Sultan of Brunei announces penalties for celebrating Christmas

From The UK Express

By Jake Burman

THE ruler of Brunei has has told his country's residents they could face up to five years in jail if they celebrate Christmas.

Super-rich Hassanal Bolkiah has banned the public celebration of Christmas out of fear the holiday will affect the faith of his oil-rich nation.

Any Muslims discovered celebrating the holiday, along with non-Muslims caught organising public celebrations, will face lengthy prison sentences.

Bolkiah has ruled non-Muslims are allowed to celebrate Christmas within their own communities, but must not disclose their plans to the country's Muslims - which account for 65 per cent of the nation's 420,000 population.

Around 20 per cent of Brunei's residents are non-Muslim - including large Christian and Buddhist communities.

Hassanal Bolkiah

Hassanal Bolkiah

Brunei's Ministry of Affairs released a statement claiming the draconian rules are in place to preserve the Muslim beliefs of the small Borneo nation.

It said: "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."

The country prohibits publicising religions other than slam to a Muslim, while other banned activities include putting up Christmas trees, singing religious dongs and even sending Christmas greetings.

The Imams said: "Some may think that it is a frivolous matter and should not be brought up as an issue.

"But as Muslims... we must keep it away as it could affect our Islamic faith."

But some residents are risking jail time by celebrating the holiday and uploading pictures to social media as part of a campaign called #MyTreedom - celebrating religious freedom.

Imams have told followers to abide by a government edict banning celebrations that could lead Muslims astray and damage their faith.

The island - ruled by Sultan Bolkaih - relies on oil and gas exports for its prosperity.

The nation embraced a harsh new penal code in April 2014, led by 68-year-old Bolkiah, meaning people can face conviction by Islamic courts.

By the grace of Allah, with the coming into effect of this legislation, our duty to Allah is therefore being fulfilled

They can face fines or prison terms for a range of offenses such as pregnancy outside marriage, failure to perform Friday prayers and propagating other religions.

At the time, Bolkaih said: "Today I place my faith in and am grateful to Allah the almighty to announce that tomorrow, Thursday, May 1 2014, will see the enforcement of Sharia law phase one, to be followed by the other phases."

Speaking at a legal conference, the Sultan also said: "By the grace of Allah, with the coming into effect of this legislation, our duty to Allah is therefore being fulfilled."

Most of the laws will also apply to non-Muslims.

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