Bandar Seri Begawan - The US State Department 2011 International Religious Freedom Report on Brunei Darussalam underlined that although the Brunei constitution protects religious freedom, other laws and policies restrict this right, and in practice, the government generally enforced these restrictions.
The report, sent to the Bulletin yesterday, added that the government did not demonstrate a trend toward either improvement or deterioration in respect for and protection of the right to religious freedom.
There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice. The country's religious groups generally co-existed peacefully.
The US Embassy repeatedly expressed its concerns at the highest levels of the public and private sectors regarding the denial of religious rights that are specifically protected in the country's constitution and made clear the position of the US government regarding religious freedom. In addition, the embassy supported programmes related to respect for religious freedom.
The report further said there was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the government during the reporting period.
The ambassador and other embassy officers continued dialogue on religious freedom with government officials at all levels and with representatives of all religious groups. Embassy representatives continued to encourage the government to adhere to the provisions of its constitution and declarations on human rights.
The embassy maintained contacts with religious leaders and made clear the commitment of the US government to promote religious freedom.
In addition the embassy supported religious freedom through the Fulbright exchange programme, visits to places of worship, and public discussions on religious freedom issues.
In response to the religious freedom in 2009 three years ago, a sermon was delivered during the feast of sacrifice explaining how and why Brunei had every right to defend its faith and citing the bitter memories of the attempts to subjugate the country, its people and its religion to accept other faiths by force or subjugation.
"For so long Brunei has enjoyed peace through the blessing of understanding and harmony by all layers of society that originate from different cultures and races, as well as of different beliefs and religions. Each holds dear to their own religion.
And the other beliefs of other religions other than Islam are also enshrined in our Constitution"
"Brunei has long held firm to the belief and practice of not permitting other religions be spread on its soil and that Brunei has strong reasons to do so.
First is the desire to solidify its Islamic faith. Second is that Brunei ever since 1578 has actively resisted the spread and propagation of other religions, for almost 500 years, ever since there was an attempt to convert it to Christianity by a foreign power", Imams said highlighting whether it was reasonable that Brunei was now asked to change its policies that were intended purely to protect its sovereign right.
--Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin