The Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) has been allocated a budget of BND270,258,865 for the financial year 2023-2024, Minister of Religious Affairs Yang Berhormat Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Haji Awang Badaruddin bin Pengarah Dato Paduka Haji Awang Othman said during yesterday’s 19th Legislative Council (LegCo) session yesterday.
BND201,255,681 is allocated to support the governance and implementation of programmes under the Preservation and Promotion of Intelligence for the financial year 2023-2024.
Preservation and Promotion of Intelligence is among the main areas of the ministry, which is Islamic studies and education through Arabic schooling at the Religious Teachers University College of Seri Begawan (KUPU SB) as well as Institut Tahfiz Al-Quran Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah (ITQSHHB).
The minister also emphasised on the importance of religious schooling and made compulsory under the Compulsory Religious Education Act 2013. He noted since then, people have received sufficient systematically taught general religious education or influence from religious studies and education through the system.
Briefly touching on Arabic religious secondary schooling that include both general and religious subjects, the minister shared that public schools examinations have shown an increase in target achievements since 2019 to 2021 from the Primary School Assessment (PSR) examination until the ‘A’ Level examination.
The progress made by the Arabic religious schooling can also be seen through participation in extra-curricular activities in several schemes or contest programmes on the national, regional or international levels. These include in the Asia Pacific ICT Alliance (APICTA) Awards 2022 organised in Pakistan where Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha Girls’ Arabic Religious Secondary School received the merit award. The minister also pointed out that Ma’had Islam Brunei were placed third in the 10th ASEAN Quiz-Regional Level 2022 competition in Myanmar as well as was placed top 166 during the Young Inventors Challenge 2022 in Malaysia.
The minister also shared that BND29,594,377 is allocated for religious promotion programmes and activities, a total of BND28,709, 502 is allocated for programmes and activities for the promotion of property and BND10.69 million for programmes and activities for the promotion of preservation of life and descendants.
Noting on matters relating to the collection and distribution of zakat (tithe), the minister shared that based on the application report through the National Welfare Scheme (SKN) hotline for November 2022, a total of 1,780 applications were received.
Of the total, 73 per cent (1,306) of applicants applied to receive zakat shares from the Brunei Islamic Religious Council (MUIB), while 27 per cent (474) applied for welfare from the Community Development Department (JAPEM) at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.
“More than half, that is 664 out of 1,306 applications to MUIB have been supported and approved for zakat distribution for a period of two years,” said the minister.
He also noted that the numbers show a large sum of repeat applicants, indicating a high dependency on receiving the zakat distribution, and while the number of applicants increase on a yearly basis, the amount received from zakat collection has not been of a significant amount, standing at between BND17-18 million on an annual average. To counter this issue, MUIB has been working on new ways or methods to increase zakat collection, and at the meantime, property zakat, business zakat, enterprise zakat and property savings zakat have also been accumulated, while Islamic financial bodies or institutions also pay their own zakat, in addition to zakat paid by their depositors.
“Currently in the final stage of its search, MUIB still needs to ensure everything is in order with its rules and regulations, complying not only with the requirements of the Syariah law, but also financial rules, prior to its implementation.”
He also said, “I admit and do not deny that religious education through Arabic schools, ITQSHHB and KUPU SB still requires efforts to improve the quality of its learning and studies, quality and qualifications of its teachers, and subsequently, the quality of educational institutions itself.”