A Workshop Responding to Critiques of the Implementation of Sharia Penal Code in Brunei Darussalam
Background, Rationale, and Objectives of the Workshop
Date: 15th May 2014/15th Rejab 1435
Time: 8.30 am – 4.30 pm
Venue: Senate Room Universiti Brunei Darussalam
- 1. Background
Brunei Darussalam’s historic October 2013 decision to introduce a new Sharia Penal Code and phase out its implementation and enforcement beginning on May 1st, 2014 has invited a range of responses and criticisms from numerous international bodies, groups, and organisations. These responses and criticisms found a ready coverage in the world media, both printed and electronic. In the non-Muslim world, especially in the West, the majority of the respondents are opposed to the Penal Code. Even among Muslims, there are not just a few groups and individuals who have openly criticized and declared their opposition to the implementation of Islamic criminal laws. However, among ordinary Muslims if not also among the more educated segments of the Muslim community, the majority of them strongly support the Sharia Penal Code. This majority group of Muslim citizens welcomes and praises the courage and the resoluteness of the government of His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei Darussalam to hold fast to the decision to enforce the new Sharia laws amidst loud criticisms and strong opposition from many quarters in the international community.
There are also many individuals and quarters adopting the position of supporting the implementation of one part of the Penal Code while rejecting the necessity of the other part. Then there are those Muslims in various parts of the world who are supportive of the implementation of the Sharia Panel Code and would like to see it succeed but for several reasons have doubts about its successful outcome. Generally, however, we may account for three types of responses to Brunei Darussalam’s New Sharia Penal Code. The first response comes out fully supportive of the Code. The second is one of a total opposition against it. The third response is partly supportive of the Code and partly against it.
- 2. Rationale
As to be expected and as anticipated by His Majesty the Sultan himself, at first with the announcement of intention to introduce it and later with the confirmation to proceed with its implementation and enforcement, the Penal Code has unleashed a mixed torrent of praises and criticisms and expressions of support and opposition, though criticisms and oppositions tend to eclipse praises and supports. It is always the case that whenever a Muslim society or nation declares its intention to implement Sharia laws, more so when it actually implements them, voices of opposition could be heard loud and clear. The case of Brunei Darussalam’s Sharia Penal Code is no exception. For those Muslims who are deeply committed to the implementation of Sharia laws in their entirety it is important to realise that in the context of our present times when the media commands such a wide influence its negative coverage of these laws can have an adverse effect on their implementation. It is therefore imperative for Brunei Darussalam to take stock of these negative responses and criticisms, monitor the tide of opposition to the Penal Code, assess and evaluate their possible impact on the overall implementation of the Code, and provide concrete and effective responses to these critiques and oppositions. This small workshop represents a humble attempt by UBD to contribute to a better understanding of these critiques and oppositions.
- 3. Objectives
(a) To compile all available reactions to and critiques of the implementation of Brunei Darussalam’s 2013 Sharia Penal Code;
(b) To understand the thinking behind each reaction to and each critique of this Penal Code, especially the thinking of those groups who are bitterly opposed to it;
(c) To identify the challenges posed by these critiques that can have an adverse effect on the enforcement of the Penal Code;
(d) To contribute ideas that can help the government effectively deal with the forces critical of and opposed to the implementation of the Code;
(e) To undertake a detailed and long-term study of the development of critiques of the Penal Code along academic lines to complement efforts by other groups;