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

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Kelantan considers guillotine as punishment for offenders


A SMALLER form of the guillotine, similar to that reportedly used to behead French King Louis XVI and his queen, Marie Antoinette, during the height of the French Revolution in 1793, is set to emerge in Kelantan.

The opposition PAS-led state’s hudud law technical committee, said to be facing problems finding suitable methods to amputate limbs of those convicted of stealing, is considering a “mini” form of the guillotine as an option.

Its Chairman, Datuk Mohd Amar Abdullah, said he would suggest to the panel to use such a contraption, which would not need a surgeon to operate.

Mohd Amar, who is Kelantan Deputy Mentri Besar, said despite the negative reactions to getting surgeons to amputate the limbs of offenders, the committee was still mulling the idea.

kelantan map“The surgeon must first agree to carry out the procedure but he is likely to face the wrath of the Malaysian Medical Association for violating the Hippocratic Oath.

The oath to uphold professional and ethical standards is historically taken by physicians and their assistants.

Mohd Amar said the guillotine was fast, effective and needed only one person to pull the lever, two others to hold down the offender and a doctor to ensure the punished person does not drastically suffer from the punishment. The judge who meted out the sentence must also be present.

“I will make extensive studies on the method used during the French Revolution in the 18th century when guillotines were used to sever the heads of those sentenced to death,” he added.

Ironically, France’s guillotine was introduced to end the preceding centuries of inhumane torture of criminals and eliminate the severity of pain endured under capital punishment.

The device based on a falling heavy blade is named after Dr Joseph Ignace Guillotine, who did not invent it but lobbied extensively for its use.

The first execution using a guillotine took place at Place de Greve in Paris on convicted armed robber Jacques Nicolas Pelletier in 1792.

The last person to be beheaded by a guillotine was convicted killer Hamida Djandoubi in 1977. The Tunisian was found guilty of killing his former lover, Elisabeth Bousquet. France abolished the death penalty in 1981.

Mohd Amar said probable methods to mete out punishment including chopping off of limbs of offenders under Syariah Criminal Code II 1993, were discussed in a meeting chaired by Kota Baru MP Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan.

He said among those who attended the meeting were eight muftis and several doctors, adding that he did not attend as he was performing his pilgrimage in Mecca then.

“I plan to attend the next meeting and propose the mini guillotine idea for detailed discussions,” he said.

Kelantan intends to table two private member’s Bills in Parliament for hudud laws to be implemented and enforced in the state next year.

The first is to provide wider powers to Syariah court judges to hear and mete out sentences under the Syariah Penal Code, while the second is to allow federal departments, like the police and the prisons department, to be used by the state government to enforce its hudud laws.

Currently, under Article 76A of the Federal Constitution, crimes such as stealing, robbing, causing hurt, rape and murder come under the Penal Code.

In an immediate reaction, Kelantan Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) deputy chairman Tan Ken Ten described the plan to introduce the mini guillotine as ridiculous.

“I do not know what else they will come up with after this. They are becoming creative with ideas and making it up while they go along with their plans to enforce hudud in the state,” he said.

“The whole episode sounds like a joke. By resorting to an 18th century device to carry out capital punishments, they will become the laughing stock of the world,” added Tan.

The Star/ANN/The Brunei Times
Monday, November 17, 2014

kelantan gatet

US Navy briefed on Syariah law

bru syariah us navyAbdul Azim Kassim

UNITED States Navy personnel were briefed on the Syariah Law Penal Code Order at the last day of the Military Operations Symposium (MILOPS) held at the Multinational Coordination Centre (MNCC) in Muara yesterday.

Delivering their briefing entitled ‘Introduction to Shari’ah Law’ were the two invited speakers; Hj Afif Daraina Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Hj Badaruddin from the Attorney General’s Chamber (AGC) and Hjh Norhartijah Hj Puteh from the Brunei Islamic Legal Unit, Prime Minister’s Office.

The Ministry of Defence (MinDef) in a statement said the briefing served to shed light on to the US military counterparts so they may have a better understanding on the Syariah Law recently implemented in the Sultanate this year.

“It was also to meet the interests of the US personnel who themselves were keen on learning about the penal code and thus requested for it,” a MinDef personnel said.

