can work side by side.

“If they have to work very closely, we were told don’t create a suspicious situation like going behind a tree or far away from the crowd,” the envoy told The Brunei Times.

There are approximately 500 Burmese citizens working in Brunei, with some 200 employed as doctors and engineers. Teachers, labourers and domestic workers make up the rest.

The ambassador said the embassy was particularly concerned about ensuring semi-skilled labourers, such as construction workers, understand the new law.

“For those categories like construction workers, we are more concerned. Any misunderstanding or misinterpretation may amount to a breach (of the law). We want them to be very clear on the provisions,” she said.

To help citizens understand the Syariah Penal Code, Yin Yin said the embassy would translate the briefing into Burmese and distribute the notes to its citizens.

“Even for us it’s very complicated to understand, but gradually this kind of briefing will help them.”

The phased introduction of the Syariah Penal Code began on May 1, 2014.

The Brunei Times
Sunday, June 15, 2014

bru sy2

Kuwait supports Brunei’s Syariah law implementation

The head of the delegation from Kuwait National Assembly, Deputy Speaker Mubarak Bunaya Al-Khurainij, during an interview with The Brunei Times. Photo: BT/Waqiuddin Rajak

The head of the delegation from Kuwait National Assembly, Deputy Speaker Mubarak Bunaya Al-Khurainij, during an interview with The Brunei Times. Photo: BT/Waqiuddin Rajak

Waqiuddin Rajak

BRUNEI’s move to carry out the Islamic law could potentially lead to another strengthening of the bilateral ties with Kuwait, said the Deputy Speaker of the Kuwait National Assembly yesterday.

“In Kuwait, we have a high committee (in charge of the law) and we wish for Brunei Darussalam to have a committee too,” Mubarak Bunaya Al-Khurainij said in an interview with The Brunei Times.

He said that this would allow both countries to work together towards more mutual understanding on the issue, since both Brunei and Kuwait shared Islamic values.

The move to implement the Islamic law, said the deputy speaker, was an internal decision made by Brunei and this should be respected by other countries.

“Therefore, international communities should see the reasons behind Brunei’s decision to apply the law and they should respect it,” he said, urging them to respond in a convenient way..

“And we also wish for Brunei Darussalam to handle the issue carefully and wisely,” he added.

The ties between Brunei and Kuwait were historical ties that were built upon mutual respect, he said, adding compliments to Brunei’s positive stances to issues related to the Arab world.

“The last visit made by His Royal Highness the Crown Prince to Kuwait initiated a new face of bilateral relationship between both countries,

Especially in finding ways to enhance more bilateral cooperation,” he said, adding that their visit to the Sultanate was also an outcome of His Royal Highness’ visit earlier this year.

“InsyaAllah, maybe in the future, more agreements will be signed between both countries,” said the deputy speaker.

During the interview, he said that the delegation will also hold a meeting with the Brunei Investment Agency (BIA).

“It will be an opportunity for both sides to further discuss and find ways to enhance the opportunities for joint investments and financial cooperation,” he said.

“We hope that more officials from our side will visit the (Sultanate), InsyaAllah, perhaps our financial and business sectors will have the chance to meet their counterparts in Brunei towards fostering a more concrete cooperation.”

This is the first official visit by Kuwait to Brunei since bilateral relations between the countries was established in 1990, he said.

The Brunei Times
Saturday, June 7, 2014

Defending the Syariah Law (2)

brunei-darussalamPehin Orang Kaya Lela Raja Dato Seri Laila Jasa Haji Awang Abdul Rahman bin Haji Abdul Karim

SOME estimates say that by the year 2020, Muslims will make up nearly half of all Europeans, not to mention a substantial part of the population of the Americans. (Ref: “Why ISLAM?” by Mrs K Sherman, a native of New York.)

“According to the World Christian Encyclopedia figures, the 962 million global Muslim population in 1990 has risen to 1.2 billion today, out of a total world population of 6.2 billion. That figure is expected to climb to 1.8 billion by 2025, and to 2.3 billion by 2060. According to Canadian Society of Muslims estimates, Muslims will comprise 30 per cent of the world population by 2015.” (Ref: Born in Mekah, Spreading across world”, The Brunei Times 24 Oct 2008).

