The Jakarta Post
The phased introduction of Islamic laws, punishing criminal offences such as theft, apostasy and illicit sexual relations, will come into force in six months, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darrusalam announced.
The monarch officially signed the new legislation, dubbed the Syariah Penal Code, at the launch of the Knowledge Convention (Majlis Ilmu) 2013 yesterday.
'The code is a special guidance from Allah (SWT) to us all. Indeed this guidance is wholly Allah's (SWT) right to bestow upon us,' he said.
The code outlines the punishment for Hudud crimes, where punishment has been ordained by Al-Quran and the Sunnah (deeds and sayings) of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him).
Hudud crimes cover areas including theft, illicit sexual relations, making unproven accusations of illicit sex, causing physical hurt, drinking intoxicants, apostasy, and acts contrary to Islamic belief.
'I hope that all citizens and residents our country alike, will stand firmly, shoulder to shoulder in upholding and welcoming the coming into force of this historic legislation,' he said.
'This Act without doubt, is now part of the great history of our nation.'
The Syariah Penal Code lays out specific punishment for Hudud crimes, as prescribed by Al-Quran and Sunnah. For example, the penalty meted out for adultery is death by stoning, but prosecutors must fulfil a high burden of proof, including the testimony of at least four credible witnesses, in order to carry out the punishment.
In a previous news report, the head of the Research and Law Review Division at the Attorney General's Chambers said a panel will be set up to review each criminal case to determine whether a specific offence has sufficient evidence to proceed to the Syariah court.
'It is highly likely that the majority of cases will end up in civil courts because the evidence does not meet the burden of proof under Hudud laws,' said senior counsel Zuraini Hj Sharbawi. 'In civil courts, cases must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In Syariah there must be no doubt.'
He added during his address at the Knowledge Convention: 'This is our Brunei, a nation of Zikir and Malay Islamic Monarchy. We view others with clear and unhindered vision, without any form of prejudice. In return, we also have the right to expect that others will view Brunei in the same light.'
'The step we are taking, does not in anyway change our policies,' he said.
'As a member of the family of nations, we will continue to work together with our friends wherever they may be, to establish more cordial and harmonious relationships based on mutual respect.'
The monarch said the country will continue to plan and develop 'in our own way' and that Syariah laws will guarantee justice and well-being for all Muslim citizens.
'By the grace of Allah (SWT), with the coming into effect of this legislation, our duty to Allah (SWT) is therefore being fulfilled.'
Some of the laws laid out under the Syariah Penal Code include the recent ban on Muslim-owned restaurants serving food during the fasting hours of Ramadhan.
The legislation states any person that sells food, drink or tobacco for immediate consumption in a public place during fasting hours can be punished by a fine of up to US$4,000 and/or a prison term not more than a year.
Additionally, Muslims who insult, mock, or deny the teachings Al-Quran or hadith (traditions) of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) are liable to imprisonment of up to 30 years and 40 strokes of the cane. Other offences such as theft can be punishable by amputation of the right hand, if the property stolen amounts to/exceeds the nisab (required minimum value) and two credible witnesses besides the victim are produced.
Syariah law is generally confined to Muslims, but can extend to non-Muslims if they are involved in aiding or abetting an offence committed by a Muslim.
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