Converts to Islam endangered as Brunei introduces Sharia penalties

November 7, 2013 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

The government of Brunei promotes the Shafii school of Sunni IslamBrunei, November 04, 2013: Apostasy, leaving Islam, is expected to become a punishable offence under a new sharia penal code that is being introduced in Brunei. Sharia prescribes the death penalty for an adult male apostate.

The sultan of Brunei announced on 22 October that the country will be ruled according to sharia law, which will be introduced in phases from April 2014.

Penalties for hudud crimes will be in line with the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah (the deeds and sayings of Muhammed). Hudud crimes include theft, for which sharia requires the amputation of limbs, adultery, which is punished by stoning, and apostasy, which carries the death penalty.

Muslims who insult, mock or deny Islamic teachings may face imprisonment for up to 30 years and 40 strokes of the cane.

While the new penal code is said to be applicable only to Muslims, it clearly poses a danger to converts from Islam, as well as those who help them to follow a different religion. Sharia law can be extended to non-Muslims if they are involved in aiding an offence committed by a Muslim.

Brunei, which is around 70% Muslim, is currently governed by a dual judicial system of British secular laws and sharia mainly for family matters.

Residents are required to carry identity cards that state the holder’s ethnicity; these are used in part to determine whether they are Muslim and thus subject to the existing sharia laws. Ethnic Malays are generally assumed to be Muslim.

The government of Brunei has long promoted the Shafii school of Sunni Islam and discouraged the practice of other religions, despite the country’s constitution protecting the right to religious freedom.

Evangelism by non-Muslims is illegal, while conversion to Islam is vigorously encouraged. Islamic authorities offer incentives to prospective converts, including new homes, financial assistance, electric generators and water pumps.

Non-Muslim public religious gatherings are restricted. All organisations are required to register, and those who take part in the activities of unregistered groups may be fined, arrested and imprisoned.

All businesses, including those belonging to non-Muslims, are required to close for Friday prayers. Those who fail to comply risk losing their licence to operate.

Christians comprise around ten per cent of the population of Brunei.

– barnabas team

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