Actually, this sublime spread of ISLAM was/is Promised by Allah Subhanahu Wata’ala in this verse 19 of Surah Al-Fath (The Victory)(48):

“And many gains which they will acquire. And Allah is ever Mighty and Wise.”

Ponder on this: “The more I read, the more convinced I became that ONLY ISLAM can bring peace and happiness. In ISLAM, we are not born in sin and do not need redemption, and our salvation depends entirely on our own actions.” (Lady Evelyn ZeinabCobbold in the book “Why ISLAM-The world’s fastest growing religion.”)

Wherever, whenever I could, I studied the various published explanations, comments, answers given by those religious professionals from our Religious Authorities. Having heard and read some of those explanations, comments, answers so proffered, they drove this cold surge of concern which chilled my head and spine. They prompted me to forewarn myself that “sooner or later they would recoil on us — that day would happen”,that “half-baked knowledge is self-destructive”, that “zealots are self-defeating, attracting ridicule”, that “a perfect tool can inflict self-injuries to its novice user — the family”, that “we would shoot our own foot”.

What’s sad and embarrassing is that it has happened, as per your various reports quoted above.

The Religious Authorities seemed to have been caught napping. This was a serious lapse; while the enemies were lurking, we were soundly sleeping. Simply “relying” on Allah Subhanahu Wata’ala’s protection that we have “implemented” His Syariah Law! What an over-confidence!

Subsequently, those lapses while we were off-guard have prompted the Monarch to personally, publicly make a royal command to the Religious Authorities to “end the confusion over the Syariah Law.” This very sad and embarrassing happening should have been promptly rectified by the Religious Authorities.

In my article published by your Paper on March 21, 2014, I openly stated that:

“The country’s religious officers must obviously possess deep and wide knowledge of Syariah: must not simply, perfunctorily read from prepared papers. This is because Bruneians nowadays are having agile minds and are being exposed, day and night, at their fingertips, to cyber information and disinformation about ISLAM and ISLAMIC authorities.”

I feel this Divine directive in the Quran regarding these lapses is apt:

“….ask those who have knowledge, if you yourselves do not know.” Verse 43: Surah Al-Nahl(The Bee)(16)

This “half-baked knowledge is self-destructive” prompted me to recall what Yang Berhormat Pehin Jawatan Dalam Seri Maharaja Dato Seri Utama Dr Hj Awang Mohd Jamil Al-Sufri, our venerable national historian had related to a group of us, while having a breakfast with him on 10 Sept 2013, the following colonial insolence in this quartet:


I feel that this an opportune juncture to spur us to seriously, courageously prick ourselves with introspective self-criticism. A bad wound heals, but insolent words fester. This colonial insolence on the Brunei Malays goads me to once again risk my neck by stating thus: My years of observation convince me that our socio-cultural-mental psyche of “bersopan-santun-pemalu” has unwittingly molded us as a docile race. Thus, what we have been experiencing regarding the onslaughts on our MIB is an indication, again and again, that our docility has been taken advantage of rendering us as easy prey. To the extent that when having been pushed to the corner by those opportunistic interests we meekly feel that it is in our best interests to just yield our head on a golden platter. Hence, what jolly nice, polite Malays, they are. We swallowed the laced bait!

But sadly, when it comes to any slight friction amongst ourselves, we the Malays bare our “strong bones” at each others’ throats. No quarters given. “Sudah jatuh di-timpa tangga; di-suruh lagi di-tunggap buaya. Perek-perek ya sampai inda berdaya.”

The Brunei Times/Letters
Wed, 4 June 2014

bru syariah_4

Defending the Syariah Law (1)

brusyarPehin Orang Kaya Lela Raja Dato Seri Laila Jasa Haji Awang Abdul Rahman bin Haji Abdul Karim

RESPECTFULLY, I begin this involved letter by placing the top priority to the following selected Verses of the Quran from the quoted Surahs thus:

i. “…..This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favour to you and chosen for you ISLAM as a religion….”

Verse 3: Surah Al- Maidah (The Food) (5)

ii. “Verily the Religion (al-din) in the Sight of Allah is ISLAM”

Verse 19: Surah Ali Imran (The Family of Amran)(3)

iii. “Then we put you on the (right) Way of Religion: so follow it (that way), and follow not low desires of those who know not.”

