HIS Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has ordered authorities to take swift action in addressing confusion on the Syariah Penal Code Order 2013.
Delivering his titah during a meeting with Brunei Islamic Religious Council members at Istana Nurul Iman yesterday, the monarch stressed the need for setting up a monitoring team to respond to misinformation and confusion on the Islamic criminal law.
Responding to efforts of government agencies in disseminating information on the Syariah law, the Sultan said every agency must be wise in implementating the new laws.
“If not, we may be seen as incompetent in (its implementation) or make many mistakes,” His Majesty said, five days after the Syariah Penal Code Order was enforced.
The sovereign said there is a need to disseminate accurate information. “We should act fast. Any mistake made must be corrected.“We must inform what is right so that there is no confusion. Confusion can lead to various reactions from the public, such as anger, dissatisfaction, fear or hatred. Are we going to let it be without addressing them?” His Majesty asked.
The monarch said there are many ways to disseminate accurate information, such as issuing a media statement.
“Explain the law well until people understand and not wait until the next Syariah law briefing comes up with the answers. If the next briefing is in two weeks, we have to wait for two weeks for the answers. That is not right,” His Majesty added.
The Sultan said it is inadequate to wait for Syariah briefings to address the confusion as there were only a few people present. The consequences are many inaccuracies, inadequacies or untruths highlighted in the media, His Majesty said, adding that relevant agencies must act fast to respond in such cases.
His Majesty said during the briefings, matters which were not mentioned in the Syariah Penal Code Order were repeatedly brought up until they went out of topic.
One of the recurring issues is dress code, particularly on covering the aurat (parts of the body that cannot be exposed or should be covered according to Islamic law for male and female Muslims).
“The Order did not mention about dress code. It is mentioned in the Order as indecent behaviour. Why do we let people keep rambling about the dress code? Why entertain those who debate this dress code issue until it went out of topic?” the monarch asked.
His Majesty added, “Why was it necessary to bring up the Islamic ruling on dress code? And what is the relevance of the briefing touching on the need to cover up not yet made compulsory?”
Is it not appropriate for this issue to be explained and reviewed under the indecent behaviour (Section 197 under the Syariah Penal Code Order). Isn’t it better if the (Syariah Law Dissemination Committee) illustrates (this issue) with a comparison, the sovereign said.
His Majesty gave an example of a person wandering in the middle of the city donning only “seluar katak” (underpants) and another wearing baju kurung without a headscarf.
“Between the two, which one deserves to be called indecent behaviour. Perhaps, by responding this way, people will understand and the dress code issue will no longer be brought up.”
The Sultan said there is a need for a team to monitor and discuss the findings on the review of the law to respond to the mistakes and confusion, the monarch said.
“Do not leave things for long without taking appropriate action. But what happened was we swept things under the carpet for far too long,” His Majesty added.
The monarch said even when there was a response to the question or confusion, it was half-hearted and not concise.
“Such responses were only done through newspapers. Where is the role of the electronic media, radio and television?
“We should go to great lengths in responding to misleading media reports. Give the facts and, if necessary, take action against the media organisations that frequently report misleading or inaccurate information so that they will be more careful in the future.
“This is the role of psychology that needs to be used,” the Sultan added. The monarch also spoke about news reports of the government prohibiting non-Muslims from using 19 words: azan; baitullah; al-Quran; Allah; fatwa; Firman Allah; hadith; Haji; hukum syara’; ilahi; Ka’bah; kalimah al syahadah; kiblat; masjid; imam; mufti; mu’min; solat; and wali.
“If convicted, one is liable to a fine of $4,000 or one year imprisonment. We want to know if this is true,” His Majesty asked.
“Is it true that it is an offence for non-Muslims to say masjid, azan, fatwa, mufti, imam, kiblat, kaabah. Is it wrong for non-Muslims to say I want to visit Masjid Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien or I wish to meet the Mufti? Is this wrong?” the monarch said.
His Majesty said according to information published in the media, doing so is an offence and if found guilty, can be fined and jailed. The Brunei Times previously reported that non-Muslims are prohibited under the Syariah Penal Code Order 2013 to use 19 Islamic words. These words were forbidden to be used in relation to religions other than religion of Islam.
The monarch went on to ask the Minister of Religious Affairs Yang Berhormat Pg Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Pg Hj Abd Rahman to give an explanation.
“If what was published by the media is incorrect, where is the correction from our side? Where is the Ministry of Religious Affairs? Where is the Brunei Islamic Religious Council (MUIB)? Where is the Islamic Legal Unit? And where is the law dissemination committee?” the Sultan questioned.
“If we said what was published in the media was wrong, then what is right?” His Majesty added.
The titah was delivered in front of 19 members of the Brunei Islamic Religious Council, including Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Lela Cheteria Sahibun Najabah Pengiran Anak Hj Abdul Aziz, Minister of Religious Affairs, Minister of Education, Minister of Home Affairs and the State Mufti.
Members of the media were asked to leave after the titah, before any of the questions were addressed.
The Brunei Times
Tuesday, May 6, 2014