Backed by the country’s Islamic leaders, Brunei’s sultan has banned Christian symbols and celebrations. Violators can be fined US$ 20,000 or get up to five years in jail. The authorities fear Christmas might “damage the aqidah (beliefs) of the Muslim community." However, some have dared to challenge the ban on social media with the #MyTreedom hashtag.
Bandar Seri Begawan (AsiaNews) – Brunei, a sharia-ruled small sultanate in Southeast Asia, continues to ban Christmas. Muslims and non-Muslims who celebrate in public Christmas can expect a fine of $20,000, up to five years in prison, or both.
Brunei’s sultan outlawed the Christian festivity last year on the grounds that celebrating it "excessively and openly" could lead his Muslim population astray. Since then, local Islamic religious leaders have backed him.
Christians and others can still celebrate Christmas, but must do so in private and have to warn the authorities beforehand.
The list of offensive practices include: using or wearing Christian religious symbols like the cross, lighting candles, making Christmas trees, putting up decorations, wearing Santa hats, singing religious songs, and sending Christmas cards.
For Brunei’s Ministry of Religious Affairs, "enforcement measures are . . . intended to control the act of celebrating Christmas excessively and openly” because they “could damage the aqidah (beliefs) of the Muslim community." (The same language used in an attempted defence of the policies previously enacted: Brunei explains its Christmas celebration ban.)
Undaunted, some people in the Sultanate have challenged the ban by posting Christmas pictures on social media using the #MyTreedom hashtag. The same is happening elsewhere, even in countries like Saudi Arabia, where Christian symbols and festivities are also outlawed.
Apparently, the concept of double-standard eludes the Sultan's and his princely brother's grasp. While expecting (demanding) their subjects to conform to sharia, or some version of it, he and Prince Jefri live what some informed people describe as debaucherous lives.
60 Minutes report [April 26, 2015]: CLICK HERE ***Warning—report contains descriptive language of an explicit nature***
Since independence, it has become a developed country. Almost 70 per cent of its population is Muslim and ethnic Malay. About 13 per cent is Buddhist, mostly ethnic Chinese, followed by indigenous people and other minority groups. Christians are about 10 per cent, 70 per cent from the Philippines, 20 per cent from Indonesia, and 10 per cent indigenous. About 10 per cent of the population does not profess any religion.
2015 FreedomHouse report: https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2015/brunei
5th Floor, Jalan McArthur BuildingNo. 1, Jalan McArthurBandar Seri Begawan BS 8711Mailing Address:P.O. Box 2808Bandar Seri Begawan BS8675Brunei DarussalamTel.: (673) 222 0043Fax: (673) 222 0040