Freedom of speech is no licence to upset religion
Siti Hajar

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday called on the people of Brunei Darussalam, as members of the global community, to remain steadfast in their vigilance against the harmful effects of ICT, as globalisation has brought with it new advancements in technology that have subsequently inundated the international population with both positive as well as negative implications.

In a titah to mark the opening of the 7th National Youth Day Celebration 2012 yesterday at the Berakas Indoor Stadium, His Majesty noted that the younger generation are the ones who are more vulnerable to the unwanted exposure that comes with the utilisation of technology.

"Among the aspects that are easily penetrated is a country's socio-cultural (identity)," His Majesty said, adding that this is the challenge that should be realised, as neglecting this will result in consequences and disasters.

According to His Majesty, youths are the "fortress" where hope lies with. Because of this, it is important for the youths to have strong will power or self perseverance to withstand any harm brought about by globalisation.

On the negative impact of globalisation, His Majesty said: "Right now, our world is shuddering from a 'tsunami' in the form of a controversial film entitled 'Innocence of Muslims' that insults Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the Islamic faith.

"As Muslims, we should reject this and we have the right to suspend websites that are related to this, as insulting Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is an act that is uncultured and immoral and one that cannot be forgiven.

"Therefore, our stance to challenge this is firm. We cannot compromise to accept it as freedom of speech because no individual has the rights to insult another group, what more insulting a prophet."

While Brunei's actions and response towards the controversial film was akin to the stance that many other nations, particularly those under the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), have taken, His Majesty reminded the people that it was "up to us to be wary and sensible".

"We, as Muslims, should not lose our way but what is important is for us to personally cultivate religious knowledge and pray that Allah the Almighty will strengthen our faith to ensure that we will not be deceived by malicious agendas created by those who are irresponsible," added His Majesty.

With next year anticipated to be a milestone for Islam in Brunei, especially with the implementation of mandatory religious education for Muslim students, His Majesty expressed his confidence that this new regulation was "indeed correct".

"Apart from this being a basic need, it will also be important for the survival of our future," His Majesty said, noting that a generation that lacks religious knowledge would also lack the capability to face the endless attacks upon religion.

Noting that the theme for this year's celebration was centred around the importance of having a holistic younger generation and that the country aspires to have excellent youths, His Majesty asked rhetorically, "How can this be achieved?"

According to His Majesty, the answer is 'knowledge' because there is no greater force than this, as knowledge determines one's ability and status whether with Allah the Almighty or with other individuals.

"Our initiative to produce the 'Perfect Youth Generation' should be parallel with imparting to youth knowledge, especially religious knowledge," His Majesty said.

His Majesty, meanwhile, stated that students who are already studying in schools that incorporate religious studies including the learning of Al-Quran such as the Al-Falah School, Arabic schools and so on could be exempted from the Religious Education Order 2012. The reason behind this is to ensure that students are not further burdened from having to attend religious school, which is a must for students who are not studying under the aforementioned institutions. - Borneo Bulletin (6 October 2012)