If you were planning to send cards, hang wreaths on your door, or down some egg-nog in Brunei this year, you’d better watch your back. The Sultan of Brunei has banned Christmas, decreeing that any Muslim caught celebrating the holiday could face up to five years in jail.
The sultan is worried such a celebration could “lead his people astray,” reports The Sun.
The ruler of Somalia followed the sultan’s lead recently, banning the celebration of Christmas in the Somalian nation, reports the Daily Mail.
The bans do not apply to all — non-Muslims are allowed to celebrate, on the condition that they do so behind closed doors. Revellers must also keep their plans a secret from people of other faiths.
According to the Brunei Ministry of Religious Affairs,
“These enforcement measures are… intended to control the act of celebrating Christmas excessively and openly, which could damage the aqidah (beliefs) of the Muslim community.”
The Sun is reporting that the Sultan has no qualms about cashing in on Christmas festivities in his overseas hotels. An array of festive activities and dining experiences are offered at the Sultan’s various hotels — everything from Santa Segway racing, Christmas trees in rooms and late-night transfers to local churches for hotel resident who wish to attend Midnight Mass.
This year the Sultan’s Dorchester offers £69-a-head “Christmas Carols Afternoon Tea”. His 45 Park Lane has a “cool yule” in its Studio Suites from £904 per night for two.
[T]he Sultan’s Dorchester Collection hotels are happy to milk the Christmas trade.
The Christmas ban was introduced in 2014 by the 69-year-old Sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah. Severe penal punishment in Brunei, such as ongoing state-approved amputations and stonings, as well as hefty jail penalties for homosexuals, have led celebrities like Stephen Fry, Stella McCartney, and Sir Richard Branson to boycott the sultan’s line of Dorchester hotels.
Alcohol is also banned in the nation of Brunei. Smoking is banned in public, and Sharia code dictates that theft and alcohol consumption are punishable by whippings and amputation.
“Some may think that [Christmas celebration] is a frivolous matter and should not be brought up as an issue.
But as Muslims… we must keep it [following other religions’ celebrations] away as it could affect our Islamic faith.”
Some residents of Brunei have decided to risk jail and celebrate Christmas anyway, even taking to Twitter to post images of their celebrations under the hashtag #MyTreedom (a mash-up of ‘My Freedom’ and ‘Tree,’ for Christmas Tree) as they declare support for freedom of worship.
Many Westerners and non-Brunei residents also posted tree images in solidarity with the Westerners celebrating in hiding.
It is reported that the Somalian Christmas ban may be even stricter than the Brunei one. Officials believe that Christian events might provoke further attacks by the Muslim terror group Al Shabaab. The Director General of Somalia’s Ministry of Religious Affairs told the press,
“There should be no activity at all.”
Somalia’s deputy chairman of the Supreme Religious Council of Somalia said,
Islamic Scholars are warning against the celebration of such events which are not relevant to the principles of our religion. Such events give also Al Shabaab to carry out attacks.’
The sultan of Brunei is worth 13 billion pounds. It is thought that he paid now-deceased pop star Michael Jackson 11 million pounds to play three shows for his fiftieth birthday in 1996. That celebration cost a total of $27 million.
[Photo by Jeff J. Mitchell / Getty Images]