KUALA LUMPUR: Oil-rich Brunei has banned public celebrations of Christmas for fear of Muslims being led astray, its religious affairs ministry saidtoday, in a country that last year instituted tough Islamic sharia penalties.
The ban, instituted after Christmas last month when local children and adults were seen wearing clothes â€œthat resemble Santa Clausâ€œ, raises fresh concerns of religious restrictions after last Aprilâ€™s announcement of the introduction of a penal code that will eventually include penalties such as the severing of limbs and death by stoning.
A spokesman declined to comment directly on the ban, but referred to a December 27 statement in which the ministry said the act of publicly marking non-Islamic rituals or festivities â€œcan be seen as propagations of religions other than Islam.â€
It noted in particular: â€œFor example, in conjunction with Christmas celebrations, Muslim children, teenagers and adults can be seen wearing hats or clothes that resemble Santa Claus.â€
â€œBelievers of other religions that live under the rule of an Islamic country â€“ according to Islam â€“ may practice their religion or celebrate their religious festivities among their community, with the condition that the celebrations are not disclosed or displayed publicly to Muslims,â€ the statement said.
â€œMuslims should be careful not to follow celebrations such as these that are not in any way related to Islam… and could unknowingly damage the faith of Muslims.â€
The statement also said that businesses that publicly displayed Christmas decorations were asked to take them down and had given their â€œfull cooperation.â€
The latest move comes after Bruneiâ€™s all-powerful Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah announced in April that he would push ahead with the introduction of a new criminal code which sparked rare domestic criticism of the fabulously wealthy ruler as well as international condemnation.–AFP