Who buried ‘The Brunei Times’?

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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.

AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY (ANU) CORAL BELL SCHOOL OF ASIA PACIFIC AFFAIRS


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.

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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.”

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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

http://www.newmandala.org/buried-brunei-times/  

 

http://rano360.com/2016/11/07/thank-you-the-brunei-times/

 

 

 

 

 

‘The Brunei Times’ suddenly closes after criticising Saudi Arabia’s Mecca visa price-hike

The unexpected announcement followed an article that suggested Saudi Arabia increased visa prices because of economic troubles

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Photo: Courtesy of Rasidah HAB

LONDON

A LEADING  newspaper has allegedly been ordered to close for linking the Saudi government’s latest visa price rises to its “economic problems”.

The Brunei Times, based in the tiny country, which borders Malaysia, unexpectedly announced its closure of all operations from Tuesday in a front-page editorial.

It followed an article published on 26 October, which reportedly suggested that economic problems in Saudi were the reason for a hike in the price of visas for the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages to Mecca.

According to a journalist claiming to be an ex-Brunei Times reporter, it quoted an anonymous official from the Saudi embassy who was said to have been “unauthorised to speak” to the press.

The daily paper apologised for the article on its website on Friday but refused to comment on claims surrounding its mysterious shut-down.

The statement read: “The Brunei Times is ceasing media and publication operations with effect from 8 November, 2016.

It also thanked the Brunei government for “bearing with us” and “extending the licence” despite “issues” surrounding the paper.

The “board of directors” also thanked editorial, management and operational staff’s “dedication, zeal, enthusiasm and tremendous effort they have put into their work at all levels over the years”.

The 10-year-old paper has also shut its Twitter and Facebook accounts.

A spokesman for the publication, which said 110 people were employed there, referred a Reuters reporter to its statement when asked about the reason for its closure.

Brunei, which has a population of around 420,000, is home to predominantly Sunnis Muslims.

The Saudi government recently increased visa charges for anyone completing the Hajj to approximately £410, up from around £75.

Muslims are expected to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime.

Economic troubles in Saudi Arabia have been well documented with oil prices falling as low as £21 a barrel in February.

The Independent

Wed, 9 November 2016

bt-close

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/brunei-times-newspaper-close-saudi-arabia-mecca-visa-hajj-economy-a7404616.html

 

Brunei’s second-largest daily newspaper shuts down abruptly

bt-close

Rozanna Latiff

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

BRUNEI’s second-largest daily newspaper, The Brunei Times, published its final edition on Monday, after abruptly announcing plans for closure over the weekend, triggering online speculation about the reason.

The daily, which was launched in 2006, announced on its Sunday front page that it would cease publication the next day.

On Monday, it said in a longer notice that the closure was due to “business issues, reporting and journalistic standards that should meet the mark set, and also issues relating to business sustainability…”

The daily did not address posts on social media that it had been ordered to shut down for publishing an article on Oct. 26 about changes in visa fees imposed by the Saudi Arabian government for Brunei haj pilgrims.

The daily carried an apology for the article on its website on Friday.

A spokesman for The Brunei Times declined to comment on the posts and instead referred Reuters to Monday’s front page statement. He said the newspaper had 110 people on its staff.

The Prime Minister’s Department did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

“The Brunei Times… no longer has sustainable resources to continue its media and publication operations and the company’s Board of Directors has agreed that the best course of action is to close down the paper,” the paper’s notice said.

REUTERS

Monday, 7 November 2016

 

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-brunei-media-idUSKBN1320YF?il=0

http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2016/11/07/brunei-times-ceases-publication-citing-business-issues.html

http://www.bangkokpost.com/business/news/1128677/brunei-times-closes-130-jobs-to-go

 

 

 

 

MUI: Ahok statement is a blasphemy and has legal consequences

ahok-fatwa-mui-untuk-ahok_02

RR Laeny Sulistyawati, Ratna Ajeng Tejomukti

JAKARTA

Governor Basuki Tjahaja (Ahok)’s statement about Alquran surah Al Maidah verse 51 has caused unrest among the people, therefore the Indonesian Council of Ulama (MUI) reviewed the case and gave its religious statement on Tuesday. “Ahok has insulted the Holy Quran and/or the clerics. His statement has a legal consequences,” Chairman (MUI) Ma’ruf Amin said.

Ma’ruf explained Alquran surah Al Maidah verse 51 explicitly contains a prohibition for Muslims to make the Jewish and Christian as leader. “This verse as the proposition prohibition non-Muslims as a leader,’’ he said.

MUI stated Islamic clerics are obliged to convey the contents of surah Al Maidah verse 51 in order to remind every Muslim to vote for Muslim as leader. At this point, MUI statement has broken Ahok’s opinion about the verse.

Ahok believed clerics or Muslim in general who cited Al Maidah verse 51 were manipulating and politicizing the verse for political gain. “Ahok has insulted the clerics and Muslims by saying Muslims are manipulated by the verse or who ever citing the verse,” Ma’ruf said.

Also read: Jakarta Governor apologizes for offending Muslims

Further more, MUI said every Muslim should believe the truth and accuracy of surah Al-Maidah verse 51 as a guidance in choosing a leader. “It is haram to say Al Maidah verse 51 as a false guidance and it is a religious blasphemy of the Quran,” Ma’ruf underlined.

MUI said the government and the people are obligated to keep the harmony in religious life, in the society, in the state and in the nation. The government also has the obligation to prevent religious blasphemy by not neglecting the case. “We are asking the people to remain calm, not to vigilante, and let the authority handle the case. Of course, we should keep an eye in blasphemy activities and report it to the authority,” Ma’ruf said.

MUI urged the authority to act proactive and firm in religious blasphemy case. “Who ever did religious blasphemy over the Quran and the Islamic teachings or insulting the clerics and Muslims should be dealt firmly,” Ma’ruf said.

Also read: Muslim condems Jakarta Governor for religious blasphemy

In order to keep public trust in law enforcement, the case should be processed quickly and proportionally in a professional manner. “The authority should consider the sense of justice for the people,” Ma’ruf said.

Republika,

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

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http://www.republika.co.id/berita/en/islam-in-archipelago/16/10/12/oew994414-mui-ahok-statement-is-a-blasphemy-and-has-legal-consequences

 

‘There will be another Ahok without law enforcement in religious blasphemy case’

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RR Laeny Sulistyawat

BANDAR LAMPUNG

ON  Friday (10/28), Muslims in several provinces hold demonstration against Basuki Tjahaja Purnama’s (Ahok) religious blasphemy.

Hundreds of protesters from 25 Islamic organizations joined Lampung Islamic Movement took to the street. They urged the police to process Basuki Tjahaja Purnama’s (Ahok) religious blasphemy case.

Protesters rallied in the street in front of the Taqwa Mosque, Jl Kotaraja, Bandar Lampung. ”We urged police to investigate Ahok who did religious blasphemy of Alquran particulary surah Al Maidah verse 51,” he said.

In the Bangka Belitung Province, thousands of protesters from Islamic Organizations also have held demonstration at the local Police Headquarters and Provincial Parliament office for the same purpose.

They ensured the protest were not correlated with politics. ‘We asked the police and Parliament to convey our aspirations to the National Police chief and the President to immediately process and arrest Ahok for insulting Islam,” Bangka Belitung branch of Indonesia Hizbut Tahrir (HTI) Chairman Sofiyan Rudianto said.

According to Sofiyan, without legal firm sanction, there would be another Ahoks doing religious defamation. “This will disrupt religious harmony in Indonesia and security will be unstable,” he said while asking the police to be neutral and professional in enforcing the law.

Also read: ‘Jakarta governor is trespassing other religion territory’

In front of Presidential Palace, DI Yogyakarta, thousand of people demanded Ahok to be put into justice. “I’m worried if Ahok is not get firm sanction, there will be a lot more massive movement coming from Muslims and this movement will spread all across the country,” Syukri Fadholi Chief of the local Unity and Development Party said.

In Bandung, West Java, rain did not stopped hundreds of youngster from Generasi Muda Jabar to hold demonstration in front of Gedung Sate. “We see no reason for the police to postpone Ahok’s imprisonment,” Coordinator of Darul Hikam Youth, Agus, remarked.

Also read: ‘None of Alquran verse guides people to the wrong path’

Muslims in West Nusa Tenggara appointed November 3rd as the deadline for the police to nail Ahok. They promised to hold a massive movement if Ahok has not been caught on that date.

North Sumatra Police Chief Rycko Amelza Dahniel agreed with the mass who demand the police to process Ahok religious blasphemy case. He noticed the case has been discussed not only nationally, but also international. “We hoped Jakarta Police would settle it accordingly,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bekasi Metro Police Umar Surya Fana have listened aspirations from hundreds members of several Islamic organizations that formed Forum Ukhuwah Umat Islam Bekasi (FUUI). Umar said the aspiration will be conveyed to Jakarta Metro Police chief. “Meanwhile, let’s show Muslims are united, peace lover, and not anarchy,” he said in Bekasi, West Java.

