Amid the long-running feud between Christian and Muslim communities, Somalia has joined Brunei in trying to stop the Christian minorities from celebrating their biggest festival by claiming that the celebrations are “contrary to Somali Islam Culture.”
This is not the first time this Islamic country, which strictly follows the Lunar Calendar and does not mark January 1 as the beginning of the year, has banned the festival. Somalia has already put a restriction to Christmas in 2013.
The Somali government is determined not to let any kind of Christmas-related celebrations take place in the country. Sheikh Mohamed Khayrow, the director General of Somalia’s Ministry of Religious Affairs, has issued a stern warning that the security forces have been ordered to break up even the smallest gathering in the country.
“There should be no activity at all,” he said to the press.
Although the Christmas censure has been largely accounted for being the nemesis of Islamic adiqah (faith in Arabic), the Somali government has not hidden the fact that it also fears attacks from radical Islamic terror groups operating in the country.
According to New Vision, the deputy chairman of the Supreme Religious Council of Somalia, Sheikh Nur Barud Gurhan, said that the festive venture may agitate the violent Islamic terror group al-Shabab.
Somalia has a reputation of being notoriously dangerous to Christian minorities. Only last year, al-Shabab militants attacked a Christmas party at an African Union military base in Mogadishu, killing at least three peacekeepers and a civilian. At least 15 people were killed last month in the Somalian capital Mogadishu when al-Shabab attacked popular tourist hotel Sahafi.
The al-Shabab militants are highly active in Somalia and were also responsible for the latest plot where they asked passengers to sacrifice Christian lives on board. However, the strong defiance from the passengers saved the Christians from the massacre.
Last year, the al-Shabab rebels beheaded a mother of two girls and her cousin in southeastern Somalia after finding out about their Christian identity.
Moments before killing them, an al-Shabab militant announced, “We know these two people are Christians who recently came back from Kenya – we want to wipe out any underground Christian living inside of mujahidin (The area besieged by jihadists).”
The news must come as a big surprise for United States, which has provided over $1.5 billion in assistance to Somalia, including $545 million in FY 2012.
Foreign diplomats, aid workers, and soldiers living in the fortified airport compound are permitted to hold private parties. The celebrations would also be allowed at UN compounds and bases for African Union peacekeepers, who are in Somalia to support their battles against the al-Qaeda-affiliated terror groups.
With that decision, Somalia now has joined Brunei, which also banned Christmas celebrations stating similar decisions. Brunei, surprisingly has shown greater extent of flexibility, the non-Muslims are allowed to celebrate the festival with their communities but must strictly confine themselves within non-Muslim boundaries.
The punishment in Brunei is, however, more severe as the celebrators may be subjected up to five years in prison. Surprisingly, unlike Somalia, Brunei has allowed its major hotels to carry out the Christmas decorations. Somalia has banned even the hotels from decoration, fearing attack similar to the hotel attack earlier this year.
The decision by the Islamic State duo has been harshly criticized in the west for being against religious freedom, and they have been severely rebuked for their inability to handle multiculturalism.
The religious activists and people against the decision have taken to Twitter and are tweeting the photos and posts about their disagreement to the decision. The hashtag #mytreedom is trending on Twitter.