MEMBERS of the Australian community have voiced concerns about how to protect themselves from false accusations of khalwat (close proximity) once the Syariah Penal Code is implemented on April 22.
During a briefing on the new laws on Saturday, many Australian nationals working in Brunei said they are often required to work alone with a Muslim colleague of the opposite sex.
A few members of the audience asked whether this would still be considered appropriate under Syariah law, or whether accusations of khalwat could be made against them.
“For a khalwat investigation to be conducted there must be suspicion that an immoral act is being committed,” said Hjh Hassanah Hj Hassan, an officer from the Attorney General’s Chambers.
“If the investigation does not provide sufficient evidence, then there will not be any charge.”
Hjh Hassanah added that foreigners should not interpret Syariah law to be overly harsh, and that men and women would still be able to work together.
However, another member of the audience commented that there is insufficient protection for individuals against false accusations, which could be made out of malice or jealousy.
Under law, khalwat is defined as an unmarried couple (two Muslims, or a Muslim and a non-Muslim) cohabiting; in confinement; or isolating oneself in close proximity which can lead to suspicion that an immoral act is being committed.
Individuals found guilty of khalwat can be punished with a fine of up to $4,000 and/or one year in prison. The Syariah Penal Code ushers in heavier penalties for khalwat offenders than previous laws. Under the soon-to-be repealed Religious Council and Qadi Courts Act, male offenders are fined $1,000 and imprisoned for a month, while female offenders are fined $500 and imprisoned for two weeks.
Criminalising khalwat is aimed at preventing adultery, according to statements made by religious officers at recent Syariah briefings. Last year, the government reported 106 khalwat cases. Of the 214 individuals involved, 15 were non-Muslims.
The Brunei Times
Mon, April 7, 2014