Non-Muslims can wear religious symbols, women are still allowed to drive


Bandar Seri Begawan: Non-Muslims in the Sultanate are allowed to wear their respective symbols of faith such as the crucifix, rosary or other religious paraphernalia in their vehicles or homes, said the Deputy Syariah Prosecutor yesterday during a special briefing on the Syariah Penal Code Order 2013 that was held at the Philippine Embassy in Jln Kebangsaan, ©BRUDIRECT.COM reported.

“It is stated in the constitution that we give freedom for non-Muslims to practice their faith among themselves, in the allocated premises without being threatened by authorities” added Hjh Fatimah Awg Hj Ahmad, Deputy Syariah Prosecutor from the Islamic Law Unit, Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA).

This was one of many questions raised by Filipino community members living in the Sultanate since they are the biggest non-Muslim expatriates in the country that actively practicing their faith.

Hjh Fatimah however reminded that spreading any religion other than Islam in Brunei is considered as a propagation of religion other than Islam to a Muslim or person without beliefs or in similar context. A hefty fine of BND$20,000 will be imposed together with a jail sentence of not less than five years on those found guilty.

Another question raised was on the issue of whether women will be prohibited from driving under the new Order, to which the Deputy Syariah Prosecutor replied “No”. She proceeds to explain that the authorities understand women in the Sultanate drive for a valid reason, saying that “we are not going that far, we understand that women (in Brunei) must drive whether to go to work, to pick up their children and other things. We are not going to say women should not drive, we are not that extreme. Women will continue to drive in Brunei”.

The idea that women should not be allowed to drive was first suggested by a person named “Jaya” (assumed to be a pseudonym) who wrote a letter to Saturday 22 2014 edition of Borneo Bulletin for the Opinion section. In the letter, he asserted that women must not drive alone and that our youths are going wet and wild listening to Western music. When his suggestion first surfaced on the social media, it was negatively received by many people, with a few individuals pointing out that such prohibition does not exist anywhere in Al-Quran, hadith, and Islam in general.

Another key topic discussed was segregation between non-Muslims men and women in places such as staff living quarters; a common practice by employers as well as at public establishments such as cinemas, restaurants and even public transportation.

“As of now there is no prohibition”, said Hjh Fatimah, adding that in cases where there is a Muslim living together with the opposite sex (Muslims or non-Muslims) in the same house, then the law applies as it can lead to suspicion that they are committing an immoral act of ‘khalwat’ (close proximity) which comes under Section 196 of the Syariah Penal Code Order 2013.

Under Section 196, if a man and woman (one or more) who is not Mahram (referring to individuals that cannot be married due to family relationship) live under the same roof, a fine of BND$4,000 or imprisonment of not less than one year or both will be imposed.

To clear the air of any obfuscation, Ustaz Hj Ali Hassan Md Yassin, Education Officer from Islamic Da’awah Center, stated that there are no cases in the world where a government of a country condemns other religions or beliefs as all religions practice kindness to all mankind.

“There have been many negative comments on the introduction of the Syariah Law in Brunei, but remember that not all comments are true and we all should educate ourselves before jumping to negative conclusions” said Ustaz Hj Ali, adding that people should not view Syariah Law as a threat to humanity in the Sultanate as Islam is a safe religion, similar to any other religion that eschews the need to condemn other faith and beliefs.