Lest We Forget


Compiled by Chan Chee Khiong

Waging war on extremists

Malai Hassan Othman & Ayu Sulaiman

January 6, 2001 – Local religious authorities are planning out strategies to ensure Brunei remains free from extremist and deviant teachings.

Measures are being taken to protect the Sultanate from deviant teachings as they could jeopardise the safety, security and harmony of the country.

The authorities are getting the help of local communities in urban and suburban areas to watch out for such cultist to nip their activities in the bud.

In a determined drive to keep Brunei following the true Islamic religious teachings, they clearly expressed that extremist activities have no place in the Sultanate.

Religious authorities have also put up posters in mosques and suraus to caution Muslims against extremist religious teachings, which were usually spread in a very subtle manner.

The war against extremism was intensified lately following the recent discovery of several secret places of worship in jungles and villages.

Some people have been caught frequenting these places in the middle of the night to summon ‘tree spirits’, which they believed could bless them with good fortune.

Last year a Malay martial arts group in the country was found to have links with the infamous ‘Al-Maunah’ sect in Malaysia that infiltrated a Malaysian army camp to steal weapons.

They allegedly planned to use them for their clandestine operations to attack certain establishments, which they labelled as un-Islamic.

The arrest of three local people who were allegedly linked to a foreign non-Islamic organisation most recently has also raised concern among the authorities. The suspects are still being detained for questioning.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs has in 1994 set up a special unit known as Unit Kawalan Akidah dan Syar’iah or Akidah and Syar’iah Control Unit that began operating a year after it was established.

Its role is to ensure Muslims in Brunei adhere to correct Islamic tenets, according to the principles of Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah.

It also seeks to ensure any propagation of Islamic teachings in the country does not get tainted by other sects, cults or teachings contradictory to the Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah doctrine.

The unit also aims to function as a guardian to ensure Muslim followers continue to live in unity and harmony, free from even the influences of bomohs (witch doctor) and others who could make Muslims stray from the true path. Halal food matters also come under the jurisdiction of this unit.

In the first year of its operation, the unit has managed to uncover nine extremist activities and 19 cases of Syariah offences. It was revealed that the unit has now discovered more such cases.

Bomohs are apparently quite common here, making use of the religion to prosper.

Their activities take place in homes and secret places known only to their disciples.

And they were also said to be very discreet in recruiting their followers who once recruited would be extremely faithful in protecting their secrets.

Suspect runs amok during raid

AM Zukarnaen

January 13, 2001 – After a dramatic incident this week in Kiarong, five religious officials headed by the Assistant Investigation Officer of the Brunei-Muara District took into custody a local woman, for obstructing officers from conducting their investigation, and threatening them with a deadly weapon. It all began when the religious officers conducted a raid on a rented two-storey shophouse in Kiarong. The target was the woman in question and a Bangladeshi man.

Though the officers were expecting a routine khalwat raid, it became a real life drama full of surprises. It started out fine until the woman suspect came out of her room, and tried to prevent the religious officers from entering the room.

The officers forcefully pushed the door which was held back by a man behind the door. The man quietly got out of the room, and unexpectedly the woman started to make a run for it, with the officers hot on her heels. The man, meanwhile saw his opportunity and made a quick exit by running out through the back door. Seeing that the exit was blocked by religious officers, he climbed the roof and scrambled out to making his escape barefoot. The officers failed to catch him.

The woman, meanwhile, turned violent and ran amok in the compound, flinging chairs at officers and journalists.

She threatened all those involved with death threats promising to deal with them sooner or later.

The woman suspect waving a chair. PHOTO: AM Zukarnaen

She then stormed back into the house and barricaded herself inside. The police was then called to assist.

Soon things began to hot up with the suspect charging at the law enforcers with a meat cleaver and threatening the police and the officer involved. Back up was then called.

The stand off between the suspect and the law enforcers lasted for about an hour, at which time, she had preached to the officers about religion as well as admitting to the officers of her relationship with the Bangladeshi man.

She was quite hysterical at that point and started throwing eggs at the officers, venting off her frustrations.

It was learnt that the woman had been divorced twice.

Her ranting and raving lasted for an hour before the police knocked down her door. She easily gave in to the police.