Haji Afif Daraina

Haji Afif Daraina

Hj Afif Daraina, in his briefing, mentioned that in the Syariah penal code, witnesses were almost akin to a saint-like figure. However these witnesses must be mature and were in the right state of mind. Also they must be Adil (fair) – a Muslim who performs the prescribed religious duties and abstains from committing capital sins.

From the audience, a MinDef Legal Unit officer asked: “How would you go about determining whether someone can be considered Adil?”

Hj Afif Daraina answered the penal code’s Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) can help with this but he believed the CPC is currently in the drafting stage and will be presented in due course.

“But there’s a general rule on the concept of fairness, concept of justice, a person should be deemed as ideal witness as is true by whatever Islamic jurisprudence have come up with. The judge will be in the position in the concept of fairness,” he said.

This determination was made known as ‘Tazkiyyah Al-Syuhud’ (Examination of Witness) – an inquiry on the witnesses can be conducted by the Court to determine whether they are Adil or not.

Meanwhile Hjh Norhatijah presented to the US personnel on the examples of punishments.

On indecent behavior in public, she said this was a broad spectrum and may involve situations where a Muslim or non-Muslim tarnished Islam’s image or brought bad influence can land one a fine of not more than $2,000 or imprisonment of not more than six months or both.

She also advised non-Muslims were best to avoid using expressions with respect to religions other than Islam except as a reference or citation.

“For example, a non-Muslim should not say Alhamdulillah I just read the Bible or InsyaAllah I’ll be reading the Bible later,” she said.

On the sidelines of the briefing, US Navy Judge Advocate General Lieutenant Kevin Loughman posed a question to Head of MinDef Legal Unit Lieutenant Colonel Norsuriati Hj Sharbini on how the Syariah penal code has impacted the proceedings in her unit.

She responded that the Syariah Law was not within the legal unit’s jurisdiction and since it was only implemented recently, it was still business as usual.

“But we will see how it goes. Maybe in future we may have talks with the AGC to see how the penal code can incorporated into the Legal Unit but of course and beforehand we must first ensure if we are capable of it,” she said.

“What we can certainly do is to continue to create more awareness on the penal code.”

The Brunei Times
Wednesday, November 12, 2014

bru syar bb

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

Two Indonesians detained on suspicion of ‘khalwat’

Md Khairuddin Pg Harun

TWO foreign couples were detained on suspicion of khalwat (close proximity) during a raid in Mukim Lumapas by the Immigration and National Registration Department and the Religious Enforcement Division on Monday.

According to a press release issued by Immigration and National Registration Department, the two men and two women failed to prove that they are legally married. Hence the case was referred to the Religious Enforcement Division which is treating it as khalwat.

The release said that one of the couples admitted that they were not husband and wife, the statement said.

When contacted last night, the Religious Enforcement Division could not immediately confirm if the khalwat case would go through the Syariah Court.

Khalwat falls under Part IV Section IV General Offences of the Syariah Penal Code Order, 2013 implemented last month.

As many as 12 foreign workers, including four suspected of khalwat, were detained in Ops Kikis conducted by 14 immigration and eight Religious Enforcement Division officers, the press release added

Five Indonesians – two women and three men – were brought to court on the same day and received their sentences for overstaying in the country after their immigration passes had expired. Another Indonesian woman is awaiting sentencing while three men and a woman are still under investigation.

The aim of the inspection was to implement the special operation based on the information collected with the cooperation of members of the public as well as to enforce the Immigration Acts and Regulations and Passport Act and Regulation.

The press release said that foreign nationals in the country are reminded not to misuse their immigration passes and they should only work with the employer stated in their passports.

Local traders are also reminded that they should not hire immigration offenders as legal action can be taken against them, said the press release.

The Immigration and National Registration Department would like to remind employers to ensure their employees have valid immigration passes.

The Brunei Times
Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Defending the Syariah Law (3)

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

ORANG kata: 2+2=5, 2×2=7, kitani terus percaya! Hence, this observation: “JATUH MENJATUH BUDAYA MELAYU” (Ref: Utusan Malaysia, 5 March, 2002). The ISLAMIC brotherhood highlighted in the Quran is irrelevant to us!

