SOME Bruneians reacted with measured response on yesterday’s announcement of Islamic criminal law, saying they hoped the government would raise public awareness and understanding of Syariah.
His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam announced yesterday that the Syariah Penal Code will be introduced in phases, with implementation starting six months from now.
The code outlines punishment for offences such as theft, illicit sexual relations, making unproven accusations of illicit sex, causing physical hurt, drinking intoxicants, apostasy, and acts contrary to Islamic beliefs.
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An education officer, Watie Abdullah, said the new laws would take time to get used to.
“I think it’s nice that people are being given another six months to get used to the idea. Hopefully, crime will go down since it appears to be rising,” said the 28-year-old in an interview with The Brunei Times.
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“Ideally, Muslims should not do bad out of obedience and fear of Allah (SWT)... And that Muslims are carrying out the law out of piety for the Almighty. Good enough for me. It’s about obedience, not respect.”
Noruzanna Sabeli, a clerk at the Ministry of Education, said the harsh punishments prescribed under Syariah would act as a deterrent for would-be criminals.
“The punishment for stealing is to cut their hand. Knowing this, people will be discouraged to steal,” she said.
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“If it is just a sentence to jail, people can just go to jail, free food then once they’re out again, they are free to commit the crime again.”
A 26-year-old civil servant, who did not want to be named, expressed caution, saying: “It depends on how the definition and extent of how the law is exercised.”
“I know we are a country proud of its official religion and I’m sure this has been thought through but we still need to ensure it doesn’t bear too much implications on other things that are part of our national interest. I hope other religions and races would still be respected.”
Adam, a Bruneian studying in Malaysia, expressed similar concerns, saying that the new laws may provide fodder for Western media trying to paint a negative picture of Islam.
“In today’s balance of power in the world, we need more ambassadors of Islam to reveal its tolerance before its punishments.”
“Because we know how media pick up news and swing perception... And unfortunately Islam has been a target in the West.”
Miza Roslan, a Bruneian postgraduate student in Australia, said the government should raise more awareness and understanding of Syariah law and its impact on the Brunei population.
“I’m neutral, neutral because the idea of stoning to death creates a scary image. This might make us avoid understanding or wanting to learn the whole law,” said Miza.
“So if there are ways to educate the public and familiarise them with this law so they aren’t shocked, that would be good.”
She added: “Even though my knowledge of Islam is not deep, I am learning everyday. I have faith in His Majesty’s government and whatever we do for Allah (SWT) will InsyaAllah bring blessings.”
Syariah High Court Judge Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Paduka Seri Setia Hj Salim Hj Besar also called on Muslims to fully embrace Syariah, as laws laid out by Allah (SWT) in the Quran and through the Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) teachings.
Speaking yesterday at the Knowledge Convention 2013, he said as a country which upholds Islam as its official religion, Brunei must implement Islamic laws.
It is all Muslims’ obligation to abide the law of Allah (SWT) to fulfil our obligation, said Pehin Dato Hj Salim.
“The law serves as a deterrent and retribution but also as a way of rehabilitation to educate and teach good morale,” added the Syariah court judge.
The Brunei Times