Wearing indecent clothing is crime under Syariah law

  • Hj Hardifadhillah Hj Mohd Salleh (C), Senior Legal Officer of the Islamic Legal Unit at the Ministry of Religious Affairs, responding to a question about the Syariah Penal Code Order following a briefing for MinDef personnel at the BRIDEX Hall. BT/Rabiatul Kamit

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

WEARING indecent clothing is a crime under the Syariah Penal Code Order that will soon be enforced in the Sultanate.

Speaking during a briefing on the new law at the BRIDEX Hall, a senior Syariah legal officer of the Islamic Legal Unit at the Ministry of Religious Affairs, yesterday said Muslims and non-Muslims can be punished for donning indecent clothing in public.

Hj Hardifadhillah Hj Mohd Salleh, in response to a question raised by a participant, explained that wearing indecent clothing is an offence under Section 197 of the Syariah Penal Code Order.

The section, titled “Indecent Behaviour”, states that any person who commits an act of indecent behaviour in a public place is guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $2,000, imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or both.

An act is deemed indecent if it tarnishes the image of Islam, corrupts moral standards, causes negative influence or upsets eyewitnesses.

Anyone who organises, persuades or encourages others to commit any act of indecent behaviour is also guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $8,000, imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or both.

There is no specific provision outlined in the new law, but Hj Hardifadhillah reiterated that offenders can be charged with wearing indecent clothing under Section 197.

Taking into account Brunei’s mainstream culture, the senior Syariah legal officer pointed out that it has become commonplace for people to dress in revealing clothing including shorts, commenting that such behaviour is seldom reprimanded.

In order to avoid a public outcry, he explained that the relevant authorities will implement the Syariah Penal Code Order gradually and with wisdom.

“Just imagine, all this while, nobody cared about (wearing indecent clothing). So if we were to introduce these changes drastically, it could backfire,” said Hj Hardifadhillah, adding that their focus is on raising awareness of the new law.

He said that while interpretation of indecent clothing is subjective, enforcement agencies will define what is tolerable and what is not under the “Indecent Behaviour” section.

“If the person is wearing clothing that is too offensive or revealing, then the enforcement agencies should take action or at least advise the offender... But we will implement this provision with wisdom, so people won’t be shocked and angered,” he said.

The Syariah Penal Code Order will come into force in April, six months after the phased introduction was approved in October 2013.

The Brunei Times

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