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Safeguarding Brunei’s Young Generation against Extremism


The Brunei Times

January 26 2015

We have to thank Allah the Almighty that our country has been free from any acts of terrorism and that none of our youths have ever been involved in such acts of violence.

However, this blessing shouldn't make us complacent and ease our vigilance against any unexpected possibilities, especially after our country has been identified as a transit point used by militant recruits to evade detection on their journey to war zones in Syria or Iraq.

Given that many youths from neighbouring countries have been found to be joining various groups fighting in those countries in the name of jihad, it’s high time for us to boost efforts to safeguard our innocent youths, especially those studying overseas.

Without close supervision and guidance from the relevant authorities, they could be left susceptible to such an influence and acts of religious extremism.

We have no choice but to protect our young generation from any misconstrued perceptions that some people have regarding Islam that have given rise to misguided teachings and have resulted in extremism among some Muslims.

Caring so much for his subjects, His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has on many occasions reminded us about the need to protect our young generation from deviant teachings and other uninvited elements that could lead them astray into liberal, secular and extremist understandings of Islam.

In a Titah to mark Maulid ur Rasul (Prophet Muhammad's birthday), His Majesty stressed that government policies and educational content should not deviate "even slightly" from the national philosophy of Malay Muslim Monarchy (MIB).

He warned the nation of the influence of "uninvited elements" that threatened to corrupt the society because like a virus, a harmful element is not easy to control.

It can infect anything; it can contaminate religious beliefs, education and culture.

In a Titah before fellow leaders from Asia and Europe during the 10th Asia-Europe Summit (ASEM) Meeting in Milan, Italy, His Majesty made it clear that the sultanate does not stand for terrorism, and called on regional and international partners to work in combating its roots.

He stressed that Brunei strongly condemns terrorism in all its forms, and totally rejects extremism and radicalism.

Efforts and programmes like the recent seminar on social ills organised by the MIB Supreme Council and the Academy of Brunei Studies also need to be enhanced and extended to a wider audience so as to make more people, youths in particular, aware of the risks and grave consequences that misguided and deviant teachings could have on them.

They should be constantly reminded about the importance of maintaining their Aqeedah (faith) amid the recent occurrences and rapid changes of this globalised age.

Echoing the term used by a lecturer from Malaysia's National Defence University at the seminar, we need to maintain and improve the nation’s dual education system.

This unique education system - a combination of religious knowledge and mainstream subjects - has been proven to be "remarkable" as it has resulted in people who are progressive, leading to a functional modern Muslim state.

Calling it a success story, the associate professor urged Brunei to share the secret of its success as a "functional modern Muslim state" as part of ASEAN's counter-terrorism strategy.

Dubbing the system in the Sultanate as "maybe" the only example of a very comprehensive religious education system, he said a good Islamic education system is needed to stamp out extremism in ASEAN countries with a Muslim majority.

One way of safeguarding our youth from extremism is by teaching them about the fine line between moderation and extremism. Extremism is going to either extreme: one side makes the lawful unlawful and the other end makes the unlawful lawful.

We need to note here that Islam is not about black and white. Indeed, there are very clear matters that don’t require questioning, while other issues are more ambiguous.

These uncertainties are causing division among some Muslims while creating confusion for others. Also on a daily basis, I receive questions from readers, many of which are misconceptions about interpreting Islamic concepts, Quran and Hadith.

If we follow the true teachings of Islam, which are based on the Quran and the authentic traditions of Prophet Muhammad Sallal ahu 'Alayhi wa Sallam, we will never go astray.

Never did Allah's Messenger Sallal ahu 'Alayhi wa Sallam make a choice between two things but adopt the easier one compared to the difficult one. Islam is a moderate religion, the religion of the middle course.

However, Muslims are of different temperaments. Allah says in His Book: "And thus, We have made you a medium (just) nation (Ummatan Wasata) that you may be the bearers of witness to the people and (that) the Apostle may be a bearer of witness to you…" (Al-Baqarah, 2:143)

Abul Aala Al-Maududi, a famous scholar who interpreted the Quran, says regarding the above verse: "The word 'Ummatan Wasata' is so comprehensive in meaning that no English word can correctly convey its full meaning. It is a righteous and noble community which doesn't go beyond pro-per limits but follows the middle course and deals out justice evenly to the nations of the world as an impartial judge and bases all its relations with other nations on truth and justice."

Muslims deserve this title when they follow Allah's commandments the way shown by Prophet Muhammad Sallal ahu 'Alayhi wa Sallam, who was moderate in all affairs.

Allah Subhan hu wa Ta’ala told us to be moderate, and the way to do this is explained to us by our Prophet Sallal ahu 'Alayhi wa Sallam in a Hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah: "The religion (of Islam) is ease, and whoever makes the religion a rigour, it will overpower him. So follow a middle course; if you can't do this, do something near to it and give glad tidings and seek help (from Allah) at morning and at dusk and some part of night."