The super-rich ruler of Brunei has told residents of his country that if they plan on celebrating Christmas, they could face up to five years in jail. In fear the the religious holiday will affect the faith of its country, the tiny oil-rich nation’s Sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah, has banned the public celebration of Christmas. Any Muslims caught celebrating Christmas, and non-Muslims who are discovered organising celebrations, could face the lengthy prison sentence. While non-Muslims are allowed to celebrate the holiday within their own communities, they must not disclose their plans to the nation’s Muslims – which make up 65 per cent of the 420,000-strong population.
Around 20 per cent of Brunei’s residents are non-Muslim, including substantial Buddhist and Christian communities. ‘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 the Ministry of Religious Affairs in a statement. The small Borneo nation prohibits propagating religion other than Islam to a Muslim, and breaking this is a violation of the penal code.
Other banned activities include putting up Christmas trees, singing religious songs and sending Christmas greetings, reported the Borneo Bulletin.
‘Some may think that it is a frivolous matter and should not be brought up as an issue,’ the imams are quoted as saying in the Bulletin. ‘But as Muslims…we must keep it [following other religions’ celebrations] away as it could affect our Islamic faith.’ Some Burnei residents, however, are risking jail time by still celebrating Christmas and uploading pictures to social media as part of a #MyTreedom campaign that celebrates religious freedom.