In a startling declaration made by the Sultan of Brunei, the people of the tiny oil-rich state has been debarred from celebrating Christmas lest they want to land in jail for a period of five years or pay a fine of $20,000, or both. If one may recall, the country had induced a ban on the celebration of Christmas last year as well over fears that celebrating it “excessively and openly” could enrage its Muslim population. (Tolerance in 21st Century).
However, the Christians and those who are interested are free to celebrate the occasion but in private and, even in that case, they have to alert the authorities first.
In fact, the officials of Brunei’s Ministry of Religious Affairs have also visited the local stores and malls to ensure that there is no Christmas decorations displayed, including Santa hats and banners with Christmas greetings.
It must be remembered that Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who has been ruling the former British colony for over a period of 50 years, introduced a ban on the celebration of Christmas following Brunei’s adoption of a stricter penal code, based on Islamic sharia and including punishments such as stoning and amputation.
Needless to say, this sudden imposition of ban has encountered some resistance, specifically the social media campaign that goes by the hashtag #MyTreedom, which encourages Christians and other in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran to post images of themselves celebrating Christmas, includes several contributions from Brunei residents.
Brunei is a Muslim majority country with as much as 65% of the population being Muslims.