The Muslim country of Brunei has banned public celebrations of Christmas, warning that singing carols and putting up decorations threatens the country’s Islamic identity, the Borneo Bulletin reports.
The small country on the island of Borneo allows non-Muslims to celebrate Christmas within their communities.
At least 65 per cent of the 420,000 population of the oil-rich state are Muslims.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs said in a statement: “These enforcement measures are intended to control the act of celebrating Christmas excessively and openly, which could damage the aqeedah (beliefs) of the Muslim community.”
In their religious advice to the Muslim population last month, a group of Imams stated that any celebration “not in any way related to Islam” could lead to “‘tasyabbuh’ (imitation) and unknowingly damage the faith of Muslims”.
The imams said: “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.”
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, we must keep it (following other religions’ celebrations) away as it could affect our Islamic faith.”
Brunei is a former British protectorate, which is governed as an absolute monarchy by Sultan Hassan al-Bolkiah, 67.