BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – As the country welcomes Hari Raya Aidilfitri on Thursday, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah called on Bruneians to stand united and remain “patient and steadfast” amid the global backlash over Brunei’s Syariah law.

“It is commonplace for whoever is small in the eyes of humanity will become easy prey for bullying,” he said in a televised address on Wednesday evening. “If this happens to us, then we have to hold on to patience and be consistent in our faith to avoid division among ourselves.”

Show the world that the Abode of Peace is a place of joy and not a place to be feared… Our main task is to prove Brunei Darussalam is a country that is modern, civilised, beautiful, peaceful and joyous and we do not provoke fear.

Brunei has come under intense global scrutiny after it announced last April the full roll-out of the Syariah Penal Code, which includes punishments such as amputation and stoning, which prompted condemnation from human rights groups and a celebrity-led boycott of Brunei government-owned businesses.

Last month, the sultan clarified that the country’s de facto moratorium on death penalty will continue under the implementation of the Syariah Penal Code, stressing that the law is meant to “protect religion, life, lineage, property and intellect”.

In his Hari Raya titah, the monarch urged Bruneians to remain united in the face of slander and misperceptions spread about the country, and to take these trials in stride.

“The people of Brunei Darussalam live together in unity, happy and harmonious without any disputes. We are governed by fair laws that protect and safeguard the rights of everyone so that no individual is oppressed.”

These are all tests by the Almighty, he added, ones that may strike fear in both the mind and body and measure the mettle of his believers.

“If we are patient and resolute in facing all tests, happy tidings await us,” the monarch said.

His Majesty ended the titah by wishing Muslims in the country a Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri.