BRUNEI could lead the way in establishing an exemplary model of the Syariah Penal Code, said a female scholar from the International Islamic University of Malaysia yesterday.
Professor Dr Najibah Mohd Zin, speaking on the sidelines of the Majlis Ilmu (Knowledge Convention) at the International Convention Centre in Berakas, said the Sultanate possesses the political stability needed to successfully implement the Islamic Penal Code.
Her comments came after His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam announced on Tuesday that the country will enforce the Syariah Penal Code in the next six months.
“Most of the Muslim countries that are implementing Syariah law at the moment don’t have that political stability,” said Professor Dr Najibah, who is the Deputy Dean of Academic Affairs.
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Countries that largely apply Syariah law include Sudan, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
The Syariah Penal Code, punishing criminal offences such as theft, apostasy and adultery, is slated to be introduced into Brunei’s legal system in phases.
Professor Dr Najibah, however, urged the Bruneian Government to “be cautious” in its implementation of Islamic law. She said problems faced by Syariah-governed nations were due to a lack of compliance in the procedural aspect.
“I hope this is something which the Brunei Government will pay attention to. There must be caution in the earlier procedural part,” she said.
Citing the example of adultery, the Islamic scholar said women were particularly vulnerable. It is widely known women have been victimised, despite an inadequate burden of proof, Professor Dr Najibah said.
“Investigation must be very, very thorough. You cannot simply tell a pregnant unmarried woman that she’s guilty of adultery,” she said.
Alongside the implementation of the Syariah Penal Code, Professor Dr Najibah called on relevant agencies in the Sultanate to focus on providing a support system for women. “The women become the victims. This is what happened in Pakistan, Iran and other countries,” she said.
Although she expressed support for Brunei’s historic move to extend its use of Islamic laws, she reiterated that careful consideration must be undertaken.
“We need to give proper attention to the implementation. We do not want to see discrepancies; otherwise it’s not going to be just. We want to achieve justice, but if it’s not just then it will be a setback to the Muslim countries,” she said.
The female Islamic scholar further underscored the need for more research into the modern application of Islamic law as well as qualified Syariah judges and prosecutors. “I think the public should know the law very well. They should learn how it works within the modern context, rather than looking at it from a negative perspective. We don’t implement the law in our time, that’s why we have a lot of social problems,” she said. Professor Dr Najibah added that there is a need to bring back the Syariah Penal Code, but that its implementation must be in accordance with the standards set out in Islamic law.
The Brunei Times
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