Avoid Muslim Brunei
Brunei bans Christmas celebrations in public, including wearing Santa hats
December 22, 2015
Sidney Morning Herald
Oil-rich Brunei has banned public celebrations of Christmas, including
sending festive greetings and the wearing of Santa Claus hats.
Muslims seen celebrating Christmas and non-Muslims found to be organising celebrations could face up to five years jail.
However the country's non-Muslims, who comprise 32 per cent of the
420,000 population, can celebrate Christmas in their own communities on
the condition that the celebrations are not disclosed to Muslims.
Imams have told followers in the tiny Borneo nation to follow a
government edict last year banning celebrations that could lead Muslims
astray and damage their faith, according to the Borneo Bulletin.
"These enforcement measures are … intended to control the act of
celebrating Christmas excessively and openly, which could damage the
aqidah (beliefs) of the Muslim community," the Ministry of Religious
Affairs said in a statement explaining the edict that was published in
the Brunei Times.
The statement said non-Muslims disclosing or displaying Christmas
celebrations violated the penal code which prohibits propagating
religion other than Islam to a Muslim.
The Borneo Bulletin quotes imams saying in a Friday sermon that
lighting candles, putting up Christmas trees, singing religious songs,
sending Christmas greetings and putting up decorations are against the
"Some may think that it is a frivolous matter and should not be brought up as an issue," the imams are quoted as saying.
"But as Muslims … we must keep it (following other religions'
celebrations) away as it could affect our Islamic faith," they said.
Before Christmas last year officials of the Ministry of Religious
Affairs visited businesses and asked owners to remove Christmas
decorations and to stop staff wearing Santa Claus hats and clothes.
Brunei's rulers do not enforce the harsh Islamic orthodoxies of countries like Saudi Arabia.
There are no sanctions for women who do not wear headscarfs and while
the sale and public consumption of alcohol is banned, foreigners are
allowed to import and drink it behind closed doors.
But Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, one of the world's richest men,
last year ordered the introduction of sharia, the strict legal code
based on the injunctions of the Koran, prompting boycotts and protests
at hotels he owns in the United Kingdom and the United States,
including the Beverly Hills Hotel.
The laws, which include amputation of hands and feet for theft and whipping for adultery, were to be phased in over three years.
But their introduction appears to have been delayed without public explanation, according to foreign observers in Brunei.
Brunei bans public celebration of Christmas
09 January 2015
KUALA LUMPUR - Officials in Brunei have banned the public celebration
of the Christmas holiday, the country’s Religious Affairs Department
confirmed yesterday after reports emerged that the authorities raided
restaurants and other buildings that had put up holiday decorations.
The raids and crackdown on Christian symbols are said to be another
sign of the eroding religious freedoms of non-Muslims in the oil-rich
Syariah enforcement officials confirmed they had visited restaurants
and cafes in the nation’s capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, to instruct
them to remove their decorations ahead of Christmas and New Year
A staff member at one location said enforcement staff came to the
restaurant and verbally warned the management against exhibiting
decorations that went against Islamic beliefs.
In May last year, Brunei, which has a population of around 420,000,
two-thirds of whom are Malay-Muslim, began implementing a strict new
penal code first published in October 2013, following an announcement
by its ruling monarch, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.
It imposed restrictions on the religious freedom of non-Muslims,
including forms of religious expression such as teaching, proselytism,
religious publishing and even speaking freely to Muslims and atheists
about one’s own religious beliefs. Even minor infractions are
punishable by heavy fines and in some cases prison sentences as well.
Islam has long been Brunei’s official religion, with strict bans on the
sale and consumption of alcohol and Islamic laws in place governing
personal and family affairs. But the new regulations grabbed headlines
worldwide because they extended laws to cover criminal offences such as
adultery, sodomy and apostasy, and proposed severe punishments,
including stoning to death and amputation.
Thus far, it is not clear how the ban on Christmas decorations will be
implemented, but religious authorities said “Muslims should be careful
not to follow celebrations such as (Christmas) that are not in any way
related to Islam ... and could unknowingly damage the faith of
Muslims”. - AGENCIES
Concern as Brunei brings in system of Islamic law with punishments that include the dismemberment of limbs and stoning to death
WEDNESDAY 02 APRIL 2014
The Sultan of Brunei, one of the world’s wealthiest rulers and a close
ally of Britain, will this week oversee his country’s transition to a
system of Islamic law with punishments that include flogging, the
dismemberment of limbs and stoning to death.
The 67-year-old absolute monarch declared last year that he wanted to
introduce a full sharia system in his oil-rich nation and warned
critics who took to social media sites to complain that they could be
prosecuted using the new laws.
