Religious freedom not violated in prohibition on use of Islamic words

syariah_conference-002-3.transformedRasidah HAB

THE prohibition on the use of a list of Islamic words and expressions for non-Muslims does not violate religious freedom of non-Muslims in the country as they do not enjoy absolute right of freedom of religion under Part 3 (1) of the Constitution of the Brunei Darussalam (1959), said a lecturer at the Faculty of Syariah and Law, Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA).

Professor Dr Mohd Altaf Hussain Ahangar said this in his working paper titled “Prohibition to use identified Islamic words and expressions by Non-Muslims in Brunei Darussalam: A Constitutional Perspective” at the first day of UNISSA’s Syariah and Law National Conference yesterday.

“Non-Muslims in Brunei have constitutional freedom to express and practice their religions provided the practice does not result in unrest and disharmony in the country,” said Professor Dr Mohd Altaf Hussain Ahangar.

The professor added non-Muslims also have the right to propagate their religions as long as propagation does not extend to Muslims or persons having no faith (atheist).

Part 3 (1) of the Constitution of Brunei Darussalam 1959 reads: The religion of Brunei Darussalam shall be Muslim religion according to the Shafiate sect of that religion: provided that all other religions may be practiced in peace and harmony by the person professing them in any part of Brunei.

Prof Dr Mohd Altaf said in order to ensure that harmony and peace are maintained in the country, Art 3(1) empowers the government to take steps as it deems fit.

“The truth is that the right of non-Muslims to profess, practice and propagate their religions is not an absolute right under the Constitution of Brunei Darussalam and hence the Brunei government is within its constitutional mandate to enact laws which reflect preference for Muslims in relation to religion,” he said.

Prof Dr Mohd Altaf explained that there were legal measures in place to curb the influences of other religions to ensure that there is no further dilution of the Islamic character of the country.

In addition to the legal provisions, Syariah Penal Code Order 2013 disallows any person from using identified Islamic words pertaining to a non-Islamic religion.

Besides, non-Muslims are also barred from using a number of Islamic expressions pertaining to non-Islamic religion.

Non-Muslims are prohibited under Brunei Syariah Criminal Penal Code Order 2013 to use 19 Islamic words and 16 expressions.

“The reason behind this prohibition is to ensure that the practice of non-Islamic religions does not result in confusion and misunderstanding between Muslims and non-Muslims of the country about their religious fundamentals. At the same time it ensures that the supremacy of Islam as the official religion is not only maintained but also further strengthened,” he said.

The lecturer clarified that the prohibition to use these words and expressions is not absolute.

The Brunei Times
Thu, 10 April 2014


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