And ponder on this: Mr Crawford, the Governor of the Straits Settlements in 1823, wrote a dispatch to the Government of India. He stated that in his observation, the ECONOMIC WORTH of the following races is thus: One Chinese is equal to two Indians or four Malays. (Ref: “The Manners and Customs of The Chinese Of The Straits Settlements” by J D Vaughan.)

Why, because basically we don’t exert ourselves. Our “bumi dipijak, disitu kita mati” has always been full of fruits, tropical shoots and rivers swarmed with fishes. “Cukup sahari, esok ada lagi. Akhirnya pergi arah citi! Orang maju, kitani dengki/benci. Sasama sendiri, berbelah bagi.”

Now, to cut it short, we are being challenged by those self-righteous human rights crusaders on the implementation of our Divine Shariah Law. These are “powerful” anti-Islam pressure group elements backed by anti-Islam Western Media. How to unite, fortify ourselves so as not to “berbelah bagi”?

To quote the Malaysian Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak: “Humanrightism, a liberal way of thinking that places human rights and (man-made) secular law above (ISLAMIC) religion……is dangerous to Islam”.

“We will never accept and give in to their demands for the right to reject ISLAM or deny the implementation of ISLAMIC teachings, which have been done through Syariah Law” (“Nation Must Combat Liberalism”, New Straits Times,14 May 2014).

By the way, in this New Straits Times, May 20, 2014, page 15, there is an excellent robust defence for Brunei Darussalam against those Western-Secularists’ attacks on the implementation of our Syariah Law. (Ref: “Seeing The Stars, Not The Light” by Syed Nadzri, an award-winning columnist. NST, May 20,2014)

Humanly, we don’t expect to be able to win over those anti-ISLAM/MUSLIMS crusaders, but only Allah Subhanahu Wata’ala Decides and Determines What, When and How changes and events happen to mankind and the entire world. So, we must fortify ourselves with KNOWLEDGE and EXPERTISE in strongly advocating ISLAMIC SYARIAH LAW to the world. Hence these verses:

“With clear arguments and Scriptures and Reminder that thou may make clear to men that which has been revealed to them, and that gladly they may reflect.”Verse 44: Surah Al Nahl (The Bee) (16)

“Call to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation and argue with them in the best manner”. Verse 25: Surah Al-Nahl (The Bee) (16)

Clearly, the Divine Advice “call to the way of thy Lord with wisdom” and “argue with them in the best manner” should have made us ensure from the beginning that we possess the deep and wide knowledge of ISLAM/SYARIAH LAW. But that alone is insufficient, we need to be rich in the eloquence of fortifying our explanations, answers and statements; we cannot be amateurish. No second rate quality is acceptable, the attitude of “kalau tak ada rotan, akar pun jadilah” is self-defeating! We must not just have “rotan”, we must have “steel wires”!

Not surprisingly, our “half-baked knowledge is self-destructive.” Sadly, it is not shocking that these weaknesses have been exploited by the enemies of ISLAM, they’ve even become a tongue-in-cheek pun amongst critical locals on the knowledge /expertise weakness; their quality lacunae.

Man-made laws are complex, but Divine Laws are more challenging, intriguing and sublimely strict in application: no margin or room for errors, no favour and fear, because the implementers (the Syariah Authority) are directly answerable to Allah Subhanahu Wata’ala.

Thus, the pun which went round was on words such as “Masjid”, “Haji” & “Azan” which due to half-baked explanations have become the items of “cynical debate” amongst those “interested”. How could the words “Masjid”, “Haji” and “Azan” be “haram” for our non-Muslim friends to utter them, when these words have been part of the integral socio-cultural-administrative lingua franca for years amongst the Muslims and non-Muslims. Let’s take “Masjid” for example, I believe dozens of Brunei’s mosques have been built by non-Muslim contractors and workers. As for “Azan”, what is the accurate word to substitute it with: “Azan = orang panggil sembah Tuhan“?!

Furthermore, what about those would be reverts to ISLAM? They have to learn and be guided on practicing the Shahadah.

They have to practice it consistently and memorise it, before the actual time for their voluntary utterance of solemnly accepting ISLAM.

The Brunei Times
Thu, 5 June 2014

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