The decision to introduce sharia and reintroduce the death penalty has
been condemned by NGOs and legal rights campaigners, who say the new
rules will breach international laws. It has also triggered alarm among
some of Brunei’s non-Muslim communities, who will also be subject to
some of the rulings.
The development could put pressure on Britain to rethink its close
relationship with Brunei, a former colony. A British regiment based in
the country – the last surviving UK regiment stationed in East Asia –
is paid for entirely by the Sultan.
In a letter to Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, the International Commission of
Jurists (ICJ) said it deplored the new rules, adding that, if
implemented, they would lead to serious human rights violations.
“Brunei has not implemented the death penalty for years, so it came as
quite a surprise that the new law has reintroduced it,” said the ICJ’s
Brunei is two-thirds Muslim and has long implemented some sharia,
mainly for civil matters such as marriage. But last year the Sultan,
who is said to be worth £24bn and lives in a 1,788-room palace,
announced a plan to introduce full Islamic law.
Offences include insulting the Prophet Mohamed, drinking alcohol,
getting pregnant outside of marriage and “sodomy”. The latter will be
punishable by stoning.
“It is because of our need that Allah the Almighty, in all his
generosity, has created laws for us, so that we can utilise them to
obtain justice,” the Sultan said at the time.
It is unclear precisely what is motivating the Sultan, who also serves
as the country’s prime minister and assumed the throne in 1967. But in
a speech in February to mark the country’s National Day holiday, he
claimed the system of an absolute Islamic monarch acted as a “strong
and effective firewall” against the challenges of globalisation. He
referred specifically to the internet.
He claimed that there were those, both in and outside Brunei, which
last year chaired the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean),
who had been challenging his plans and who wanted to see “internal
turmoil”. He added: “These parties, it seems, have attempted to mock
the king, the Islamic scholars and sharia. They are using the new
media, such as blogs, WhatsApp and so on, which are not just accessed
by locals but also by those overseas.”
The speech by the Sultan – who for many years was involved in a
high-profile legal battle with his brother, a playboy accused of
misappropriating £9bn of government assets and who reportedly owned a
yacht called Tits – has had the impact of silencing many who might
publicly speak out against the move.
Yet there are concerns, especially among the minority communities.
There are around 30,000 Filipino citizens in Brunei, many of them
Catholic, and the Philippine ambassador to Brunei, Nestor Ochoa,
recently held a meeting at which he warned his countrymen about the
implications of the new laws.
Father Robert Leong, a Catholic priest in Brunei, said there were
concerns that baptisms of newborn babies could breach the new rules,
which prohibit the “propagation of religion other than Islam to a
Muslim or a person having no religion”. He said that the law was being
introduced in three phases, with the harshest punishments, including
the death penalty, being phased in over two years from Tuesday. “There
will be no baptisms. There is not a lot we can do about it. We will
have to wait and see what happens,” he said.
Britain granted independence to Brunei in 1984, but has maintained a
close relationship with the country. A 1,000-strong regiment of the
British Army, the Royal Gurkha Rifles, has been located there since the
late 1950s and in 1962 stepped in to quell a rebellion against the
Sultan’s father. The regiment is paid for by the Sultan. The British
Army also runs a jungle warfare training school in the small nation. A
government spokesperson said: “Ministry of Defence discussions are
ongoing with the Bruneian authorities to clarify any impact on UK
Royal Dutch Shell, an Anglo-Dutch multinational, also runs a major
operation there as a joint venture with the Brunei government.
A briefing document published last year about defence and security
opportunities in Brunei by the UK Department for Business, Innovation
and Skills said Brunei invested “a significant proportion of the
country’s wealth through the City of London”. It said the British Armed
Forces garrison was a linchpin of UK-Brunei relations.
“The Government’s goal is to retain a dominant position in these key
areas, and to maximise our share of influence as Brunei diversifies its
economy and puts increasing emphasis on regional partners like Asean
and China,” it said. “As it does so, Brunei will also provide a
UK-friendly window into the key growth area of South-east Asia.”
The Sultan has been married three times. He remains married to his
first wife, but he divorced his second, a one-time airline stewardess,
in 2003 after 21 years. He divorced his third wife, a former TV
reporter, in 2010 after five years. Both ex-wives were stripped of
their royal titles.
Stories of his wealth abound. It was reported that, while playing polo
with Prince Charles on one occasion, he had his boots delivered by
helicopter to the polo field.
The Brunei government did not respond to queries and the Brunei High
Commission in London failed to answer questions from The IoS. However,
earlier this year, Brunei’s most senior Muslim cleric claimed that
those criticising the new rules did not understand them, according to a
report in The Brunei Times.
