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

bru penal codes


Malaysia’s National Fatwa Council declares vaping as ‘haram’

Azura Abas
THE National Fatwa Council has declared that e-cigarette and vape are ‘haram (forbidden)”. Its chairman Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Dr Abdul Shukor Husin announced this after chairing a special council meeting which lasted more than two hours last night.
The decision was reached after those in the meeting had examined studies from the syariah, medical and scientific aspects as well as from the viewpoints of wastage and unhealthy culture.
“From the syariah aspect, it is detrimental to health. Islam forbids its followers from using things that can harm them directly or indirectly; immediately or gradually that can lead to death, damage the body, result in dangerous illnesses or harm the mind.
“E-cigarettea and vapes are categorised as repulsive due to its harming effects and smell bad. “They also have an element of wastage, which is by spending money on things that are harmful and non-beneficial,” he added.
He said using e-cigarette could be equated to drinking poison and smoking conventional cigarettes. Such a decision, he said, was also made from the aspect of public interest and preventing a possibly huge and dangerous outcome.
“We are seeing women and school children showing interest in vape. The decision is made to prevent an unhealthy culture from spreading to future generations.”
Abdul Shukor also urged all states that had yet to issue a fatwa on e-cigarettes and vapes to use the national fatwa council’s decision as reference. So far, four states have banned vapes, namely Penang, Kedah, Johor and Kelantan.
New Straits Times
Tue, 22 December 2015

Islamic finance needs to venture into corporate banking

Mustafa Adil, presenting his keynote presentation titled The State of the Islamic Economy

Mustafa Adil, presenting his keynote presentation titled The State of the Islamic Economy

Koo Jin Shen

THE Islamic finance industry needs to offer more than retail based products by expanding its current portfolio into the corporate sector.

“Islamic banking and finance had been a predominantly retail-driven industry,” said Mustafa Adil, head of research and product development for Islamic finance at global intelligence firm Thomson Reuters.

In a recent interview with The Brunei Times, Mustafa said Islamic finance is a relatively-new segment of the banking and finance industry. But over the years, it had gain a lot of traction among consumers, with Islamic banks usually offering retail products.

“It has helped developed financial inclusion in the sense that a lot of consumers had come from outside the banking space into this segment,” he said.

But Mustafa said Islamic finance has barely touched on corporate banking. This is because corporations distinguish less between Islamic and non-Islamic finance than retail customers.

He said most Islamic banks focus on taking deposits and giving financing to consumers. But Mustafa said some funds are now going to the corporate side which help grow small and medium enterprises.

Mustafa said there’s also a need to align Islamic finance with other sectors of the Islamic economy.

He said Islamic finance had came into an established industry where some activities are not syariah-compliant.

“It had been a harder sell for people to accept that something may or may not be syariah-compliant and this other alternative (Islamic finance) should be. But halal food for example was simply standardising existing centuries old practice,” he said.

The Brunei Times
Monday, June 8, 2015

‘Use caution with Islamic financial institutions’: Professor

finance-talk-poster-1Nabilah Haris

CONSUMERS should be careful and knowledgeable when dealing with financial institutions even though they are Islamic in name, said a scholar from Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali.

Professor Dr Mahmood Mohamed Sanusi, a professor from the Faculty of Business and Management Sciences at the Islamic university, gave the advice during a talk entitled “Does the Islamic Financial Institutions Customer Need Consumer Protection?”

“The protection of consumers is an important matter that should be taken seriously,” said Professor Dr Mahmood, adding that the practices of some Islamic financial institutions should be taken into consideration. The situation is not unique to Brunei, he said, but throughout the region.

Professor Dr Mahmood Mohamed Sanusi

Professor Dr Mahmood Mohamed Sanusi

He said that while various aspects of financial institutions, including Islamic ones, are questionable, the financial products they offer should provide some insight into whether their practices are Syariah compliant.

Claims that their practices are according to fatwas should not satisfy the consumer and may only be a form of marketing to draw consumers into practices that may lack Syariah compliance.

“The contract which spells out the relationship between the consumer and the bank will show how genuine their business is,” said Professor Dr Mahmood, adding that defects with some Islamic banks are in their legal documentation whereby they “do not distribute justice between parties”.

He said legal documentation must be Syariah compliant so that the terms of the contract and the price will be fair and equitable to consumers.

During the course of the talk, he also shared complaints from both Malaysia and Brunei that involved consumers having to deal with issues of Islamic financial institutions in civil courts.

In conclusion, Professor Dr Mahmood said Syariah scholars face a major challenge of having the Islamic financial industry accept that not all forms of conventional instruments such as options, futures and derivatives can be made Syariah compliant despite being practiced in the financial market.

“Once conformity to the Syariah is achieved, the legality of an Islamic bank’s financial products will not be a contentious issue nor be doubted by Muslims,” he said.

The talk was held yesterday at UNISSA’s Jubilee Hall.

Professor Dr Mahmood has published works in reputable academic journals, including the International Journal of Financial Services, Arab Law Quarterly, Journal of Money Laundering Control (Cambridge University) and IIUM Law Journal.

The Brunei Times
Sunday, February 1, 2015

Jakarta to promote Syariah tourism destinations and products

Author Amelia Yugia Masniari (L) and Head of the Jakarta Tourism and Culture Office Arie Budhiman (R) holding Amelia's book on shopping in Jakarta. Photo: BT/Rebecca Oi

Author Amelia Yugia Masniari (L) and Head of the Jakarta Tourism and Culture Office Arie Budhiman (R) holding Amelia’s book on shopping in Jakarta. Photo: BT/Rebecca Oi

Rebecca Oi

INDONESIA’S capital is drawing up plans to attract more Bruneians to the city.

THE Jakarta Tourism and Culture Office is taking steps to promote tourist destinations in the city through the Jakarta Tourism Business Forum (JTBF) 2014.

Speaking to The Brunei Times yesterday, the Promotion Director of Jakarta Tourism and Culture Office, Cucu Ahmad Kurnia, said: “The number of Brunei tourists visiting Jakarta is still relatively low — below 10,000 visitors annually compared to neighbouring countries such as Malaysia with 186,626 visitors and Singapore with 106,406 visitors.

“We have plans to jointly boost tourism between Indonesia and Brunei, however there are challenges due to the relatively small market of the Sultanate,” he added.

“However, there are tentative plans to meet local travel agents and the national carrier from the Sultanate to create an attractive package for Brunei tourists to Jakarta, “ he said.

He went on to say that both countries have many similarities in terms of culture, food and traditions, therefore he hopes Bruneians would include Jakarta as part of their travel plans.

The tourism office also hopes to promote Syariah tourism destinations and products, such as hotels, travel packages, restaurants and spas.

Syariah tourism is leisure and travel that complies with Islamic law. He added: “Syariah tourism looks very promising because spending by Muslim tourists is growing faster than the global rate and is forecast to reach US$192 billion ($251 billion) globally per year by 2020.”

According to the State of the Global Islamic Economy 2012 research that was conducted by Thomson Reuters, Muslims spent US$88 billion ($114.84 billion) on halal food, which is equal to 16.6 per cent of worldwide food spending. The figure is projected to increase to 626 billion in 2018.

In 2012, the global Muslim population spent US$37 billion ($49.29 billion) in travelling (excluding haj and minor haj), which is equal to 12.5 per cent of global spending. This number is forecast to reach US$81billion ($105.71 billion) by 2018.

He added that the direct contribution of travel and tourism to Indonesia’s GDP was 3.1 per cent of total GDP in 2013, and was forecast to rise by 8.1 per cent in 2014, and to rise by 5.3 per cent per annum until 2024.

Speaking on the one-day JTBF 2014 planned for today, head of the Jakarta Tourism and Culture Office Arie Budhiman said: “The introduction of tourism products is now being done in an innovative way through a session called ‘Table Top’.” He said that the session is a concept of business to business (B2B) in which participants can interact personally, exchange information and offer tourism products.

Arie believes that Jakarta does not serve only as the centre of the Indonesian government and the economy but that it had great potential in the tourism sector.

He said that the tourism office will also continue to support Jakarta to increase the number of domestic and foreign tourists, which will increase revenue from the tourism sector.

