the world beyond four walls


Bruneians unfazed by ‘sensationalism’ of Sharia law

By Sumisha Naidu/ Jun 2015

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN: Every Friday at 12pm, Brunei’s capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan becomes a ghost town.

Muslims in the capital observe Friday prayers and for the next two hours, every business – from restaurants to entertainment outlets – must remain closed by law.

During the fasting month, a similar scenario occurs. In 2014, the government declared that restaurants will not be able to serve dine-in food between sunrise and sunset, regardless of the owners’ or customers’ religion.

These are just some of the effects of the deep Islamic roots that run through the nation of about 420,000 people. In 2014, the Sultan announced the rollout of a strict Islamic penal code, a first for a Southeast Asian country. Some of the harsher penalties include flogging, severing of limbs and death by stoning.

While Islam is Brunei’s official religion, government figures state about 34 per cent of the population are of different religions, including Buddhism and Christianity.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs said the minorities are free to practice their faiths, but only among themselves. Public displays of non-Muslim festivities are prohibited as this could be construed as attempts to propagate religions other than Islam.

The laws sound restrictive but many non-Muslims appear unfazed.

“This is a Muslim country so we have to follow Muslim laws right?” said Jessica, a retiree.

“I think because I grew up here in Brunei, I’m used to the life here so I think everything is fine,” added Shar Pay, a teacher.

Professor James Chin, director of the Asia Institute at the University of Tasmania, said: “Being a minority in Brunei, they’ve always lived under restrictions, even before the Sharia law was imposed. So I think they are used to living with restrictions. They have a coping mechanism built in. The Chinese population has been there since the 15th century.” Read More


Self-radicalised Singaporean youths – one arrested, one detained under ISA

A Singaporean youth has been detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for terrorism-related activities since April this year, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) announced on Wednesday (May 27).

Additionally, another youth was arrested in May under the ISA for further investigations into the extent of his radicalisation.

The youth detained since April, M Arifil Azim Putra Norja’i, a 19-year-old post-secondary student, is the first known self-radicalised Singaporean to harbour the intention to carry out violent attacks in Singapore, said MHA.

Investigations showed that he had made plans to join the terrorist group, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and that his radicalisation began around 2013 when he started viewing terrorist propaganda online, said MHA.

The ministry said Arifil then grew to support the radical ideology and violent tactics of ISIS, and befriended individuals online whom he thought could help him join the terrorist group. Arifil also actively surfed the Internet for information on travel routes to Syria so that he could engage in armed violence there, and had done research on making improvised explosive devices.

Arifil also revealed that if he was unable to join ISIS in Syria, he intended to carry out violent attacks in Singapore, said MHA. He had put “considerable thought” into how he would attack key facilities and assassinate Government leaders. If he was unable to carry out these plans, Arifil planned to carry out attacks in public places “in order to strike fear within our society”, using “easily available” weapons such as knives, added the ministry.

His intentions to carry out violent attacks were subsequently corroborated by several persons who said he had tried to recruit them to help carry out these plans, according to the MHA. Investigations showed that while these people did not fall prey to Arifil’s attempts to recruit them, they also did not alert the authorities about him, it added.

“Fortunately, another person who knew Arifil noticed the changes in him, and had brought him to the attention of the authorities, who were then able to investigate the matter and take action before he could carry out his violent attack plans in Singapore,” said MHA.

The ministry added that another radicalised Singaporean post-secondary youth, 17, was arrested in May under the ISA for further investigations into the extent of his radicalisation. His family was informed of his arrest, and will be kept informed of the outcome of the investigations. Read More


Church in Ireland needs ‘reality check’ after gay marriage vote May 2015

The first gay marriages are now likely to take place in the early autumn.

Diarmuid Martin, the archbishop of Dublin, said the Church in Ireland needed to reconnect with young people.

The referendum found 62% were in favour of changing the constitution to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.

The archbishop told the broadcaster RTE: “We [the Church] have to stop and have a reality check, not move into denial of the realities.

“We won’t begin again with a sense of renewal, with a sense of denial. I appreciate how gay and lesbian men and women feel on this day. That they feel this is something that is enriching the way they live. I think it is a social revolution.”

The archbishop personally voted “No” arguing that gay rights should be respected “without changing the definition of marriage”.

“I ask myself, most of these young people who voted yes are products of our Catholic school system for 12 years. I’m saying there’s a big challenge there to see how we get across the message of the Church,” he added.

Ireland is the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage through a popular vote, and its referendum was held 22 years after homosexual acts were decriminalised in the Republic of Ireland.

Among those voicing their approval of the outcome was UK Prime Minister David Cameron who tweeted: “Congratulations to the people of Ireland, after voting for same-sex marriage, making clear you are equal if you are straight or gay.” Read More


Bangladeshi Blogger Who Wrote on Site Promoting Secularism Is Killed

DHAKA, Bangladesh — A blogger who wrote for a website that promoted secularism was hacked to death on Tuesday by a group of four men, a police official said. It was the third fatal attack on a Bangladeshi blogger since February.

Four men chased the blogger, Ananta Bijoy Dash, through streets near his home in the northeastern city of Sylhet and attacked him, said Mohammad Rahamat Ullah, a police official in Sylhet. No arrests have been made, Mr. Ullah said.

The assailants walked away after the attack, leaving Mr. Dash’s body near a pond, Mr. Ullah said.

The attack was disturbingly familiar. Mr. Dash had written for Free Mind, a website that the Bangladeshi-American blogger Avijit Roy had moderated before being killed in February by machete-wielding assailants while leaving a book fair in Dhaka, the capital.

Five weeks after Mr. Roy’s death, another blogger, Oyasiqur Rhaman, was killed by three men with machetes in Dhaka. The deaths recalled the 2013 killing in Dhaka of the blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider.

Mr. Haider, Mr. Roy and Mr. Rhaman were all part of a movement known as Shahbag, which called for the death penalty for Islamist political leaders who were implicated in atrocities committed during Bangladesh’s 1971 war for independence from Pakistan. Young Islamic activists reacted with fury to the Shahbag movement. Read More