THE Brunei Islamic Religious Council (BIRC) held a meeting yesterday at the Legislative Council Building attended by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam.

Whilst details of the meeting were not disclosed to the media, His Majesty presented a titah that raised concern over the state of zakat (tithe) affairs in the country, where the outstanding balance of tithes distributed on the fiscal year as of December 31, 2004, amounted up to more than $230 million.

Members of the BIRC include ministers, a deputy minister, a pengiran cheteria, pehin manteris, state mufti, a legal attorney (represented by the Attorney General), SyarieChief Justice and others as appointed by His Majesty, who is also the Official State Religious Head.

The BIRC is the highest body in Brunei in formulating policies and setting directions pertaining to Islamic administration in the country. The Ministry of Religious Affairs is entrusted as the implementor of policies laid down by the Council. The role and task of the BIRC is to assist and advise His Majesty in all matters pertaining to Islam. The Council was established in 1956 under the Law No. 20/1955 of Brunei Islamic Council and Kadi Courts 1955. The laws were enforced on February 1, 1956 during the reign of Sultan Hj Omar 'Ali Saifuddien III.

There are committees and a board set up under the jurisdiction of the Council, such as Law/Legal Committee on Fatwa, Zakat, Tanmiah Board of Directors, Religious Activities Control, Religious Practices Committee Review and others.

The Council has 14 members appointed by His Majesty.

Present yesterday included YAM Pg Laila Cheteria Sahibun Najabah Pg Anak Hj Abdul Aziz, Pehin Datu Seri Maharaja Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Hj Awg Abdul Aziz Juned, Pehin Datu Imam Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Hj Awg Abdul Hamid Bakal, Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Hj Awg Badaruddin (Vice Principal Officer of the Council), Pehin Orang Kaya Paduka Seri Utama Dato Paduka Seri Setia Hj Awg Salim and Dato Seri Setia Hj Metussin Hj Baki.

Also present were Pehin Jawatan Luar Pekerma Raja Dato Seri Utama Dr Ustaz Hj Awg Md Zain (Principal Officer of the Council), Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Abu Bakar, Dato Seri Paduka Hj Awg Kifrawi, Pehin Siraja Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Hj Awg Yahya, Pehin Orang Kaya Paduka Setia Raja Dato Paduka Seri Setia Hj Awg Suhaili and Pehin Orang Kaya Setia Raja Dato Seri Paduka Awg Hj Mohd Ali.(HHM1)

The Brunei Times