The one-day forum will be see participation by public and private sector establishments including 100 sellers from Jakarta, 194 buyers from 30 cities all over Indonesia and six ASEAN countries as well as local and international media.

The Brunei Times
Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Masjid Hidayatullah, an old mosque in the jungle of Jakarta's highrise buildings .

Masjid Hidayatullah, an old mosque in the jungle of Jakarta’s highrise buildings .

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

Questioning rights and Islam


IT WAS indeed a historic move when His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darrusalam announced May 1 as the official enforcement date of the first phase of the Syariah Penal Code Order – which incorporates Islamic laws into the existing criminal justice system – at a special ceremony at the International Convention Centre (ICC).

With the announcement, Brunei becomes the first East Asian country to reintroduce Islamic criminal law at a national level. Since then, a barrage of unjustified criticisms have been levelled against the country, with many basing their opinions on the UN Declaration on Human Rights that was created in 1948 and ratified in 1949, when Brunei was still then a British Protectorate. It should be noted that the declaration was arguably not universally accepted. The declaration was based on what had been critically described as “a secular understanding of the Judeo-Christian tradition” that later on became the basis for other related conventions.

bru Palestinians-scramble-ADJ.transformed

bru Palestinians-scramble-ADJ.transformedThe declaration was imposed on the world by a body dominated by permanent members with dictatorial-like veto powers that believed then and arguably still do, that might is right. Upholding true human rights was assuredly not the underlying motive behind that declaration for otherwise that same organisation that came up with it in 1948 would not have in that very same year trampled upon the rights of Palestinians by “legitimising” the creation of a Zionist entity that would in a genocidal manner murder and drive away the inhabitants of historical Palestine, and to this very day still occupy and subjugate them in an apartheid-like barbarism with the support and indulgence of some of the same permanent and non-permanent members of that body.

One has to appreciate as well that colonialism still existed then in 1948/1949 (as neo-colonialism still do today in many parts of the world, not the least in terms of ideology) and non-Western countries, especially Muslim ones, after the fall of the Ottoman Caliphate early in the century, were not resilient enough to counter a declaration that in parts have been argued to seriously and blasphemously contradict Divine Commandments. There was arguably neither a common voice among Muslims then for various reasons, nor the ability existed for them to stop its ratification, given their conditions then and the disrespect for or ignorance of Islamic points of view that persists to this very day.

When unjustified criticisms were hurled at Brunei for commencing the enforcement of the Syariah Penal Code, one could not help but notice that these were actually against Islam itself. That is the underlying pattern that could be assessed from these criticisms, although many have tried to unconvincingly deny that. As such, given the barrage of criticisms against Islam itself, one would imagine that international Islamic governmental and non-governmental organisations that supposedly uphold the Quran and Sunnah would take serious note of these, issue statements against such contempt and insolence for Islam, and help correct the misconceptions that others have on the religion and its laws.

Then again, the usefulness of that may be questionable.

As His Majesty has rightly noted that “such response (criticisms), of course, is based on a distorted view of Islam. This shouldn’t surprise us because it was foretold in al-Quran and Hadith more than 1,400 years ago. There is no need to waste time waiting or hoping for their distorted view to change or become clear.”

His Majesty added, “We have never viewed others in a negative light because what they do is within their rights and up to their individual choices. We also do not expect them to accept and agree with us, but it is sufficient if they respect us as we duly respect them.” His Majesty said the Syariah Penal Code is a revival of Islamic laws once practiced in the Sultanate, and he described the implementation of the code as yet another major development for the country and not what some claim as archaic and a backward step.

One has to remember that historically, the ummah of Muhammad (peace be upon him) was never in the stone age, the dark age or the middle ages, unlike Europe was. The ummah, through and with the Syariah of Islam, brought about the Golden Age of scientific, technological, and other spheres of progress that subsequently led to the renaissance movement in what we know today as the western world. It is only through upholding steadfastly to the Syariah, as has been historically proven, that such an age could be revived for the benefit of all mankind, by the Will of Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala).

The Brunei Times/Editorial
Tue, 6 May 2014

bru syariah_4