Previously, in Padang, West Sumatra, thousands of people naming themself Forum Masyarakat Minangkabau (FMM) asked the police to hold equality before the law principle. They believed the case of religious blasphemy by a women in Bali would be a perfect example in handling Ahok. “She was caught and punished 14 month imprisonment,” Muhammad Siddiq of the FMM said on Sunday (10/23).

Republika

Sat, 29 October 2016

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http://www.republika.co.id/berita/en/national-politics/16/10/29/ofrmzw414-there-will-be-another-ahok-without-law-enforcement-in-religious-blasphemy-case

 

 

Saudi news report on Bruneian with terror links untrue

A NEWS report about a Bruneian man arrested in Saudi Arabia over alleged terror links is not true, said the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

The National Security Committee said yesterday that Jeddah-based newspaper Saudi Gazette has admitted to the error in its reporting and published a correction on its website on September 20.

In its editor’s note appended to an article titled “53 terror suspects arrested during Haj”, the Saudi Gazette said it had erroneously reported that one of the suspects was a Brunei national.

Saudi Gazette’s e-paper reported on September 18 that an unidentified Bruneian man was recently apprehended by security forces in Riyadh on suspicion of terrorism, claiming that a growing number of expatriates living in Saudi were falling prey to ISIS propaganda.

However, subsequent investigations by the governments of Brunei and Saudi confirmed that no Brunei citizen was arrested.

The statement issued by PMO added that the National Security Committee, together with other security agencies in the country, will continuously monitor any activities that pose a threat to national security. Brunei citizens and residents were also reminded to abide by the law and warned against taking part in any terrorist or criminal activities in the country or abroad.

The Brunei Times

Thu, 22 September 2016

 

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http://bt.com.bn/news-national/2016/09/22/saudi-news-report-bruneian-terror-links-untrue

 

 

 

Brunei, the first Southeast Asian Muslim kingdom?

WHEN did Islam come to Brunei? Most western historians argued that Brunei Darussalam only began to accept Islam in the 16th century, that is, after the fall of the Malacca sultanate in 1511.

A number of historians such as K G Tregonning in his book “From Earliest Time to 1511” (1957), D G E Hall in his book “Sejarah Asia Tenggara” (1979), J F Cady in his book ‘”South East Asia: Its Historical Development” (1963) and Nicholas Tarling in his book “South East Asia: Past and Present”’ (1966) all wrote that Brunei replaced Malacca as the new centre to spread the teachings of Islam.

Robert Nicholl in his book published by the Brunei Museums entitled “European Sources for the History of the Sultanate of Brunei in the 16th century” (1975) compiled a number of European sources, which also suggested that the Brunei sultanate was still not a Muslim nation during the early 16th century.

Pg Dato Seri Setia Hj Mohammad Pg Hj Abd Rahman, the former Minister of Religious Affairs, in his book entitled “Islam di Brunei Darussalam” (1992) noted that western historians did not seem to take into account that Islam had spread widely in Southeast Asia even before the 16th century. Gravestones found in Brunei indicated that Muslims had been buried in the cemeteries with the stones dating a few centuries earlier than the 16th century.

One of the earliest known was a Chinese Muslim by the name of Pu Kung Chihmu, who died in 1276 A D. Therefore, there must be a Muslim community in Brunei which enabled him to be buried as a Muslim when he died. This, according to Pg Dato Hj Mohammad, was not impossible.

He noted that evidences in a number of places in Southeast Asia showed that Islam was already being accepted much earlier. In Leran, East Java a gravestone bearing the name of Fatimah Maimon Hibatullah was found dated 1082 AD; in Champa, Vietnam, a gravestone belonging to Abu Kamil Ahmad was dated 1039 AD; and in Pasai, it was a gravestone belonging to Sultan al-Malik al-Saleh dated 1297 AD.

An article, which recently came to light in support of this, was found in a book published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 2000 entitled “The Silk Roads Highways of Culture and Commerce”, which contained a small selection of papers from the international seminars organised during UNESCO Silk Road expeditions.

One of the articles was written by a Chinese scholar by the name of Chen Da-sheng entitled ‘”A Brunei Sultan of the Early Fourteenth Century: A Study of an Arabic Gravestone”, which comprised Chapter Eight of the book.

We are very fortunate that the paper was included, as Brunei at that point in time was not a member of UNESCO. Chen Da-sheng sailed on the expedition ship, the Fulk-al-Salamah, visiting several countries including Brunei. He was from Quanzhou and was interested in the gravestone of Pu Kung Chihmu, who was also from Quanzhou. During his visit, he visited various cemeteries in Brunei.