Verse 18: Surah Al-Jathiyah (The Kneeling)(45)

iv. “And many gains which they will acquire (the global spread of ISLAM). And ALLAH is every Mighty, Wise.”

Verse 19: Surah Al-Fath (Victory)(48)

v. “ALLAH has not laid upon you in religion any hardship.”

Verse 78: Surah Al-Haj(22)

vi. ALLAH intends for you ease, and He does not want to make things difficult for you.”

Verse185: Surah Al Baqarah (The Cow)(2)

I hope these quoted verses would generally deal with the respective essence of the issues pertaining to the recent mesmerising topics, prompted by the recent implementation of the Syariah Law, as reflected in the various reports in your paper, such as:

i. “End Confusion over Syariah Law: HM Orders Authorities To Take Swift Action” (The Brunei Times, May 6, 2014)

ii. “Questioning Rights and ISLAM” – Your Editorial, The Brunei Times, May 6, 2014)

iii. “Sacred Words, Phrases Usage-Deputy Minister Clarifies Issue” (The Brunei Times, May 10, 2014)

iv. “Addressing Criticism on Syariah Extremely Important.” (The Brunei Times, May 16, 2014)

v. “Saudi Ban Dutch Companies Over Insult to Islam: Decree.” (The Brunei Times, May 18, 2014)

This is the most complex letter which I had to force myself, as a Muslim, to write. Obviously I am not qualified to tackle this very delicate subject of the Syariah Law, but I strongly feel I must stand up, walk tall in staunch defense against the repeated attacks on our RELIGION ISLAM, on our ULIL AMRI, our MONARCH (Verse 59: Surah Al-Nisa(The Women) (4)) and our MIB; the country’s Philosophy and Way of Life.

Any weakness in my knowledge of the Syariah Law is solidly counter balanced with the various authorities established references on ISLAM and its Syariah Law.

This letter is a fortuitous sequel to my letter on the same subject but with a new unhealthy twist. The earlier letter was published in your paper from 19 March to 21 March 2014. Ever ready to die for our MIB, I was/am so blessed by the honour you gave for its publication. The enemies are the same, but the weapons they used this time round are different; to the extent of their attacking Brunei Darussalam’s Sovereign assets, which are being managed by the Brunei Investment Agency, in Los Angeles and London. Their hatred and desperation have turned them into puerile, drunken stupor. Talking about “barbarism” and “human rights” according to their terms and whims, “they followed their low desires”!

Well, the Brunei Investment Agency must take these boycotts in its business strides. In these cities, the hospitality business is flexible and their locals are dependent on their jobs at those hotels; hence its ripple effect-good or bad. So, believe in Verse 17 of Surah Luqman(31): ”O my son, keep upprayer and enjoin good and forbid evil and bear patiently that which befalls thee…”

As we Muslims fully believe, as our article of absolute faith, that Allah Subhanahu Wata’ala as revealed in His Quran and as per the Sunnah of His Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Aalayhi Wasalam, hence the basis of the Syariah Law, that Allah does not intend to burden mankind, His vicegerents in this mortal world, by revealing various Divine Injunctions, Guidelines. Basically, “Commanding right and Forbidding wrong” (al-amrbil-ma rufwalnahy an al-munkar), that is the duty of a Muslim to intervene when another is acting wrongly. (Ref: “Forbidding Wrong in ISLAM” by Michael Cook.) In short, ISLAM DOES NOT ALLOW HARMING OTHERS NOR ALLOW OTHERS TO HARM.

Basically, mankind under ISLAM just simply AVOID / PREVENT themselves from committing EVIL and HARAM (unlawful) activities and intentions and that they do not consume HARAM food, but commit their SOULS to TAWHID and IMAN. That Muslims absolutely believe in ALLAH subhanahuwata’ala, the ONLY GOD, and the Prophet Muhammad sallaAllahualayiwasallamas ALLAH’s LAST PROPHET.

InsyaAllah, by Allah subhanahuwata’ala’s Desire and Plan, “ISLAM is now the fastest growing religion worldwide, attracting followers all over the globe.

The Brunei Times/Letters
Tue, 3 June 2014