The deep impact of the law on non-Muslims

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 02 Oct 2016

Limited choices: A customer shopping for canned food at the non-halal section of a grocery shop. Non-halal food products can only be purchased at shops operated by Chinese traders.

IN Brunei, imported luxury cars fill the streets and there are more flights available than other public transport, like buses or taxis. Serious crimes are rare in this country that implemented the hudud law; most of the cases involve gambling, house breaks-in, causing hurt and illegal immigrants.

According to a 2013 statistics, only 16 in every 1,000 Bruneians have criminal records and a good public security record gives the country a positive image.

Food for thought – is the low crime rate in Brunei the result of its Ruler’s sharing of wealth (with the people) or the strict hudud law which frightens citizens, even non-Muslims, into adhering to the regulations?

Since the implementation of the hudud law, Brunei has adopted a series of new policies that have impacted the lives of its non-Muslim citizens, who are also subjected to the law.

For one thing, they are banned from celebrating Christmas openly on grounds that this is a Western festival involving the crucifix, candles, Christmas tree, the exchange of Christmas greetings and singing of Christmas carols, all of which they say are unIslamic.

The Government has also announced that Muslims who dress up as Santa Claus could be jailed five years.

But Christians can still celebrate their religious festivals although not “in public”. So, for want of a lively atmosphere and a joyous mood, many choose to celebrate Christmas abroad.

During the Chinese New Year, some restrictions have been placed on the all-important lion dance performances.

The Government said that this age-old Chinese tradition could only be carried out in three venues – Chinese temples, schools and homes of Chinese guilds members – in the first three days of the festival.

There can be no lion dance performances at hotels, restaurants, commercial buildings or any public places.

And it has to halt during Muslim prayer times to show respect. Also, all members of the lion dance troupes must be of Chinese descent.

Firecrackers or fireworks are banned all round during the performances.

Organisers planning any Chinese New Year functions must remember that lion or dragon dances and activities deemed to be against the country’s custom like fashion shows, disco music and dancing are not allowed.

Also banned are games with elements of gambling, public donation and sales of tickets to the events.

So, those attending these functions get to listen to Chinese New Year songs, have their meals and return home, not much else. They are aware that legal action can be taken against them if they violated these regulations.

In schools, Brunei has implemented the dual language policy, which means students learn Malay and English but Chinese schools are allowed to operate.

Students in vernacular schools learn the Chinese language subject and in the recent years, they are required to learn Jawi. However, the study of the Quran is not compulsory.

Brunei comes to a standstill during Friday prayer – from noon to 2pm every week.

Sin Chew Daily’s journalists observed that people rush into restaurants to pack their lunch as early as 11am on Fridays.

At 12pm sharp, all shops, administrative centres and eateries stop

operation and the number of vehicles on the streets is visibly reduced.

At 1pm, there are hardly any pedestrians or vehicles on the road even at the busiest junctions in Brunei’s capital Bandar Seri Begawan.

Muslims who do not perform their Friday prayers, do not observe the fasting month, take part in cross-dressing, commit “indecent” acts, induce women into running away from their parents or guardians, persuade others to divorce or fail in their responsibilities as parents or spouses would be punished.

The punishment includes stoning to death, caning and amputation of limbs depending on the offences.

More than 90% of Brunei’s revenue come from crude oil and natural gas, making this sultanate rich; it does not need to depend on anyone or rely on tourism to stay afloat. This also means it could go ahead and implement its version of hudud laws.

Known as the “Oil Kingdom of the Oriental”, its wealth sits on top of the world’s economic charts.

Brunei has a comprehensive welfare policy, giving its people access to life-long medical services, education (including university) and income tax waiver. It even provides a living allowance to its undergraduates.

Consequently, the people remains “obedient”.

There were some complaints when the hudud law were implemented but the people adapted to it and accepted the royal decree.

Besides, the Chinese make up only 9% of the total 410,000 population and even if they did complain, their voices were like small rippling waves that would soon retreat.

A Chinese Bruneian, who wanted to remain anonymous, told Sin Chew Daily that life was quite difficult for the local non-Muslims.

He said although non-Muslim women did not have to wear the tudung, they could not dress as they please or take alcoholic beverages at public places.

Even Chinese restaurants must be closed during Friday prayer.

For the non-Muslims, stoning and amputation of limbs are punishments which violated their human and religious rights, he said.

During the fasting month, no one was allowed to dine-in at any restaurant, only the take-away service was available. This ruling applies to all eateries including those operated by non-Muslims.

However, he added that he did not know of anyone being sentenced under the law.

Sultan of Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who has ruled the country for 48 years, announced two years ago that hudud laws be implemented in the kingdom.

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Lifestyle , brunei hudud


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