In his research, Chen Da-sheng was attracted to an article in the Brunei Museums Journal (1987), where two former senior Museum officials, Metassim Hi Jibah and Suhaili Hj Hassan wrote about “Tomb of Maharaja Brunei”, which was found at the Dagang Cemetery at Jalan Residency. He was very surprised that the undated gravestone was very similar to the gravestones that had been found in Quanzhou.

Quanzhou was an important trading harbour during the Song Dynasty. The Ashab Mosque or the Qingjing Mosque is a mosque found in Quanzhou constructed in 1009 AD, and this remained as the oldest Arab-style mosque in China.

In the city, there is also the Yisalangjiao Sheng Mu or Islamic Holy Graves built on the Ling Shan, the mountain of spirits on the East of Quanzhou city. The Yisalangjiao Sheng Mu graves are the resting places of early Islamic missionaries of the 7th century.

Chen Da-sheng immediately recognised that the gravestone belonging to the Emperor of Brunei was similar to the Muslim gravestones that were once used in Quanzhou, and he deduced that the gravestone in Brunei was made in Quanzhou as the material for the gravestone which was ‘diabase’ was not found in Brunei. Diabase or also known as dolerite is a subvolcanic rock similar to volcanic basalt.

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The front of the gravestone had Arabic inscriptions and these were translated to read:

This tomb belongs to the late martyr

Sultan, a learned and just man

a protector and conqueror. He was called

Maharaja Bruni. Forgive him

Allah with His grace and Pleasure

May Allah bless Muhammad

and all his descendants

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The back of the stone had this engraving:

Every soul must taste of death,

and ye shall only be paid your hire

upon the resurrection day

But he who is forced away from the fire

This stone was not dated, and neither was the king who died identified other than as the Maharaja Brunei. As such, this king could not be cross referenced to the royal genealogy of the Sultans of Brunei; and the genealogy began with Sultan Muhammad said to reign from 1363 AD.

Chen Da-sheng noted that in Quanzhou, when excavations were made of these ancient Muslim graves, the majority of gravestones were made from diabase. In the 1920s and 1930s, a great number of these gravestones were excavated when the ancient wall of Quanzhou was demolished. The current collection of Arabic and Persian stones inscriptions of the Quanzhou Foreign Maritime Museum is the richest of all museums in China.

After studying and cross referencing with the gravestones that had been recovered in Quanzhou, Chen Da-sheng discovered that the inscriptions on the Brunei gravestone were very similar to another gravestone belonging to Fatimat Naina Ahmad, who died in Quanzhou in 1301 AD.

Chen Da-sheng believed that the two stones were inscribed by the same people as the writings were identical. No other similar stone has been found in Brunei. Upon discussion with the Brunei Museum officials, it was also confirmed that all the inscriptions for subsequent sultans were written in Jawi with the exception of this gravestone, which was written in Arabic.

With regard to the age, Chen Da-sheng explained that the Muslims in Quanzhou were massacred after they lost a war known as the Ispah Rebellion in 1366 AD, and the winning army killed all the Muslim population they could find. After 1366, it was very hard to find any Arabic inscriptions on any gravestones in Quanzhou. The few that could be found in the outlying villages are different in style, shape and paleography.

Chen Da-sheng argued that based on the facts above, this provided evidence that the Muslim kingdom established in Brunei was certainly during the late 13th and early 14th century. In Chen Da-sheng words, “the Arabic gravestone of Sultan Maharaja Brunei presented evidence that a Muslim kingdom already existed in Brunei about AH 700 (1301 AD). It sheds new light on the study of the early history of the Muslim kingdoms established in Brunei and even in Sumatra.”

If this is true, and supported with the written records of the Boxer Codex, this means that the official date of the first Brunei Muslim sultanate of 1376 AD needs to be adjusted, and that Brunei could be one of the early Malay Muslim kingdoms, or there is even the possibility that Brunei could even be the earliest in the Southeast Asian region.

Currently, Pasai in Sumatra is considered to be the earliest Muslim kingdom because a gravestone belonging to Sultan al-Malik al-Salleh dated 1297 AD was found there. Who knows when exactly did the Brunei Muslim sultanate began? It could be earlier than that of Sultan al-Malik al-Salleh.

The Brunei Times

Sun, 18 September 2016

 

http://bt.com.bn/features/2016/09/17/brunei-first-southeast-asian-muslim-kingdom