Dr Ustaz Hj Awg Abdul Aziz Juned said in a lecture in London: “Not even
a day after the law was announced, human rights groups on social media
commented that the steps taken by the Brunei government to implement
the law was out of date and not modern.”
What is sharia?
Sharia is the Islamic legal system that derives from the Koran, the
example of the life of the Prophet Mohamed and “fatwas”, which are the
rulings of Islamic scholars. Different schools of thought exist,
resulting in different interpretations.
What does it cover?
While Western law confines itself predominantly to crime and civil
matters, sharia is a guide to help Muslims understand how they should
lead every aspect of their lives. This ranges from deciding whether to
enter a bar with someone wanting to drink alcohol to the punishments
for theft or for criticising the Koran. Its treatment of women is
particularly controversial. Judgements have banned the holding of
property once married, enabled beatings for insubordination, and
required a husband’s consent to divorce.
Where is it used?
Mauritania, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Maldives, Pakistan, Qatar,
Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Nigeria all apply sharia. Some states,
including UAE, Jordan and Egypt, use some form of sharia in their
19 Islamic words banned for non-Muslims in Brunei
The Sun Daily
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN (Feb 23, 2014): The Brunei government will ban the
use of 19 Islamic words, including "Allah" and "masjid", by
non-Muslims, according to the Brunei Times today.
The ban will take effect from April, the paper said.
Under the Syariah Penal Code Order, these words cannot be used with respect to other religions.
They are 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.
The Brunei Times quoted Hardifadhillah Mohd Salleh, a senior syariah
legal officer of the Islamic Legal Unit as telling staff of the
Industry and Primary Resources Ministry on key parts of the order
during a briefing.
He also said certain provisions of the order also apply to non-Muslims,
such as zina (adultery) with a Muslim partner, drinking alcohol in a
public place, and khalwat (close proximity) with a Muslim partner.
If convicted, the penalty is a fine of up to B$4,000 and/or one year in prison.
For adultery between a married Muslim and a married non-Muslim, both
parties can be punished by stoning to death if the offence is proven by
confession, or the testimony of four eye-witnesses.
The paper quoted Hardifadhillah as saying that any person who
instigates any Muslim man or woman to divorce, or neglect their duties
towards their partner can be fined up to B$4,000 and/or jailed for a
"Additionally, any Muslim parent who surrenders his child into the care
of a non-Muslim can be fined up to B$20,000 and/or jailed for up to
five years," he was quoted as saying.
Brunei will enforce the Syariah Penal Code Order in three phases.
Brunei introduces tough Islamic punishments
22 October 2013
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN : The Sultan of Brunei announced the phased
introduction of tough Islamic punishments including death by stoning
for crimes such as adultery, in the monarchy’s latest step towards
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah — one of the world’s wealthiest men — said in
a speech that a new Sharia Penal Code which has been in the works
for years had been gazetted Tuesday and would “come into force
six months hereafter and in phases”.
Based on the details of particular cases, punishments can include
stoning to death for adulterers, severing of limbs for theft and
flogging for violations ranging from abortion to consumption of
alcohol, according to a copy of the code.
“By the grace of Allah, with the coming into effect of this
legislation, our duty to Allah is therefore being fulfilled,”
said the sultan, now 67 years old.
An all-powerful figure whose family has ruled the languid, oil-rich
country of 400,000 for six centuries, the sultan first called in
1996 for the introduction of sharia criminal punishments.
Brunei already practices a conservative brand of Islam relative to
its Muslim neighbours in Southeast Asia, Malaysia and Indonesia.
The sale and public consumption of alcohol are banned and authorities closely restrict the activities of other religions.
It was not immediately clear how aggressively the new criminal code, which applies only to Muslims, would be implemented.
Brunei already has a dual-track system combining civil courts based
on British law — the sultanate was a British protectorate until
1984 — and Sharia courts that are currently limited to personal
and family issues such as marriage disputes.
Two years ago, a top official in the Attorney-General’s office said
Brunei would apply an extremely high burden of proof for sharia
criminal infractions under the code, and that judges would have
wide discretion in applying the Islamic punishments.
The comments were aimed at easing fears expressed by some Bruneians of a lurch toward draconian punishments.
Nearly 70 percent of Brunei’s people are Muslim ethnic Malays, while
about 15 percent are non-Muslim ethnic Chinese, followed by
indigenous peoples and other groups.
Funded by oil and gas wealth mainly in offshore fields in the South
China Sea, Brunei has one of Asia’s highest standards of living.
The government provides citizens with free medical care and education through the university level.
But the sultan has leaned increasingly towards Islamic orthodoxy in
recent years, including the introduction of mandatory religious
education for all Muslim children and ordering all businesses in
the country closed for two hours during Friday prayers.--AFP