Brunei is becoming increasingly austere, the report argues. Source: Flickr
Brunei, Malaysia, and Indonesia have been listed as the region’s worst violators of “freedom of thought” by the International Humanist Ethical Union (IHEU).
The Freedom of Thought Report said there were “grave violations” of rights and the treatment of the non-religious communities. “Grave violations” is bottom of a five-point scale, which starts at “free and equal”.
Brunei and Malaysia had the death sentence for apostasy, while Indonesia enforces lengthy prison terms for anyone deemed to have “criticised” religion, the report said.
Brunei has fallen down in the scale as it gradually implements a Sharia penal code and the support for the death penalty for apostates by its grand mufti.
The code, adopted in 2013, had been “deeply damaging” towards “freedom of thought, conscience and religion”, the report argued.
The IHEU said Muslims who failed to perform Friday prayers or observe Ramadan faced harsh punishments, while debate was muzzled.
“Future phases of the law will include more severe penalties, including the death penalty for blasphemy, mocking the Prophet Muhammad or verses of the Quran and Hadith, or declaring oneself a prophet or a non-Muslim,” the report said.
Printing, disseminating, importing, broadcasting and distributing publications deemed contrary to Sharia by Muslims and non-Muslims was increasingly being prohibited.
Non-Muslims in Brunei were also barred from saying “Allah”, although Bruneian Christians used the word to describe their God, IHEU said.
Meanwhile, the Philippines’ president, Rodrigo Duterte, has claimed that so-called Islamic State is hoping establish a four-nation caliphate in Asean.
The president said the extremist group might retreat to the region if it was driven from Iraq and Syria.
“This is our problem now. The Isis, these extremists, are fighting it out in Aleppo and Mosul. Once they run out of land base, they would retreat to the sea and escape,” Duterte a gathering in Mandaluyong. “They have this dream of a caliphate kingdom that would be comprised of Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.
“Believe me. It’s up to you. I leave it to the people to decide. If the federal system would not be approved, you might as well give up Mindanao. We will not have peace,” Duterte said.
“Hence, if others are resistant to the idea of a federal setup, without that federalism, the Moro people will never agree to anything else.”
Duterte, as is to be expected, offered no evidence.
The Jakarta Post recently reported that Indonesia’s military feared Isis hoped to create a province in the southern Philippines. Jakarta’s Commander General Gatot Nurmantyo reportedly said that Isis had started building its base in Mindanao, the Philippines’ second largest island.
Duterte told the public to be prepared for possible terror attacks.