BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
SULTAN of Brunei Darussalam, Hassanal Bolkiah, has declared that anyone found illegally celebrating Christmas could face a five year jail sentence. The conservative Muslim country on the island of Borneo stated the punishment would apply to anyone found sending festive greetings – or wearing Santa hats.
The Telegraph reported, at least 65 per cent of 420,000-strong population of the oil-rich state are Muslims. Non-Muslims are allowed to celebrate Christmas – but they must do so only within their communities and first alert authorities.
“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,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs in a statement.
In a warning to Muslims earlier this month, a group of Imams warned that any celebration -not in any way related to Islam- could lead to “‘tasyabbuh’ (imitation) and unknowingly damage the ‘aqidah’ (faith) of Muslims.
“During Christmas celebrations, Muslims following that religion’s acts – such as using their religious symbols like cross, lighting candles, making Christmas trees and singing religious songs, sending Christmas greetings, using signs praising the religion, putting up decorations or creating sounds and doing anything that amounts to respecting their religion – are against Islamic faith,” the Imams stated, according to the Borneo Bulletin.
They added, some may think that it is a frivolous matter and should not be brought up as an issue. But as Muslims and as a Zikir Nation, Brunei must keep it (following other religions’ celebrations) away as it could affect Islamic faith.
Some Brunei residents rejected the ban, by posting Christmas pictures on social media using the #MyTreedom hashtag.
Brunei, a former British protectorate, is run as an absolutist Muslim monarchy by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, 67.
Political discontent is limited thanks to a high standard of living and free education and health care, although members of the royal family have been criticized for their extravagant lifestyles.
Last year, the sultan caused controversy by introducing Sharia criminal law, which allows for punishments including stoning, whipping and amputation
Tue, 22 December 2015